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Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

Expect a good clean game between Aston Villa and Wigan

Card count looks likely to be low

Cards have been less frequent in Aston Villa's games since Steve Bruce took over
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A low card count in the Sky Bet Championship game between Wigan and Aston Villa may be more likely than Hills estimate. Back under 35 booking points at 17-10. Each yellow will count as ten points and each red as 25.

We are betting on an outcome that has been the outsider in Championship games this season, but what matters of course is whether the chance of that outcome is better than the odds imply. It could be.

The average bookings make-up in a Championship game this season has been 42 - higher than at the end of each of the previous 19 seasons, which is as far back as my records go.

Even so, the proportion of Championship games this season that have featured a bookings make-up below 35 is 44 per cent. Odds of 17-10 imply only a 37 per cent chance of a bet being successful. So the base rate is still in our favour.

The number of cards in Wigan’s games has been for all practical considerations typical of the Championship.

There were many high card counts in Villa’s games before Steve Bruce became manager in October. Ten of Villa’s first 11 games finished with a bookings make-up higher than 35, though I should add that quite a few of the cards in those games were shown to Villa’s opponents.

Since Bruce became manager card counts in Villa’s games have moved closer to the norm for Championship games. Ten of Villa’s last 26 fixtures have featured a bookings make-up below 35.

That is 38 per cent and only nominally better than the 37 per cent implied by odds of 17-10, but there are grounds for thinking that in the rest of the season and beyond the proportion of Villa’s games with low bookings make-ups will return ever nearer to the Championship standard. That is what usually happens - though not always.

Referee Tony Harrington is a good, experienced official with well over 100 Football League games on his CV. He has not shown yellow or red cards more often than typical colleagues.

For this game Wigan have been prepared by caretaker manager Graham Barrow. Though he is a caretaker, Barrow is an experienced number one who has previously managed Wigan and others in about 450 games.

Wigan are in serious danger of relegation to League One. But that has been so for a while and it has not yet affected bookings make-ups in their games. There is no reason why it should, and hopefully it will not today.

Under 35 booking points Wigan v Aston Villa
0.5pt 17-10 Hills

Thought of the week

There were five sets of shelves in that branch of Waterstones for books on Smart Thinking. Are there really so many clever authors, I wondered?

I tilted my head and read the title on every spine. Then I pulled out one book and bought it. How could I not buy the book called But What If We’re Wrong?

Author Chuck Klosterman starts with a simple observation. Every generation laughs at the beliefs of their ancestors, but they never think that one day their beliefs will sound comical to their descendants.

Klosterman argues that we would have a better understanding of the present if we could think about it as though it were the past.

He suggests that people from the distant future looking back at the second half of the 20th century will declare that the television show which depicted life in the United States most accurately was Roseanne.

He also reckons that rock music is a term that will become interchangeable with the name Chuck Berry. Though he is quick to add before anyone else can, he might be wrong. It is good knockabout fun.

There are difficulties in thinking about the present as if it were the past. To understand what the present will look like when it is the past you would need to know what people will think in the future. To do that you would have to be able to predict the future. But there are short limits to how far any human can peer ahead.

Meteorologists can forecast the weather accurately for up to five days ahead. Anyone who has bet on football and analysed their results honestly will know how hard it is to anticipate what will happen in the next hour and a half.

I sometimes conduct a thought experiment. I imagine what the present might look like from different possible versions of the future. All results are possible in every football match. Some might be more likely than others but any could happen.

If, say, I am trying to get a handle on a football team who have been going through a rough patch, I might ask myself what people will say about them tomorrow if they win today. It is not what they say before kick-off.

Though he is a caretaker today, Barrow is an experienced number one who has previously managed Wigan and others in about 450 games
E.W. Terms
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