Over the last few months you might be forgiven for thinking that the word banker was a term reserved solely for those city-dwelling folk with bowler hats and umbrellas. Or, to speak in more contemporary terms, those who tend to receive rather huge bonuses for under performing in their day job, perhaps fixing a few LIBOR rates along the way.
I digress. It’s just that trying to predict the outcome of Premier League matches recently has become more of a lottery, a game of chance rather than skill. Who would’ve said Leicester would be leading the top flight as we head into December? Or Crystal Palace flirting with a top 6 finish, whilst Chelsea mix with Norwich and Newcastle at the wrong end of the table? I can tell you: nobody.
From an entertainment perspective it has been fantastic for the neutral to see the bigger clubs getting some real competition for a change. Buoyed by the record Premier League TV bounty, with even the bottom club due to receive a staggering £99m each season, smaller clubs have found things just a little bit easier to compete this season. And whilst there were some alarm bells ringing about English clubs’ progress in the Champions League, these voices have softened somewhat with all four clubs now within a chance of qualifying to the knockout stages. However, there’s no doubting that the increased competition faced by such clubs has taken its toll on their respective European adventures.
From a betting perspective, just console yourself in the knowledge that some things in the Premier League this season really aren’t that much of a surprise at all. Newcastle, who were absolutely woeful against Crystal Palace on Saturday, Aston Villa, Sunderland and Norwich were all nailed on relegation-fodder candidates before a ball was even kicked. There was perhaps a small question mark hanging over plucky Bournemouth but the Cherries have struggled to turn Dean Court into a fortress in the top flight. And console yourself in the knowledge that, whatever happens, the Premier League table will contain most of the usual suspects at the top come May. Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and…dare I say it…Chelsea will be main contenders for the top 6 spots. Just like in the earlier rounds of the World Cup, shocks occur aplenty earlier on, when most smaller clubs’ squad size and strength are yet to be fully tested, it’s just that this year we’ve seen far more shocks than normal. But such shocks will begin to be less commonplace, slowly but surely.
Why am I so confident? Just look back at the end-of-season standings over the last decade (and even beyond) and you’ll notice very few surprises in the top 6. Sure, Leicester are doing amazingly well in part thanks to the exploits of Vardy and Mahrez’s combined goal scoring exploits, but just marginally better than Southampton at a similar stage of last season in terms of points. The difference has been the inconsistency of the some of the bigger clubs. With the circus that is the January transfer window just around the corner, the bigger clubs will invest to plug gaps and mask earlier season frailties (maybe even Arsenal, whose only big signing of the summer was Peter Cech from Chelsea). You see, the table has a nasty habit of righting itself, right at the business end of the season. Enjoy the competitive anyone-can-beat-anyone set up whilst you can because normal service will resume.