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Expect good behavior from Arsenal and Swansea

Wise words from the Soccer Boffin

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
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The possibility of a small number of cards in the Premier League game between Arsenal and Swansea may be better than bet365 envisage. Back under 3.5 Asian total cards at decimal odds of 1.9 – equivalent to fractional odds of 9-10.

Each yellow will count as one and each red as two. So the bet will win if there are no more than three yellows and no reds, or alternatively if there is one red and no more than one yellow. Anything else and the bet loses.

Decimal odds of 1.9 imply less than a 53 per cent chance of a bet being successful. In the Premier League over the last two decades 54 per cent of all games have finished with a card count below 3.5. And the chance of a low cards tally, in the Premier League as elsewhere, as the difference in ability between teams widens.

In a typical Premier League game there is something like a 47 per cent chance of a home win, a 27 per cent chance of a draw and a 26 per cent chance of an away win.

When Arsenal play at home to Swansea the prospect of a home win should be higher and the prospects of a draw and an away win should be lower. This is only natural given the difference in finances between the clubs.

The result-related markets, stripped of their overrounds, imply roughly a 79 per cent chance of a home win, a 14 per cent chance of a draw and a seven per cent chance of an away win. That seems reasonable given the different statures of the clubs.

During the previous 20 seasons – 1997-98 to 2016-17 – in games with similar result expectations the chance of a card count below 3.5 was about 60 per cent.

It is probably not as high as 60 per cent at the Emirates this week but it might not be as low as 53 per cent.

Lee Mason is a good, experienced referee who has controlled more than 200 Premier League games spread over 13 seasons. He has not felt obliged to show a large number of cards more often than a typical colleague.

Arsenal’s games over the years have featured more high card counts than we should have anticipated from their results, though not so far this season.

Swansea’s games across seven Premier League seasons have not provoked high card counts more often than those of other teams who achieved similar results, though three of their four away games this season have contained more than 3.5 cards. Among those games was an admirable 0-0 draw at Tottenham.

There are several ways in which play at the Emirates could develop, and each of them will have a different implication for the number of cards that might be shown. But overall the chance of a make-up below 3.5 might be better than bet365 acknowledge.

Under 3.5 Asian total cards Arsenal v Swansea
1pt 1.9 bet365

Saturday football tipsters

Mark Langdon

Dan Childs

Thought for the day

David Sullivan, co-chairman of West Ham, said he does not want to sack Slaven Bilic even though changing manager “can give you two or three more points over a season statistically”. West Ham won at Tottenham in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday but in the Premier League they are above the relegation line only on goal difference.

Sullivan said he likes to honour contracts. I can give him another reason to. He has been misinformed.

Sacking the manager is not a way of buying points. Teams who sack their manager generally do better afterwards – but no better than other teams in a similar position who did not sack their manager.

Premier League teams who fired their manager during the last 20 seasons averaged 1.0 points per game before and 1.2 after. They improved by 0.2 points per game after the old manager had left. As there were on average 20 games still to play you could say they gained four points (0.2 x 20 = 4).

However the manager was sacked because results had been bad and teams who have been getting bad results tend to do better afterwards even if they do not sack their manager.

A perfect illustration is West Ham. I have written about this before. After the first 19 games of season 2013-14 West Ham were 19th – second from bottom – with 15 points.

They could have sacked Sam Allardyce, who was their manager then. They did not. Sullivan and his partner David Gold have a commendable record of sticking by their managers at West Ham just as they did at Birmingham.

From the last 19 games West Ham won 25 points and rose to 13th. They did not improve by two or three points, or even by four, but by ten.

Obviously that is just one example. Overall, though, teams who sack their manager do no better afterwards than teams in a similar predicament who did not sack their manager.

That is why Leonard Mlodinow was able to write in a book called The Drunkard’s Walk: “Mathematical analysis of firings in all major sports has shown that those firings had, on average, no effect on team performance.” 

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Sullivan said he likes to honour contracts. I can give him another reason to. He has been misinformed
E.W. Terms
Sky bet