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Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Don't expect fireworks on opening weekend

Wise words from the soccer boffin

Hull striker Abel Hernandez has netted five goals in his last seven games
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A new season usually fizzles into life rather than exploding with a bang. After two months without football you might expect players, managers and fans to be raring to go. On the field, though, players generally begin with a little bit of caution.

On the opening weekends of the last 20 Football League seasons the average number of goals per game was 2.46. For the rest of August it was 2.57, as it was for the rest of those seasons.

Roughly one tenth of a goal might not sound like much of a reduction - it is not - but it was enough to make a difference to the chances in betting markets.

For example, on those last 20 opening weekends 54 per cent of games produced under 2.5 goals. During the rest of those seasons the proportion was 52 per cent.

So be a bit more cautious than you would otherwise be about betting on lots of goals, or a bit more willing to back low scores.

One thing that tends to increase in the first few weeks of a season is the number of yellow and red cards. Bookings makeups average about five per cent higher in August than in the rest of a season.

And they do not settle down properly until about November. So in the early months of a campaign be more prepared than usual to bet on large numbers of cards, and more circumspect than usual before backing low make-ups.

In markets where each yellow counts as ten and each red as 25, the average make-up over the whole of last season was 40 in the Championship and 39 in League One and League Two. It was only 40 in the Premier League.

The Community Shield will be contested by Premier League champions Chelsea and FA Cup holders Arsenal. It is a repeat of the FA Cup final.

In the past the Community Shield has proved only so-so as a predictor of who will do well over the next ten months.

Seven of the last 25 Community Shield winners went on to win the Premier League. Six runners-up did. The Community Shield often brings together two top teams, as it does this season. Yet almost as often as not - 12 times out of the last 25 - the Premier League winners came from elsewhere.

Thought of the day

The Championship, not the Premier League, is where the really aggressive spending takes place in England. In three of the last four seasons for which data is available, the total wages of Championship clubs exceeded the total income of Championship clubs. The 2017-18 Championship season started on Friday.

Owners sanction excessive spending in the hope of winning promotion to the Premier League, where wages will be even higher - but revenue usually catches up. Most importantly, perhaps, the sell-on value of a club is higher in the Premier League.

So most Championship clubs spend more than they earn on wages alone. Only three can be promoted each season, however.

An industry sector in which expenditure regularly outstrips income does not usually have a future. But football is different from most other industries. What makes it different is that for a football club there is next to no risk of going out of existence.

The company that owns a football club can go bust. If that happens creditors lose their money - except, perhaps, if they are also a football club or HM Revenue.

Then administrators sell the assets to another company and the process starts all over again. Whether that is right or wrong is, in practice, immaterial. It is how things are.

Be a bit more cautious than you would otherwise be about betting on lots of goals, or a bit more willing to back low scores
E.W. Terms
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