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04/05/2007 No.15
Kevin Pullein
Friday May 04, 2007
  Bookmakers are likely to overestimate the trend

The final few games of a season tend to be the most action-packed - but bookmakers are likely to overestimate the trend. In the Premiership and Football League in the past 20 seasons, the average number of goals scored in games played between August and April was 2.6. In May this figure rose to 2.7 and the proportion of games producing three goals or more - a popular bet - jumped from 48% to 51%. The odds typically appropriate to the bet would have shortened from around 11-10 to around 20-21 - but bookmakers often shortened them further than they should.


In the closing weeks of a season, we encounter teams with everything to play for and those with nothing to play for. Both are liable to become involved in higher scoring games than before. The more desperately a team are trying to score a goal the more likely they become to get one but the more likely they become to concede. A team who find themselves able to play without a care ease into a more open game, resulting in more goals at both ends.

Teams who need to win - those who are striving for a title, promotion, play-off qualification or safety from relegation - are liable to collect more cards than at other times. In the nine seasons before this one, the average number of yellow cards received by Manchester United players in Premiership games between August and April was 1.3. In May - when they were often challenging for honours - this figure leapt to 1.8.

The end-of-season trends are for more goals in all games and more cards for some teams. When betting, however, what matters is how those trends relate to the odds on offer. And with bookies likely to overestimate how much more action there will be, the better option is to bet on lower goal and booking totals.


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