It’s that time of year when you sit down with a paper and pencil, crack onto the internet and try and whittle down your bets for the new season. Why not consider a few of these slightly speculative selections? NB – It’s not my fault when none of them come in…
Jose Mourinho to be named LMA Manager of the Year – 5/1 (BetVictor)
There is no expansive explanation for this one, merely a bit of logic. If Manchester United win the Premier League title this season, with Mourinho taking them from fifth to first in one season, he is nailed on to win the LMA Manager of the Year award. His personality would demand it.
With that in mind, all the money piled on United to win the league at prices as short as 3/1 seems a bit silly when you can pick up 5/1 on Mourinho getting the gong. He could even do it with second place and the Europa League.
West Brom to be the Premier League’s lowest scorers – 13/2 (SportingBet)
West Brom may have survived relegation last season, but they scored at least five fewer goals than any other team outside of the Aston Villa clusterf*ck; only Salomon Rondon scored more than four times in the league.
Given that they still haven’t bought a striker this summer, West Brom have to be good value to be lowest scorers at 13/2, obviously dependent on how long Tony Pulis sticks around. That’s a longer price than Hull, Burnley, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Watford and Bournemouth with some bookmakers, although Sunderland’s price of 10/1 also stands out.
Divock Origi to be Liverpool’s top league scorer – 7/1 (Coral)
Daniel Sturridge is the comfortable favourite to be Liverpool’s top league scorer this season, and with good reason. Yet it isn’t hard to imagine him being injured for large swathes of the season. I mean, you literally don’t have to imagine it; it’s happened in each of the last two seasons.
To therefore have Origi at a considerably longer price than Philippe Coutinho seems a little strange, with Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane at shorter odds still than Coutinho. The Belgian scored five league goals in 666 minutes last season, and clearly impressed Jurgen Klopp.
“I’m feeling very good,” Origi told Liverpool’s website this week. “I’m feeling sharp, I’m working very hard and I’m learning every day. If you can do this, of course you reach big things, so that’s my goal this year: to be top on every level and try to be on a high level. I’ve always felt I’m a No.9. I can play alone up front and with another striker – even on the wing – but my strongest position is when I play as a No.9.”
Good enough for me, sunshine.
Francesco Guidolin as the first manager to leave his post – 13/2 (888Sport)
In the space of one summer, Swansea City have lost last season’s captain, top scorer, top tackler, top passer, most accurate shooter and best chance converter in one summer. They have signed Fernando Llorente, but that defence still looks mighty light.
There’s also the rule of history, which is a thing that I have made up on the spot. In 2014/15, Dick Advocaat took over at Sunderland until the end of the season and unexpectedly kept them up before being given a permanent deal. The transfer window then went badly before Advocaat was the first manager to leave his job last season. For Dick Advocaat in 2015, read Francesco Guidolin in 2016.
Guidolin is not the favourite to go first, for that honour lies with Tony Pulis and West Brom’s own problems in signing players. But, as suggested in Football365’s season predictions, at 13/2, the Italian represents decent value.
Hull City to be bottom at Christmas – 11/4 (Bet365)
Oh Hull, you big bloody catastrophe of a football club. The Premier League is preached as the Promised Land for football fans, but Hull supporters have got the kind of promotion hangover that involves you sitting by the toilet with a cold flannel on your face drinking Irn-Bru but spilling half of it down last night’s shirt, before attempting one bite of a bacon sandwich and retching violently.
With Mike Phelan close to becoming the permanent manager by process of elimination, senior players leaving, none arriving and a squad blighted by injuries, Hull are comfortably the least prepared of the promoted clubs. Given that Hull are 7/4 in places to be bottom in May, odds of 11/4 on the same thing happening at Christmas are mighty generous. They could be due a post-takeover transfer market binge in January, you see.
Shane Long and Andre Gray to be Premier League top scorer – 66/1 (Paddy Power)
Look, stop laughing and listen for a minute. Please. Oi. Oi. I SAID F**KING LISTEN. WHY DO YOU ALWAYS WAIT UNTIL I GET ANGRY TO FINALLY LISTEN?
Shane Long will not be the top Premier League goalscorer this season. But Paddy Power are offering six places on the market, which in the last three seasons means you needed to score 16, 14 and 17 goals to place. Optimistic yes, but effectively getting 6/1 on Long scoring 15+ goals is a good deal.
That’s even more true when you consider that Graziano Pelle has left the club, meaning Long is a certainty to start every game for which he is fit. The Irishman had his best Premier League scoring season in 2015/16, and only started 23 matches. So at least wait until the end of the season to laugh at me, yeah?
Andre Gray scored nine times in pre-season, and 25 times in the Championship last season as Burnley earned promotion. Odion Ighalo finished one goal outside of a place in this market last season for promoted Watford, and he only scored twice after the turn of the year. Worth a dabble, I’d say.