The Premier League has reached its first international break after just 3 games, with Man City, Chelsea and Man United all taking maximum points, but it is Pep Guardiola’s City who have made the biggest impression on the betting market.
City scraped into fourth place as Manuel Pellegrini’s three-year reign petered out unconvincingly last season, but they have made a flying start under Guardiola, winning their first five games in all competitions. They began the season as title favourites at best odds of 5/2, but despite being level on points with their two chief rivals they have now shortened to a best price of 7/5 with Bet365.
The key factor is the pace at which Guardiola has affected change on a squad who looked listless for the previous 12 months. City have brought in plenty of new players, but only John Stones and Nolito have featured so far and yet the team looks transformed, with the likes of Raheem Sterling and Fernandinho performing their new roles with great confidence and Aleksandar Kolarov filling in at centre half as if he’s played there throughout his career.
But before you jump on those odds of 7/5, remember that City won their first five league games last season before the wheels came off.
United’s persistence paid off to earn them a 1-0 victory in ‘Fergie time’ at Hull on Saturday evening and make it three wins from three under Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho’s approach has been more conservative than that of Guardiola across town, yet it has been effective as United have brushed aside Bournemouth and Southampton before that narrow win at the KCOM Stadium. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba have added much needed character to the team, something which has been lacking for the past few seasons, while Eric Bailly has settled in well in defence alongside Luke Shaw, back after a horrendous leg break.
The appointment of Mourinho, the signing of Ibrahimovic and the summer-long pursuit of Pogba was more high profile than City’s steady recruitment and really caught the eye of punters, who backed United in from 6/1 in May to 7/2 on the eve of the season. That position has changed only slightly on the back of a strong start, with United now a 3/1 chance with Coral.
However, like City, it’s worth noting that United also made a strong start to last season, winning 5 of their opening 7 league games (D1, L1), before finishing 5th.
Like the Manchester clubs, Chelsea are under new management, with Antonio Conte also beginning his Premier League career with 3 straight wins, although the Blues required late goals from Diego Costa to see off West Ham and Watford.
The most striking aspect of Chelsea’s opening three games has been the form of Eden Hazard. The Belgian was the Premier League’s Player of the Year in 2014/15, but completely lost his way last season. However, he has hit the ground running and scored a stunning opening goal in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Burnley.
Conte’s biggest task has been restoring the work-rate to a team that lost its way last season and he appears to have made a significant early impact, with N’gole Kante a key signing. The club’s lack of European football could be a major factor too, as they will get plenty of rest as rivals play at least 6 extra midweek matches.
Chelsea could be backed at 13/2 on the opening day of the season and are now a 5/1 chance with Betfred.
Of course the odds of the leading three in the market have shortened in part due to the slow starts made by the other leading contenders, with Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and the champions Leicester all dropping points in 2 of their first 3 games.
Arsenal began the season alongside Chelsea in the market at 13/2, but were out to 11/1 after losing to Liverpool and drawing with Leicester. A much improved performance at Watford on Saturday has brought them back in to 10/1 at Bet365, and while they are already 5 points off the pace, they were also 5 points behind Manchester City at this stage last season, but finished 5 points above them.
Liverpool have shown both sides of their character already, thrilling supporters with their blitz of Arsenal on the opening weekend before crashing to a 2-0 defeat at Burnley and they are now out to 14/1 with Bet365 having opened at 10s.
That said, Jurgen Klopp’s side were unlucky not to win at White Hart Lane on Saturday lunchtime and have opened their campaign with three away games, while Man City, Chelsea and Tottenham have each already played twice at home.
Spurs have drifted too, from 10/1 to 20/1 with Bet365, after starting their season with a win and two draws. But it’s worth remembering that Mauricio Pochettino’s men made a slow start to last season (L1, D3) before challenging for the title.
Leicester’s price has hit 66/1 (from 33s) with most bookmakers after a defeat and a draw in their first three games. But that draw with Arsenal at home was an improvement on last season’s 2-5 loss to the Gunners and they only won three of their first 7 league games last season (D3, L1), before winning the title at a canter.
Jamie Vardy got off the mark in their win over Swansea on Saturday and the Foxes are now 3/1 with Betfred for a Top 6 finish (despite finishing 19 points clear of seventh position last season). But that price might drift further with their next four away games at Anfield, Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane.
In the relegation betting, Hull began the season as 4/6 favourites and were seen as certainties for the drop by many punters, but they have exceeded expectations by winning two of their first three games despite operating with a squad reduced by injuries and a lack of transfer activity. The Tigers are now 10/11 with several firms, with most now making Burnley the 4/5 favourites for the drop.
There have been two big movers in the relegation betting. Our 13/2 pre-season tips for relegation, Crystal Palace, have struggled to a single point from their first three games and have been cut to 3/1, while Middlesbrough’s unbeaten start has seen them go the other way, out to 5/1 with Coral from 21/10 three weeks ago.
Sergio Aguero remains firm favourite to be the league’s top goalscorer, in to 5/2 from 7/2, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic cut from 10/1 to 9/2 with Coral after matching the Argentine’s tally of three goals in three games, having scored 38 league goals for PSG last season.
Diego Costa’s price has also shortened after a promising start, from 20/1 in to 12/1 with Ladbrokes, while Harry Kane has moved out from 8/1 to 16/1 at Betfred after failing to find the net in Tottenham’s first three matches of the season.