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Expect more goals and fewer bookings on final day

Sage betting advice from the Soccer Boffin

Leicester and Tottenham's dead rubber featured seven goals
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There were seven goals on Thursday between Leicester and Tottenham three days after Chelsea and Watford produced the same number.

None of those teams had anything to play for. On Wednesday there were no goals between Southampton and Manchester United. They did not have anything to play for either. What normally happens in such circumstances?

On Sunday, in the last set of Premier League fixtures, there will be seven games in which neither team have anything to play for - not a record number but unusually high. There were eight in 2013 and in 2010. The average over the last 20 years has been five.

In the Premier League, as in the Football League, there tend to be more goals on the last day of a season than on other days. And scores generally rise with the number of teams in a match who still have something to strive for. Here are some figures from the final day of the last 19 seasons in the Premier and Football Leagues.

When both teams had something to play for the average number of goals was 3.1. When one team had something to play for the average number of goals was 2.8. And when neither team had anything to play for the average number of goals was 2.7. The average number of goals in all games at other times in a season was 2.6.

The chance of over 2.5 goals in a match was 57 per cent when both teams had something to play for, 55 per cent when one team had something to play for and 50 per cent when neither team had anything to play for. In all games at other times in a season it was 48 per cent.

The relaxed atmosphere at many grounds is evident from bookings stats. Referees’ reports tend to be shorter on the last day of a season. Bookings usually rise in tandem with the competitiveness of a fixture.

These figures come from the final day of the last 19 Premier League seasons, counting each yellow as ten and each red as 25, as in most betting markets. If both teams had something to play for the average bookings make-up was 42, if one team had something to play for it was 36 and if neither team had anything to play for it was 26.


Thought for the day

Since Chelsea won the Premier League we have read a lot about what coach Antonio Conte did. He gave players pre-match meals of fruit and nuts instead of chicken and pasta, he sent hand-written cards with Christmas gifts. He quoted Hannibal crossing the Alps with a herd of elephants.

Such things are interesting, but they do not tell us what they claim to. They tell us what Conte did. They do not tell us whether or by how much those things helped Chelsea to win the Premier League.

The Secrets of Success is a staple genre of book publishing. I was given a book called The Gold Mine Effect. The subtitle promised to Crack the Secrets of High Performance. The author had visited places that have produced lots of top athletes. He studied distance runners in Kenya, sprinters in Jamaica, footballers in Brazil.

I can understand why the book found a publisher. There were grounds for hoping it would sell. But such tomes can be dangerously misleading. They say someone did this and succeeded. They do not tell us how many other people did the same thing and failed. And we need to know that to form a reasonable idea of whether the techniques are any good.

Last year I read articles saying Tottenham had been successful because they trained more than most other teams, and I read articles saying Leicester had been successful because they trained less than most other teams.

Out-of-work football coaches go to watch training at Barcelona and Real Madrid. They should also visit basket-case clubs. Only in that way could they learn whether it is the training drills that help to bring so many trophies to Camp Nou and the Bernabeu.

Scores generally rise with the number of teams in a match who still have something to strive for