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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Referee could keep his cool when Man United host Newcastle

Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa knows his stats

Newcastle's Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark
1 of 1

Bet365 may have underestimated the chance of a low card count in the televised Premier League game between Manchester United and Newcastle. Back under 3.5 Asian total cards at decimal odds of 1.925 – equivalent to fractional odds of 37-40.

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

There is clearly potential for this bet to go embarrassingly wrong.

Manchester United have been on a bad run of results. If it continues against Newcastle tempers could fray. When things are not going your way there is an even greater need than usual to stay calm, but players are as human as the rest of us and sometimes they express their frustration.

The longer the score looks good to Newcastle – level or better – the more desperately they will want to defend it. Also, managers Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez have not always seemed like best friends.

Even so, the chance of a low make-up may be better than bet365 acknowledge.

The number of cards likely to be shown in a match is related to the likely difference in ability between the teams. The smaller the anticipated difference in ability, generally speaking, the smaller the chance of a low card count.

Odds in the result-related markets reflect the fact that Manchester United have been going through a bad patch. In that market the teams are a bit closer together than they would usually be.

Odds in the home-draw-away market imply roughly a 66 per cent chance of a Manchester United win, a 22 per cent chance of a draw and a 12 per cent chance of a Newcastle win.

In previous seasons in Premier League games with similar goals expectations the chance of an Asian total cards make-up below 3.5 was typically about 58 per cent. Decimal odds of 1.925 imply a 52 per cent chance of a bet being successful.

Manchester United have seen yellow and red slightly more regularly than usual for a team with their results, but for Newcastle it has been the other way round.

Referee Anthony Taylor is a good and experienced official. Over ten seasons in the Premier League he has issued cards slightly more often than an average colleague: equivalent to about one more yellow every five games. There must have been some sort of borderline decisions that he thought just deserved a card which some of his colleagues thought marginally did not.

Even allowing for this, however, it seems possible that odds for under 3.5 Asian total cards at Old Trafford should not be as big as 1.925.

Under 3.5 Asian total cards Manchester United v Newcastle
1pt 1.925 bet365

Thought for the day

Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa is renowned for poring over videos. He also knows his stats.

After Leeds drew 1-1 at Sheffield Wednesday last Friday, Bielsa said: “I am truly disappointed… The fact that we needed 25 chances to score talks about what we deserved. Usually we need three chances to score one goal and this statistic is common to teams that lead their competition.”

Bielsa spoke of chances and I am sure he meant chances even though the 25 he mentioned was Leeds’s total shots.

Every shot is in one sense a chance to score. But what Bielsa was referring to, I believe, was something closer to what others call clear-cut chances or big chances. And his stat (one in three scored by competition leaders) shows that most are missed even by good teams – though not usually as many as he thinks Leeds missed at Hillsborough.

And not all goals come from good chances either. Many are scored from less promising positions. Former England manager Graham Taylor said: “A lot of goals are what you might consider ‘ugly’ but they all count the same.”

So how many attempts of any description does it take to score a goal? As a rule of thumb: ten. The number is the same now as it was in the 1950s when Charles Reep started counting shots and lots of other things.

Good teams, though, score more regularly and bad teams less regularly. Good teams have better attackers facing worse defenders and goalkeepers. Bad teams have worse attackers facing better defenders and goalkeepers.

In the Premier League in the six seasons 2012-13 to 2017-18 the champions scored once every seven shots while teams that finished bottom scored once every 14 shots. Until Saturday's games kick off Leeds will be top of the Championship.

Excluding the game against Sheffield Wednesday they have averaged one goal every seven shots.

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In the Premier League in the six seasons 2012-13 to 2017-18 the champions scored once every seven shots
E.W. Terms
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