Number Crunching: What to Make of Leeds’ Preseason Odds

26 Jul 2021 06:49 am, by YorkshireSquare

The odds for the Premier League season basically come out the moment the previous season’s title is decided. In fact, the race is on between bookmakers to be the brand to get the odds out first. Why? Because it’s a PR exercise, as the markets being released will get picked up tabloid newspapers and fanzines and published as news.

Nevertheless, all major bookies have their odds ready for the new season, and we wanted to take a look at how they position Leeds. The idea is not to promote betting on Leeds, but, rather, see where the bookies’ have placed the team and muse as to whether it’s a fair reflection. Odds are averaged from a range of bookmakers, not a particular betting firm.

Of course, things could change between now and when the transfer window shuts. Leeds have already clinched a couple of deals, including the arrival of Junior Firpo from Barcelona and Jack Harrison making his loan move from Man City a permanent one. But Leeds’ odds can also be impacted by moves from other clubs. Anyway, the point is to take the odds here with the caveat that they could change.

Leeds 9th in Premier League Outright

Leeds average price to win the Premier League is somewhere around the 150/1 mark. So, the club is not quite in Leicester 2016 territory, but not exactly likely to win. We know that, right? But what’s important here for Leeds is where they are positioned – 9th favourites on average, behind the Big 6 clubs plus Everton and Leicester. Is that fair? It does seem like a fair assessment – on paper. Moreover, it’s also worth pointing out that some bookmakers prefer Leeds over Everton.

We say “on paper” because the bookies tend to deal in what we call structured data. In short, Leeds are where they are in the odds as that’s where the stats say they should be, not least because they finished 9th last year. But, guess what? The bookies are often wrong. How many bookmakers had West Ham finishing 5th in the Premier League this time last year? And, if you want to see how bad experts can be, take a look at Lawro’s predictions – the BBC pundit had Leeds finishing on 73pts last season, 30 pts ahead of West Ham.

Stats say little about emotional impact

And fans might take into consideration unstructured data when making predictions about the new season. For instance, the ill-feeling around the appointment of Rafa Benitez at Everton looks like it could blow up if the Spaniard does not hit the ground running. Similarly, the Harry Kane saga looks like a problem for Spurs.

And what to say about Leeds’ unstructured data? The team, as we know, is one of the most difficult to pigeonhole in world football. Back in March, Bobbie Jackson, who writes for the MansionBet football blog, wrote an article titled, “Leeds Looking to end luckless road run”. The piece previewed the then-upcoming game against Fulham (19th March), and Jackson seemed bemused – as most football journalists are – at Leeds all-or-nothing performances. He rightly tipped Leeds for the win despite the team having a two-month away win drought, and the team kicked on from there and duly finished the season with some brilliant away results, including victory at the Etihad.

The point is that Leeds’ unstructured data – the unquantifiable stuff – is the team’s propensity for ripping up the formbook: Unbeaten against City home and away last season; lost to Brighton home and away; got smashed at home by Leicester but returned the favour at the King Power. If you are a Leeds fan, you know all this, of course. But how do bookmakers make sense of it?

When you read the previews for Leeds’ season as opening day approaches, you will inevitably see pundits call for more consistency from Bielsa’s side in the 2021/22 campaign. That’s easier said than done, of course. Moreover, if you really crunch the numbers, you’ll see that Leeds’ results last year were more consistent than the team is commonly given credit for – 8 wins and two losses from 10 matches against the bottom five clubs; 2 wins, 4 draws and 4 defeats against the top five clubs. That’s indicative of a club that is not as gung-ho as commonly presented in the media. Indeed, all five of Leeds’ draws last season were against Big Six clubs, and three of those were 0-0s. Leeds still played the ‘Bielsa way’ in those games, but there was a doggedness, too.

In the end, 9th in the odds seems about right for Leeds – as it stands. But we see things turn on their head every season as the campaign gets underway. Leeds open up with games against Manchester United (A), Everton (H) and Burnley (A) – three terribly hard games to call, particularly as the Euros will impact some teams’ preparedness for the start of the new season. Where will Leeds be after that? Your guess is as good as mine, but it might be considerably better than the bookmakers’.