Last week, the whistle had just blown at Anfield after a turgid goalless draw between Liverpool and Manchester United. I switched from the TV coverage to the radio in the kitchen just in time to hear this exchange.
Presenter: “A point apiece for these two at Anfield – do you now make Manchester City your favourites, Dion?”
Dion Dublin: “No, I wouldn’t go that far just yet.”
I spend an unhealthy amount of time trying to correct broadcasters who incorrectly use the word favourites when what they actually mean is ‘your fancy’ or ‘your tip’ across all forms of media.
Dublin has several strings to his bow but I don’t recall him opening up a bookmakers, and it’s probably a good job, too. City were overwhelming favourites for the title when he answered the question and they went even shorter within a couple of hours, brushing aside Crystal Palace 4-0 at the Etihad.
As we enter this midweek round of fixtures, in which hopefully all 20 teams will participate for the first time in a while, Pep Guardiola’s men sit on top of the title market at a seasonal low price of 4/9. The market is saying that it’s a better than 60 per cent chance that the trophy ends up back in their hands.
While that market shift is understandable when looking at City’s run of form – 26 points from a possible 30 in their last 10 games – it also has a lot to do with the collapse of Liverpool, their most likely challengers at the beginning of the season.
Nothing can have been as sobering for Chelsea’s hierarchy as the way in which his extensive resources are being undercut by Leicester, Everton and Aston Villa.
Jurgen Klopp’s side did end their goal drought in the FA Cup yesterday but still exited via a 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford. Their scoring record in the Premier League is terrible – one from their last five games. That has seen them take just three points from a possible 15.
During that run they have also failed to win at home to Burnley and West Bromwich Albion at huge odds-on prices, wrecking punters’ accumulators while damaging their own hopes of retaining the trophy. Their slide to 8/1 on a market that would pay one quarter of the odds for finishing second really shows how much they are now being dismissed.
It’s even more astonishing when you realise they hit a low of 19/20 just five weeks ago. We now have a Manchester 1-2 in the betting as United have comfortably slid in behind their neighbours at odds of 11/2.
If you think Liverpool’s slide in the market is remarkable then spare a thought for Chelsea backers. When the Blues were 6/1 joint-third-favourites a month or so ago it would have taken a huge leap of imagination – even in a season as wild as this one – to picture them eighth in the pricing at a dismissive 200/1 by the last week of January.
Frank Lampard took knocks from all sides, but nothing can have been as sobering for Chelsea’s hierarchy as a look at a market in which his extensive resources are being undercut (in betting terms) by the likes of Leicester, Everton and Aston Villa. The Blues’ underperformance has now resulted in Lampard losing his job.
It will be interesting to see how the market reacts to his replacement, Thomas Tuchel.
One look at the market for the ‘Top 4 Finish’ shows that the German has quite a fight on his hands there. Chelsea were comfortably odds-on at the start of the season and carried that status right through to Christmas, which is when the compilers started asking questions of them.
Chelsea lost to Arsenal on Boxing Day, sparking a Gunners revival. Were the Blues as good as their rating or had they just performed in the slightly easier games?
Either side of New Year’s Day the market corrected itself from 4/6 to 6/4 – a shift of 20 per cent. That slide continued, allowing them to be backed at a huge 5/2 to make the top four ahead of their match at home to Wolves on Wednesday.
Elsewhere in the outright markets for the top flight there’s a little more interest in the relegation market.
Sheffield United aside, already 1/33, West Brom winning at Wolves in the Midlands derby prompted a step in the right direction for the Baggies.
Fulham (5/6) and Burnley (9/2) continue to improve, so the outlook for Steve Bruce and Newcastle looks worrying. They show at 7/4 – a collapse from around 11/2 just a month or so ago.