The EFL and Community Shield whet the appetite over the weekend, now we’re just days away from the Premier League season.
I’ve cast my eye over the markets and here are a few standout bets for an ante post portfolio.
For me this looks the obvious place to start because there are two bets that are very intriguing.
Firstly, I’m looking at Swansea to fall through the trap door. Francesco Guidolin guided the Swans to 11th place last season following the departure of Garry Monk. The Italian head coach signed a two-year contract at the end of the season but if things aren’t going to plan the hierarchy proved last season they are willing to change the man at the helm.
Since their promotion they’ve been a team you could guarantee to finish in the mid-table area but this year I can see them struggling. They’ve lost players in key areas who haven’t yet been replaced.
Bafetimbi Gomis has joined Marseille on a season long loan plus last season’s top scorer Andre Ayew (12 goals) has moved to West Ham for £20 million. That will put pressure on midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson to add to his 11 goals from last season. They’ve bought in Fernando Llorente and have had a bid accepted for Borja Baston but will they have the firepower in the Premier League?
An Italian manager screams about being tactical and keeping it tight at the back. Now that Ashley Williams has joined Everton to replace John Stones you have to question whether they’ll have the solidity of previous seasons.
On paper it looks like the fans at the Liberty Stadium could be in for a long campaign and one that sees them returning to the Championship after six seasons in the top flight.
The other bet in this sort of market surrounds Hull City and as things stand from an onlooker’s perspective – they look a mess following the walkout of Steve Bruce.
They are already odds on to make a swift return to the second tier due to all the problems that are obvious for all to see.
It looks like Mike Phelan, who has no previous managerial experience and has only ever been an assistant, will be appointed the full time manager and with a thread bare squad as things stand the club need to spend money to have any chance of survival.
Promoted through the play offs courtesy of Mo Diame’s fantastic strike but he has left to join Newcastle. On top of that there are already a number of long term injuries with Moses Odubajo, Allan McGregor and Alex Bruce won’t be seen before Christmas whilst Michael Dawson is also out for a couple of weeks meaning they have few players to chose from.
The owners didn’t get their name change, so the Allam family are looking to sell and that lack of investment into the squad looks likely to be costly. Additionally the disharmony between the owners and the supporters is likely to cause tensions, which may translate onto the pitch.
Abel Hernandez netted 22 times last season and the goal scoring responsibility will fall at his door once more but he only managed a total of four goals when the Tigers were last in the Premier League.
The Humberside club look likely to sit for a number of weeks at the bottom of the league and they are 11/4 to be bottom at Christmas, which looks highly likely and is a better price than the longer-term project for the season.
The third relegation place looks a straight fight between Burnley and West Brom. If the Clarets have learnt from their previous experience then they could survive plus I do think with the potential takeover at West Brom and the current lack of transfer activity could see Tony Pulis being one of the first managers to leave his post.
Advice: Swansea to be Relegated (7/2)
Hull to finish bottom (9/4)
This has been the hardest market to decipher following the managerial changes that Chelsea, Man City and Man Utd have gone through.
We saw Antonio Conte’s passion whilst on the touchline during the European Championships; he is one that will wear his heart on his sleeve.
The additions of Premier League winner N’Golo Kante and Michy Batshuayi plus the links about the return of Romelu Lukaku show that he is building a strong squad. It will be just a question about how all of the stars fit into one starting XI and what formation suits. It could take a couple of weeks for that all to gel plus they’ll be stronger for the return of Kurt Zouma in September.
For me it’s between the two Manchester clubs but both have questions to answer in the defensive department.
Pep Guardiola has gone into the Etihad and strengthened an already strong attack by bringing in Nolito plus defensive midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, which should free up Yaya Touré.
Club captain Vincent Kompany will have to prove his fitness and with his injury record you’d expect him to miss a few weeks here and there. Eliaquim Mangala looks to be on his way out meaning they lack strength in depth in this area. With that concern then their favourites tag could falter.
They have shortened in the last couple of weeks but Manchester United is the way I have played the market.
With the signing of match winners like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have bolstered the attacking options, which looked sparse last season under Louis van Gaal.
Jose Mourinho has a bit of a point to prove following what happened during Chelsea’s title defence and being the showman he is I’m sure he’ll be looking to silence a few critics.
Eric Bailly has shown glimpses during pre season that he can continue the good defensive work after they kept a joint-high 18 clean sheets last season but they were mainly down to the heroics of David De Gea.
Despite the burden of the Europa League they look the most balanced sides of the contenders and despite their price being nibbled at during the summer I’m willing to give them the vote in this market.
Perennial fourth place finishers Arsenal managed to claim second following Spurs’ faltering. However their reluctance to spend could see them fall behind the pack and with Jürgen Klopp having a full summer to sort out his Liverpool squad the 11/8 on Arsenal to miss out on a Top 4 spot is something that is entering my pre-season considerations.
Advice: Manchester United (7/2)
This is a market where the bookmakers tend to give out the offers regarding staking so much and getting a free bet each time your player scores. So far I’m aware of Betfair, paying five places, and Paddy Power, paying six places, doing this but the free bet value is different.
The usual suspects are in the frame. Harry Kane topped the charts with 25 goals last season, one ahead of Sergio Aguero and Jamie Vardy. I can’t see Leicester having the season they did and defences may drop deeper to nullify his threat, so he could be in for a frustrating campaign. For Aguero then the odd injury here and there could prevent him for claiming the Golden Boot once more.
I’m finding it hard to weigh up Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He conquered Ligue 1 last season by claiming the goal scoring record with 38 goals but things won’t be as easy this time around. We know his capabilities and how he can be anonymous for large periods but still pop up with a match winner.
Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney netted 15 and 13 goals respectively but the change of manager at Vicarage Road would temper enthusiasm in how the Hornets will play. Their combination play was pivotal to the team’s 13th place finish and to maintain their Premier League status the Hertfordshire club will be reliant on them once more.
The two players I’m putting forward at big prices are Divock Origi and Callum Wilson.
The former finished with ten goals in all competitions from limited game time but he looked a threat when given his chance. An injury in the Merseyside derby ruled him out for the rest of the season but the Belgian has made up for lost time during pre season by scoring against the likes of Barcelona and AC Milan.
With Daniel Sturridge’s injury record and Christian Benteke looking likely to leave Anfield the 21 year old could capitalise on the chance to lead the line. With the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and new signing Saido Mane providing plenty of ammunition he could be in for a good season.
The latter was robbed of a chance to prove himself at the top level after picking up a serious knee injury in their 2-1 defeat to Stoke back in September. Eddie Howe’s men only netted 45 goals and that was due to the lack of Wilson’s presence.
Wilson netted five times prior to his injury, including a hat trick in an away win at West Ham, which suggested he could have been in for a fruitful season.
I quietly fancy the Cherries to have a good season and build on last season’s 16th place finish. The additions of Jordan Ibe and Lewis Cook bolster their midfield options plus the return of Max Gradel from injury will help in terms of creativity.
The 24 year old is 8/11 to be the top scorer for the Cherries and that isn’t something to sniff your noses up at considering his 23-goal campaign, which saw Bournemouth promoted in the 2014-15 season.
Advice: Divock Origi (66/1 E/W)
Callum Wilson (66/1 E/W)
Top Midlands Club
This market has slightly moved since I originally looked at it. Leicester are odds-on following their triumphant season last year that saw them pull off a remarkable title win.
Claudio Raneri has managed to keep the bulk of his squad together despite interest from Arsenal in star pair Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. They’ve added a few useful acquisitions, including Ahmed Musa who looks to have plenty of speed.
They’ve got a target on their back something they dealt with well towards the end of the season and didn’t buckle under the pressure. However a Champions League campaign for the Foxes on top of an already busy schedule could see them falter this season.
Their rivals in this market are the consistent Stoke. Mark Hughes has lead them to three consecutive ninth place finishes and despite a poor end to the season, which there were excuses, can see the Potters build on that.
Jack Butland and Ryan Shawcross missed the remaining months of the season through injury and they leaked goals. Now they’re back you’d expect a better defensive display whilst we know what they hold in attack with Bojan, Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic, who has signed a new contract.
Add to that the presence of Joe Allen playing as a deep lying midfielder then Hughes looks to have pulled off another shrewd piece of business. If Saido Berahino eventually signs then he can add the firepower the Potters have missed, but that said Mame Diouf if given his chance looks able to score double figures.
It’ll be close between these two sides and with the disparity in prices for what we know. Leicester have to mix it in Europe plus have to prove it wasn’t a flash in the pan. These two sides will finish between 7th and 10th but for me Stoke will just about hold the edge.
Advice: Stoke (11/4)