Were Tottenham Hotspur ever truly in the championship race? At the half way point they were second in the table, and around that time their price for the title hit single figures, so they certainly weren’t dismissed entirely.
Successive defeats to Burnley and Chelsea saw their price drift past the 100/1 mark though, and their hopes of a first title since 1961 disappeared into the ether. The race for the Premier League crown is undoubtedly a two horse race.
Fortunately for bettors, if not Spurs fans, BetVictor run a book on a Top 3 Finish, and it won’t surprise you to learn there are no prices offered for Liverpool or Manchester City.
With 10 games to go, Tottenham were the red hot 1/3 favourites. And while they still lead the way, their 1-1 draw with Arsenal has seen Spurs’ price lengthen while the odds have shortened for Chelsea and Manchester United.
Tottenham are now priced 5/6 to finish third, followed by Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal respectively.
|To Come Third||Odds (BetVictor)|
We can convert these prices above into probabilities, revealing BetVictor believe Spurs have a 48.5% chance of winning this race, with Chelsea on 23.7%, United on 19.7% and Arsenal an unlikely 8.1%.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side are in the driving seat with 61 points, which puts them three ahead of United, four in front of Arsenal, and despite their recent defeat to the Blues, five ahead of Chelsea. But with the Blues’ game in hand being against struggling Brighton, there is currently very little between the four teams.
Should we place our money on Spurs, or look for better value elsewhere? As with any market, there are numerous factors to consider.
To begin, let’s consider the underlying strength of the teams. In light of their recent heavy defeats it may surprise you to learn Chelsea have been the strongest of the four sides in the Top 3 Finish market.
Maurizio Sarri’s team have taken four points fewer than their underlying performances imply they have merited, whereas Arsenal and Manchester United have taken at least 10 points more than they’ve theoretically deserved.
Stronger match statistics won’t count for anything in terms of our bet, but we can use the numbers to forecast the outcome of every remaining match, in order to predict a likely finishing order.
Doing this suggests Tottenham finish on 76 points, with Chelsea on 74, Arsenal on 72, and United finishing last of the big six with 71 points. In this universe, the Blues would be closer to Spurs than they are now, but it’s still the Lilywhites who finish third.
And of course, matches aren’t always won by the favourites. However, it’s clear Arsenal have the easiest run-in of our four contenders, which explains how they might close the gap on Spurs.
The Gunners face Manchester United on Sunday, in one of the two remaining matches between teams who could finish third (the other is Manchester United vs Chelsea in game week 36). After that, Arsenal have completed their 10 fixtures against other members of the top six.
The site soccerstats.com contains a run-in analysis, where they list the average points-per-game record of each club’s remaining opponents, factoring in their records at home or away depending on where the future matches take place.
The points-per-game of Arsenal’s future opponents is 1.31. For Chelsea it is 1.38, Tottenham 1.41 and United 1.44. These margins are small, but by this measure only four teams have an easier remaining set of fixtures than Arsenal, while only four have harder than United.
The final factor is the number of cup games to come. United are the only one of our quartet still in the FA Cup. They are priced at 1/2 with William Hill to get past Wolves in the quarter-final, so will likely face two ties before the end of their league campaign.
They were 12/1 to progress past Paris Saint-Germain in Europe, yet managed to do it thanks to a late penalty. Solskjaer’s side now have at least two more Champions League games to contend with.
Tottenham dispatched Dortmund in the Champions League so will play at least two more European games.
Chelsea and Arsenal are in the Europa League and are expected to do well – Bet365 have Chelsea as the 7/2 favourites to lift the trophy, while Arsenal are joint-second 9/2 shots alongside Napoli. The odds imply they could both easily have six European matches between now and their final league game, which could take a toll.
But who to bet on? United may have the fewest cup games, depending on the Champions League draw, and have the best league record of the four contenders in 2019. But three of their nine remaining league games are against other sides in the top six.
Spurs are in pole position, though an intense Champions League quarter-final will be draining for their small squad who haven’t been playing too well lately. Arsenal and Chelsea have the easiest run-ins but should have several European fixtures, so will fixture pile up derail their chances?
Finishing third is still Tottenham’s to lose, but for a better value bet I think Chelsea are well worth considering.
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