We preview the upcoming 2017/18 Premier League season with our best outright bets for this year's: Winner, Relegation, Top Goalscorer and other outright bets.
Chelsea lifted the 2016/17 title with 93 points in Antonio Conte's first season in the Premier League, completely dominating the division after a rocky start to the season. 13 wins in a row from October - December saw them cement their place at the top of the league and they never looked back. They'll be looking to win back-to-back titles, but it won't be so easy. No side has lifted back-to-back Premier League titles since Manchester United won the league three seasons in a row (2006/07, 07/08, 08/09).
Will Chelsea win back-to-back Premier League titles or will we see the Manchester clubs, Liverpool or Tottenham at the top of the table come May?
For the second season running, Manchester City top the betting (2/1 at BetVictor) with Chelsea and Man Utd second favourites 7/2 at Betfair. Spurs are 9/1 to win their first Premier League title at Betfred while Liverpool and Arsenal are 12/1 shots to win the Premier League at bet365.
Four teams at odds of 9/1 or shorter for the 2017/2018 Premier League season suggests that the bookmakers feel the league is wide open. Man City topped the betting at 9/4 last season and are 2/1 favourites again for the upcoming season, it looks particularly short considering their defensive frailties of last campaign.
Pep Guardiola has signed a new goalkeeper for just short of £40m, signing Benfica's Ederson who is capable of playing with the ball at his feet but is actually able to save shots; unlike last summer's signing Claudio Bravo. The Citizens have added Monaco playmaker Bernardo Silva and is looking to bring better defensive options to his squad by signing Kyle Walker and Ryan Bertrand; if they can add an established centre-back such as Virgil van Dijk to the mix, they may be worth backing at 2/1 (BetVictor).
Chelsea 7/2 (Betfair) look a reasonable price considering they were by far and away the best Premier League side last season, accumulating 93 points; the second best Premier League points total since 1992. However, as stated earlier, no side has won back-to-back Premier League titles since Sir Alex Ferguson's superb Manchester United side from 2006-2009. The competition in the Premier League has grown rapidly over the last 10 years, shown by Manchester City's meteoric rise while Spurs have performed to an excellent standard over the past two seasons.
Chelsea were gifted just one game a week last season which gave them a significant advantage in their quest to secure the Premier League title. This season they'll need to rely on more than a core of 14 players if they are to challenge for the Premier League and Champions League. Antonio Conte is expecting to add to his squad by bringing in Tiemoue Bakayoko, Alex Sandro, Alvaro Morata and a central-midfielder. If they can do all the business that Conte needs to push on, Chelsea at 7/2 will look fantastic value.
Manchester United are shorter (7/2 at Betfair) than they were last season (4/1) despite a relatively underwhelming 2016/17 Premier League campaign. Jose Mourinho's side finished 6th in the league and were never really in the mix for the title. Man Utd decided not to offer Zlatan Ibrahimovic a new contract, their top goalscorer last season so we're reluctant to stick money on the Red Devils given that Mourinho lambasted his side for not scoring enough chances last season. If they can bring in Lukaku and another established goalscorer from Europe, we'd be inclined to give Man Utd a chance of lifting the title. Jose Mourinho has won the title in the second season at Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea - could he add Man Utd to the list?
Tottenham are currently fourth favourites to win the Premier League at 9/1 (Betfred), were they still playing at White Hart Lane it would be hard to oppose them. They've been the most consistent Premier League side for the past two seasons without winning the title; something that has come to light with most opposition fans stating that Spurs never win anything. However, playing at Wembley for their home games for the full campaign is a negative for betting purposes in our eyes. Spurs struggled in their Champions League group games at Wembley, particularly in their toothless effort against Bayer Leverkusen while they failed to beat Belgian side Gent in their Europa League tie back in February. Tottenham have excellent talent at their disposal with Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Harry Kane but we're unsure whether they can take their excellent unbeaten run from White Hart Lane to Wembley.
Arsenal and Liverpool are both trading at 12/1 (bet365) to lift the Premier League title, neither side look particularly good value at those prices - especially Arsenal. The Gunners could face losing Alexis Sanchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Hector Bellerin this summer, three key players. They failed to finish in the top four for the first time in 20 years under Arsene Wenger and will be playing in the Europa League next season; the Thursday-Sunday fixture list is a hard grind that Wenger's side could probably do without.
Liverpool impressed in the first half of the 2016/17 season, picking up superb results against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City and went unbeaten against the rest of the top six last term. Liverpool's problem for contesting for the title is their lack of squad depth and an out-and-out goalscorer which they're looking to remedy this summer. They were fully deserving of their top four spot but the season promised much more from August - September. They'll need to juggle both competitions with expertise, we're not quite sure they're at that level yet and we don't fancy them for the Premier League title at 12/1.
Chelsea were by far the best team in the league last season, we expect Antonio Conte's side to go close once again. Manchester City finished third last term, eight points behind 2nd place Spurs who we expect to drop off as they face a tough season away from White Hart Lane. Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool need drastically improve if they are to finish in the top 2. If Man City can add defensive options, we fancy them to contest the Premier League title with Chelsea.
Newly promoted sides Brighton & Hove Albion (6/5 at bet365) and Huddersfield Town (4/7 at bet365) along with Burnley (11/8 at bet365) are the three current favourites to be relegated with the bookmakers. They give Newcastle United a better chance of staying up, with the Magpies currently 4/1 to be relegated at Coral.
Personally, we wouldn't want to touch Newcastle United for relegation back to the Championship. They were superb in the Championship for the majority of the season as they lifted the title, winning the league by just one point ahead of Brighton & Hove Albion. While the Magpies have exciting Championship players, we're not so sure Rafa Benitez's current first XI are a decent Premier League standard with the possible exception of Ayoze Perez, Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie. Newcastle have missed out on signing Harry Maguire and Tammy Abraham so far this summer while Fulham are pricing Tom Cairney out of a move to Newcastle.
Chief Scout Graham Carr has recently left the club which will give Rafael Benitez total control over transfers. Reports in February suggested that Benitez was considering walking away from the club over the lack of ambition demonstrated by owner Mike Ashley. Giving Benitez control over transfers is one step towards keeping Benitez at the club in the long-term. If Newcastle can get their transfer targets in, we expect them to be safe.
The other two promoted clubs we're not so sure about, though. Chris Hughton has performed wonders at Brighton to take them into the Premier League, contesting for promotion to the Premier League for the past two seasons and were arguably a better outfit than Newcastle for most of the season, but took their eyes off the title once they were promoted. While Glenn Murray is a reliable and consistent goal-scorer in the Championship, he's not someone that can keep Brighton safe from relegation back to the Championship. Brighton have plenty of talent in their squad but they will need to add Premier League experience to their side if they are to stay up. The Seagulls have performed extremely well at the Amex Stadium over the past two seasons, they'll need to continue that home form but at 11/8 at bet365, we fancy Brighton to be relegated.
Not many shrewd punters expected Huddersfield Town to go close to the top six at the start of the season let alone promotion to the Premier League. David Wagner was surely the Manager of the Year across all top four divisions after taking the Terriers to the top tier of English football.
Huddersfield have acted fast in the transfer market, bringing in Belgium striker Laurent Depoitre from Porto for a club-record fee. Depoitre had limited game time for Porto but performed well for Gent in 2015/16. It remains to be seen whether he can adapt to the Premier League but it's an important signing for a club that lacked an out-and-out centre-forward last season. Huddersfield will want to retain Izzy Brown and Danny Ward for the upcoming season, but ultimately that will be up to their respective clubs Chelsea and Liverpool. Their squad at the moment, like Brighton's, needs more Premier League and big competition experience. it's excellent to have a new club enter the Premier League, but we fancy their stay to be short lived. Huddersfield to be relegated 4/7 at bet365.
In each of the last six seasons the Premier League has seen at least one of the 'established' sides relegated to the Championship: Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic, Fulham, Hull City, Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Sunderland. We've not seen all three promoted sides relegated, who will be one of the 'established' sides to face relegation to the Championship?
Watford have looked particularly regressive since a storming start to when promoted to the Premier League back in 2015/16. In the space of 18 months, Watford have gone through three managers and have regressed in terms of their points total from 2015/16 - taking 45 points in 38 games, while in 2016/17 Watford secured 40 points in 38 games, just six points above relegation.
They've brought in Marco Silva, he failed to keep Hull City in the Premier League but was lauded for how he kept Hull in the mix to avoid relegation, only to suffer a humiliating 4-0 defeat against Crystal Palace and then conceded seven goals to Spurs on the last day of the season. He brought better results and tactical flexibility to a Hull squad that lacked any defensive or creative stability under Mike Phelan but ultimately were still relegated. The Hornets lost 12 of their 20 games in 2017 which ultimately saw Walter Mazzarri leave the club with Watford deciding to hire Marco Silva. He's a well-respected manager but if the funds are not available, I struggle to see how they're better than the likes of Swansea, Crystal Palace and Burnley in the betting for relegation. At 13/8 at Betfair, Watford look a decent price for relegation to the Championship.
Brighton and Huddersfield face a difficult season in the Premier League after superb promotion campaigns in the Championship. Huddersfield have brought in Laurent Depoitre but they will need an established striker to keep them up in the Premier League next season, while they also conceded 58 goals in the Championship, the second most in the top seven - not a particularly good omen for the Premier League. Brighton relied on Glenn Murray for goals in the Championship last term, we feel, like Huddersfield they need a striker more reliable to keep them up in the Premier League.
Watford have regressed after each Premier League season, they may change that by hiring Marco Silva but their form over the last 18 months has been incredibly poor. It's a close one between Watford and Swansea for our choice to go down, however, if Paul Clement can keep Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente; we expect them to just stay up.
Judging by the last two seasons, the Premier League golden boot will be going to Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane. Kane netted 25 goals in 2015/16 and netted an incredible 29 goals in 30 league games. In a season full of injuries for the England international, he still managed to beat Romelu Lukaku by four goals after scoring seven goals in his last two league games of the season.
The three-season wonder is currently best priced 3/1 at BetVictor to top the goalscoring charts at the end of 2017/18. Kane was 6/1 at the start of 2016/17 to be the Premier League top scorer, it seems the bookmakers have taken more notice of Kane's goalscoring exploits of the past two seasons and is comfortably the favourite to make it three golden boots in a row.
Romelu Lukaku is currently the second favourite to pick up his first Premier League golden boot, currently 11/2 at bet365. Lukaku was leading the way until the final two games, he'll be disappointed in his run towards the end of the season but the Belgian is itching for a move back to Chelsea; he'll have more chances playing for Chelsea but it remains to be seen whether he's yet at Harry Kane or Sergio Aguero's level - or whether he can lead the line like Diego Costa has in Chelsea's most recent title-winning campaigns.
Sergio Aguero (6/1 at bet365) and Gabriel Jesus (8/1 at BetVictor) make up the rest of the top four in the top goalscorer betting. Sergio Aguero started life under Pep Guardiola well but over the season it seemed Guardiola dug the Argentinean out for his lack of commitment in pressing high up the pitch. When Gabriel Jesus was registered to play in January, Pep Guardiola turned to the young Brazilian international and performed well until his injury. Guardiola may look to play both Aguero and Jesus up front next season, a potent attacking duo but they may have to share the goals between them.
Despite being fairly short at 3/1, we can't oppose Harry Kane. He's been incredibly consistent since his breakthrough season back in 2014/15, netting 75 league goals in his last three campaigns. He'll have to adjust his talents to playing at Wembley every week but he's netted two goals in his last four appearances at Wembley; we think he'll get to 100 Premier League goals by the end of next season.
Other Outright Bets
Most bookmakers are yet to price up markets for 'Next Premier League manager to be sacked' but Stoke City's Mark Hughes interests us without seeing odds. Despite spending a fair bit of money in his reign at Stoke City, Mark Hughes' side finished 13th, four places lower than in 2015/16 with the league in a poorer state of points totals apart from the top seven this term.
Stoke City's faithful have gradually become more and more frustrated by Mark Hughes, but especially in the last year. Stoke started the season in terrible form, going seven games without a win from August to early October.
The Potters had an extremely poor end to the season, winning just two of their last 11 league games; losing six. Stoke have a tough start to the 2017/18 campaign, facing Everton, Arsenal, Man Utd and Chelsea in their opening six games while they also face tough away trips to West Brom and Newcastle. If Stoke make a similar start to this season like last season, we fancy the chances of Mark Hughes to be the first Premier League manager to be sacked.
Brighton, Huddersfield & Watford all to be relegated (Relegation Treble | Any Order) - 18/1 at Sky Bet