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Football Betting – End-of-Season Games
Everyone loves Trier, especially when it’s time to put down your preparations. There’s nothing more frustrating for punters than realizing your pick is ‘not off’ and you haven’t even had a run for your money.
Blanket television coverage and greater transparency of betting have raised awareness of the ‘non-trier’ issue in horse racing, but football punters also need to be wary. With the recent match-fixing scandal in Germany involving referee Robert Heuser, the ongoing investigation into some Italian results and irregular betting patterns on obscure European and international matches, it is clear that all is not well in the world of football.
Fortunately, the consistency of results in the big leagues (and especially in England) suggests that there is no reason for punters to lack confidence. The main problem – as in horse racing – is around the margins, in those matches (or races) not subject to the full glare of the media spotlight and where skullduggery is less likely to arouse suspicion.
All very trying
However, my research suggests that the ‘non-trier’ problem rears its ugly head at the end of the season, even in the major leagues. Most leagues are competitive enough to ensure that the battle for the Championship, places in Europe and safety from relegation go down to the wire.
But, inevitably, some teams have nothing left to play for in the final weeks of the season, which is where problems can arise.
The last few weekends of the league season feature three types of fixtures:
1. Matches between two teams with nothing to play for.
2. Matches between two teams with something to play for.
3. Matches between a team with something to play for and a team with nothing to play for.
Out of focus
No team’s commitment can be assumed in the first category, so the most suitable betting strategy at the end of the season is to focus on categories two and three.
Matches in the second category should be evaluated using your usual techniques. (Those who don’t know should read our football betting article on Inside-Age-mag.co.uk – ed), but the best betting opportunities are often in category three, where there is always a ‘non-trier’ possibility.
This is not to say that there is anything hidden going on in these games, just one team losing focus can make all the difference in a competitive league like the English Premiership.
There could be a number of reasons for this decline in focus – including the widespread view that some players are ‘on their holidays’ before the end of the season. Given the demands of modern football, an injured player is likely to be rested when his team has nothing left to play for, or have some relief during training sessions. Whatever the reasons, our results at the bottom of this article show that a team that wants to play for is more likely to win a match than a team that doesn’t want to play for.
In the top three English divisions and the major European leagues we analyzed (Spanish Liga, German Bundesliga, and French Ligue 1), these matches typically yield a 50–60% win rate for a team with nothing to play for, and a 20–30% rate for a team with nothing to play for. . Statistics vary slightly from year to year and league to league, but are generally consistent.
Whether such figures provide conclusive evidence of a non-trier effect is a point of some debate, but there is an important piece of supporting evidence that changes the issue for me. If there is no link between the results in such matches and a team’s urgent need for points, we would expect a higher win rate for teams at the top than for teams struggling at the bottom, as this is the case in the rest of the matches. In fact, teams fighting to avoid relegation have an unusually high win rate in such games at the end of the season – on a par with the win rates of title-chasing teams at the top of the table, places in Europe. or a play-off slot.
fight to survive
For example, the last five seasons of the English Premiership have produced a win rate of 55% for the teams they play for. That figure does not change whether the team is in the top six or the bottom six.
It’s a similar story in other leagues, although the win rate for relegation-threatened teams in such matches is slightly lower than that of teams at the top of the table.
So, do these statistics alone provide a good betting opportunity? The simple answer is no, but there are some sophisticated touches that can make this statistic better.
First let’s look at the overall picture. A 55% win rate would yield a tidy profit margin if the average odds available were the same, but this is unlikely to be the case in matches where one team has something to play for and the other does not.
Given the games that fell in this category last season in our featured league, it would have done little damage to make a level-stakes bet to give all teams something to play for. This is, in part, due to a lower than average win rate by these teams last season, but a more important factor is the lower odds punters are asked to accept on such teams.
How to beat the odds
Bookmakers generally factor in the ‘nothing to play for’ syndrome when pricing end-of-season matches, although some slip through the net. If you’re good at building your own book on matches, you can spot these matches – otherwise, you’ll find it hard to make a profit on teams that have something to play for.
The counter argument, of course, is that the value lies in supporting these sides against each other, as teams with nothing to play for will be available at artificially inflated odds in such matches. However, this does not hold water due to the low win rate of these teams. The problem for punters, as mentioned earlier, is knowing whether these teams will try hard enough – the evidence suggests that, on the whole, they won’t.
So, how can we beat the odds? Well, a little more eye-opening into the statistics reveals more about the common assumptions made about late-season games.
Starting at the top, the league champions’ late-season records are quite revealing. There is clear evidence that, once the title is arithmetically secured, champions have a widespread tendency to take their foot off the gas. Last season, for example, the Spanish and German champions were confirmed to play two games – Valencia and Werder Bremen, the respective winners, then promptly lost their last two games.
This is far from an isolated example. In 2001, Manchester United lost their last three matches, running away from the title, although it should be said that they had won four in a row while in the same position the previous season.
Overall, however, the record of already crowned champions suggests that they tend to relax once a race is won. In the leagues analyzed here, champions usually have a win rate of over 60% during the season.
Once a title is clinched, however, this average drops to 57% over the past five seasons. And the drop is even more dramatic in games where they face a team with something to play for – their win rate then averages just 45%.
A ton of profit
In general, then, it’s fair to oppose already crowned champions. Last season, in the league featured here, this approach would have yielded a 24% profit on par. If you had only focused on games in which the opposing team wanted to play, the champions would have had a strike rate of 100% and a profit of 125%.
The only suggestion is to be wary of any factor that causes the pressure to keep up on the champions – an example being Arsenal last season, when they were Premiership champions with four games to play but were keen to maintain their unbeaten record. They did, but only with a 50% win rate in their last four games (two wins, two draws).
Another factor can be when a lower-division side is chasing a milestone such as 100 points – as was the case with Wigan Athletic in the old Division Two in 2003, when they reached three figures with two wins and a draw. Already a champion.
Knowing that champions get away easily when they have nothing to play for, it’s easy to assume that already relegated sides should be more prone to this. Again, the reality is more complicated.
Overall, in the leagues analyzed here, relegation teams have a 23% win rate once they are mathematically doomed – very close to the average expected of relegation-zone teams over the course of the season. In other words, they don’t break after all hope is lost.
In fact, teams that are eliminated in the final week of the season actually have a surprisingly good home record. On average, they manage an even split of wins, draws and losses at home, and in no league do their home defeats exceed their combined number of wins and draws – a team always worth watching on the Asian handicap at home, as they rarely, if ever, start their opponents.
Where they perform most poorly is away from home. More pointedly, they are often lambs to the slaughter (home or away) versus teams they want to play for. Their defeat rate in such matches is 70% and in the last five seasons, they have not recorded a single win in this type of match in the top leagues in France, England and Germany.
That 70% loss rate equates to the odds of their opponents being around the 2/5 or 4/9 mark. Bookmakers tend to be stingy with such teams, yet you could have made a profit last season against teams that were eliminated in such matches. With extra selectivity about the odds you’re willing to take (no less than 1/2, say), the potential to make money on this game exists.
Middle-of-the-table teams are an area to tread carefully. Statistics show that punters can usually rely on sides scraping for the top spots or fighting against relegation, but that’s not the case with mid-table teams in the last few games of the season, with no incentive to move up and no fear. fall down in some places.
In the leagues analyzed here, mid-table teams’ win rates in their final games don’t look too bad, averaging 33%, which is in line with their overall seasonal record.
However, when the numbers are narrowed down to games against teams with few left to play, the picture is not so rosy. Safer mid-table teams’ win rate drops to 26% and their loss rate rises to 49% (from 41% overall).
Ultimately, betting at the end of the season comes down to all available odds. Pricing this game is a difficult process and it is impossible to come up with hard and fast rules about when to bet or what odds to accept. However, it is important to appreciate the underlying statistics, as season-ending games are not governed by normal format rules and in many instances are a law unto themselves. There is a golden rule: make sure your selection is tried.
More football betting articles
- Football Betting – End of season games
- Football Betting – Betting on the run
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