Bookies give their opinion on the drop
Not everybody is looking forward to spring… Andrew Clarke assesses the relegation markets and explains why a close look at the fixtures lists should inform your betting on battle to avoid the drop.
One of the most interesting markets in this most unpredictable of Premier League seasons has to be that of relegation. Traditionally the number of points needed to avoid the drop has been set at 40 but no club has needed that many since 2002/3 when West Ham went down with 42. But the signs are that this term the tally will be on the up again, mainly because no side is already doomed.
No side in the bottom half of the table is safe yet, but at this time of year momentum is key so recent form needs to be looked at. By that rationale Fulham and Aston Villa in 12th and 15th respectively can be discounted, having both picked up nine points in their last six games, a total only five teams have bettered over that period, all of whom are in the top six. Blackburn Rovers in 11th haven’t been near the bottom yet and that doesn’t look likely to change; Everton in 13th have never been relegated from the top flight and despite being just three points above the drop zone they have fared relatively well recently.
That leaves Birmingham City, Blackpool, West Bromwich Albion, Wigan Athletic, West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Blackpool are sinking like a stone, although last time out they halted a run of five consecutive defeats by picking up a point at home against Villa. Five of their remaining 12 games are against top five teams and a May schedule of Tottenham Hotspur away, Bolton Wanderers at home and then Manchester United away is tough. Even more telling perhaps is that they only have two encounters with the fellow relegation contenders as outlined here so 2.36 is a very tempting price.
Birmingham are heading in the opposite direction, with eight points in their last six outings. Alex McCleish’s men are at Wembley for the Carling Cup final this weekend but after that two of their next three fixtures are home to West Brom and away to Wigan and good results there would see them surge away from trouble. That’s exactly what most people expect, according to the odds, and there’s very little point in backing them at 5.9 or laying at 6.0.
Midlands rivals West Brom dispensed with Roberto DiMatteo after just three league wins in 16 matches. It remains to be seen what effect Roy Hodgson’s appointment will have but a snatched point at home to Wolves on Sunday wasn’t a great start especially as it followed the surrender of a 3-0 lead against West Ham in their previous game. The situation is desperate at the Hawthorns and 2.48 to go down is surely too good to miss.
Wolves are bottom and only Blackpool have worse recent form but there is hope for Mick McCarthy’s side. Wins over Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea have proved they are capable of big performances and on paper have the easiest run in. They only face one top six team and home games against Blackpool and West Brom will be crucial. Odds of 2.02 for the drop seems fair.
West Ham have been in the bottom three all season save for a couple of days at the end of 2010 and according to the odds are nailed on for the drop at 1.58. Manager Avram Grant’s been down amongst the dead men for even longer after his tenure at Portsmouth and they still have to play Manchester United, Manchester City, Spurs, Chelsea and Liverpool but the Israeli has made a habit of springing surprises and something tells me they could be worth laying at 1.64.
The Hammers travel to Wigan on the penultimate weekend for a game that both clubs will be hoping still matters by the time it comes around. With just one win in their last six, the Latics now face Manchester United, Manchester City, Spurs and Chelsea in their next five. By mid-April they could have one foot in the grave and at 1.64 are currently second favourites to be playing championship football come August.
Recommended bets: Back Blackpool and West Brom to go down at 2.36 and 2.38, and lay West Ham at 1.64.