The 2015-16 Premier League season was one of the most extraordinary campaigns ever as 5000-1 chances Leicester City defied the odds and the financial laws of football gravity to become champions of England. Can 2016-17 possibly match it?
Premier League Winners
Bookmakers expect the two Manchester clubs to dominate the title battle once again, as Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho renew an old and occasionally bitter rivalry. Both clubs appear determined to reassert themselves at the top of the English game and have assembled squads to compare with the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid. Given the ability of the two managers and the depth of talent at their disposal, it is hard to separate the two teams at the top of the market.
With United available at significantly bigger odds than their rivals, they look the better bet to win the title at 7/2 with Sporting Bet.
Their rivals have it all to do. Tottenham is likely to perform consistently once again, but don’t have the strength in depth to compete with the two Manchester clubs, while Arsenal looks no stronger than last season. The wild card in this market could be Chelsea.
Antonio Conte is a wily character who should get the Blues competing sooner rather than later, and Chelsea represent an interesting option at 6/1 with Stan James.
Tips to pick the Top Four
The battle for a Champions League place is always keenly fought, and there is a cluster of clubs who will be aiming to finish in the first four, including last season’s title winners Leicester City. Manager Claudio Ranieri won’t let their standards drop, but without the energy of N’golo Kante, they may struggle to sustain both a domestic and European challenge.
West Ham will be playing their home games in the grand surroundings of the Olympic Stadium this season, but their excellent campaign last time hasn’t helped them to attract a much-needed big name striker, while it is likely that Ronald Koeman will need time to turn Everton’s new-found wealth into success on the pitch.
Of the chasing Premier League pack, it is Liverpool who looks the most likely to break into the Champions League club. Jurgen Klopp’s touchline antics and infectious enthusiasm grab the headlines, but he is one of the most tactically astute managers in Europe and now that he has been able to shape the Liverpool squad in his image, we can expect a dramatic improvement on last season.
Odds of 13/8 with Betfred for Liverpool to finish in the top four look fair.
Odds for Top Scorer
In each of the last ten seasons, the Premier League top scorer came from a team that finished in the top three, so history suggests that if you want to dabble in this market, you need to concentrate on the front men for the main title contenders.
Sergio Aguero has finished among the top four Premier League goalscorers for each of the last three seasons and will once again lead the line for Manchester City but at 7/2 he doesn’t offer much value in what is likely to be a competitive market. Diego Costa is also prominent in the betting, but could well be heading out of Stamford Bridge before the season is out, and I can’t see the one-dimensional Jamie Vardy repeating his heroics of last season, so it could pay to concentrate on two players available at bigger odds.
Manchester United will build their attack around Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the vastly experienced and physically impressive Swede will have no problem adapting to life in the Premier League.
He looks a tempting bet to finish as top scorer at 10/1 with Betfred.
Romelu Lukaku is another interesting candidate. He finished as the fourth-highest scorer last season, despite playing in a struggling Everton side, and he seems likely to be moving to Chelsea before the season gets underway.
He can be backed at 14/1 with William Hill.
Of the three promoted sides, Middlesbrough seems the best equipped to survive at this level, having invested in a number of quality players, most notably former Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo. The same can’t be said of low-spending Championship winners Burnley, or of Championship play-off winners Hull, and both look destined to return to the second tier.
Sunderland is perennial relegation candidates, but while David Moyes may not be the most thrilling managerial appointment, he has enough experience to steer them to safety, and a better bet for relegation could be Watford. Having sacked Quique Flores, the Hornets have gambled on another untested manager, and it’s worth noting that despite an FA Cup semi-final appearance, they had a poor second half of the season, winning just four games in 2016.
They can be backed to be relegated at 9/4 with Boylesports.