2020/21 Football Season Preview

2020/21 Football Season Preview

It's time for my once a year public foray into footballing waters, the purpose being to strike a familiarly-shaped wager. Familiar to longer-suffering readers, at least.

Each season since 2016, I've constructed a £50 perm trixie (seven bets, total stake £350) comprised of:

- a team to be relegated from the Premier League

- a team to be promoted from either the Championship or League One

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- one or both of two teams to be promoted from League Two

I like the shape of this bet for a couple of reasons. Firstly, promotion offers the hope (and hedge opportunity) of the playoffs; and secondly, League Two has three automatic promotion spots as well as a playoff consolation down to seventh place. That makes for engagement long into the season even if we've picked fairly moderately!


Last Season - yuk!

Speaking of moderate picking, last season was just that. I opted for the following:

- Brighton to be relegated from EPL (15th, comfortably stayed up)

- Portsmouth for League 1 promotion (5th, 2 points off second (auto), lost in playoffs)

- Plymouth for League 2 promotion (3rd, promoted)

- Mansfield for League 2 promotion (21st, hopeless!)

In truth, if Pompey hadn't started so desperately, they'd have got the one extra win they needed for automatic promotion, and I/we would have been celebrating a P-mouth promo double, paying 8.75/1 and clearing a small profit on the ticket. If...


Previous seasons

In previous seasons, the results have generally been a bit more favourable.

2018/19 got Lincoln promoted as winners (2/1) and Huddersfield relegated as wooden spooners (5/4) for a 5.75/1 double. Sunderland's position as playoff favourites enabled a hedge for the full trixie (Notts County were relegated, having been nominated for promotion, as the other leg of the League 2 component!). So it was a profitable losing bet, thanks to that playoff safety blanket.


Jackpots and jigger all

2017/18 was a blowout but 2016/17 was a jackpot year, and in style:

Sunderland to be relegated from Premier League: finished bottom

Newcastle to be promoted from the Championship: won the league

Portsmouth and/or Plymouth to be promoted from League Two: finished 1st and 2nd

This paid out £3,770 for my stakes, and pays for nine losing seasons!


2020/21 Picks

So much for the past, what of the future?

Premier League relegation

This market is always made by the promoted clubs who often out-perform expectations. The most outstanding recent example was Sheffield United last term, a side expected to finish bottom but who finished in the top half, twenty points clear of the drop.

There is a good chance that one or both of West Brom and Fulham will yo-yo back down again - both have a recent history of so doing - but Leeds look set to stay up having been clear best last term and invested well (Rodrigo from Valencia looks a 'steal' from the bigger boys, and the German international defender, Koch, also catches the eye).

The two worst teams not to drop last season - on xG at least, whose chickens tends to come home to roost sooner or later - were Newcastle and Aston Villa. While Newcastle have been busy shoring up their midfield with the solid signing of Jeff Hendrick, it is the business that is expected to complete early this week which offers confidence they'll improve this term. Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson are a proven double act who will fit into the Steve Bruce model seamlessly. Their partnership at Bournemouth two seasons ago was one of the all-time greats in terms of productivity, and bringing the pair in together offers an immediate settling effect for both. [Stop press: Wilson signing is confirmed]

Jamal Lewis is expected from Norwich, too, and he was as exciting a young attacking full-back as there was in the division last campaign.

The Magpies were fairly resilient at the back last season (seventh poorest conceded figure) and could be more fun to watch going forwards in 2020/21.

Wilson was snatched from Villa, whose slightly higher bid was withdrawn when they heard the player preferred Newcastle. Herein lies the midlands club's challenge: they're not terribly appealing to players. Last year's foreign legion scrambled enough results to survive on the last day, at the expense of Bournemouth - sob - but I'm not remotely convinced they will survive again.

The addition of Matty Cash from Forest could help bolster a porous back line, but they were terribly moderate going forwards. The exception, of course, was the mercurial Jack Grealish, a player linked with plenty of clubs though without the substance of an actual bid at this time. He's likely to want away and a team that almost got relegated with Grealish is an obvious contender for the trap door without their talisman. Oh, and they're dreadful away.

The price as ever, 2/1, makes the play. Actually, 15/8 on my ticket, as you'll see in a minute.

League One Promotion

A tricky old division this season, but one where, once again, Sunderland make the market for no obvious reason. They've signed nobody and are currently being linked with a 35-year-old ex-player: should be ideal for a 46 game season with Cups on top. They finished eighth as favourites last year, though were only three points off second in that truncated Covid-19-affected season.

The team for my funds finished on the same points as the Black Cats and missed the playoffs, like Sunderland, on points per game at the pause of play, though they were the form team as the virus stopped everything. Peterborough will have to do it without their main man, Ivan Toney, who is a class player and looks set to advance Brentford's push for the top division having recently swapped clubs for about ten million quids.

Still, the Posh have plenty of depth. The signing of Jonson Clarke-Harris from Bristol Rovers looks positive: he scored 24 in 42 games in his shortish stint for Rovers and, while it asks a chunk of any player to replace Toney, Clarke-Harris has a proven eye for goal and will get plenty of service. He joins Mo Eisa, who can already boast a one-in-two goal record for Posh across 29 games last term.

Sammie Szmodics was an important loanee last season, from Bristol City, and if the chat about his return has any substance they'll be the team to beat. Even if it doesn't, they ought still to offer a very good run for the pennies. 7/2 is generous.

The relegated Championship teams all look to have off-field problems in a year when administration is sadly bound to be a headline in places across the lower tiers.

League Two Promotion

I'll take two bites of the League Two cherry. The first is the least inspired pick on my ticket: Bolton. They've been through the wringer in recent seasons, playing much of the early part of last term with journeymen and juniors, and were not always able to fulfil their fixtures such was the paucity of squad depth. The drop was inevitable though there was a late season rally prior to a points deduction which rendered such on-field valiance academic.

A new season brings a new dawn. Manager Ian Evatt achieved incredible things with Barrow, now a fellow League Two side, and will have a blank canvass upon which to paint his vision. Eoin Doyle looks a great signing up front, having scored 25 goals in 28 games in this division last season.

Evatt's big task will be to mould a new squad into a cohesive eleven and overlay his playing blueprint pronto. That was a mission that did for Notts County (relegated) two season back, and I'm aware that for many this will not look like a value play.

But, with the prospect of financial meltdown seemingly averted for the time being, players, staff and management will be able to focus exclusively on improving the 53% (10 from 19) record of divisional favourites getting promoted this century*. That makes 5/4, arguably and just about, value in a bet like this. They'll be an interesting watch regardless of outcomes.

*Stat courtesy of welovebetting.co.uk

The second name on the League Two ticket is a much more reliable - ostensibly, at least - if less exciting collective, Cheltenham Town. Their progress last term was predicated on defensive soundness espoused by their manager, and former 300-match Cheltenham centre back (as well as Championship Manager legend back in the day!), Michael Duff. Having plied his trade formatively in the west country, he then spent a dozen years at Burnley where he will have further honed the art of grinding out results - and I write that most respectfully.

At the cessation of play last season, Cheltenham had conceded just 25 goals in 36 games, a streak which included only six losses. Playoff heartache followed, but Duff is expected to be able to lift his team for an automatic promotion push this time around having added experienced League One players Andy Williams, Matty Blair and Liam Sercombe to a settled squad. Further depth comes from a trio of young loan signings, providing a balanced blend of legs and brains.

The loss of Ryan Broom to Peterborough is the only notable departure meaning that, while the Robins may not be the most free-flowing side in the division, they'll generally be taking points from games. As a season ticket holder, I'd tolerate that; as a punter, it's absolutely ideal! 3/1 seems good value with three places and the playoffs down to seventh.

The 2020/21 Wager

So that's where this season's hopes lie: in the northwest, the midlands, the southwest and the east - all four corners of our fine lands on one ticket.

Betway, with whom I've long been unable to back horses for more than the price of a bag of crisps, have kindly accepted a more substantial stake on these seasonal outcomes.

The lowest possible return off the ticket would be Bolton/Villa which pays a touch under 11/2, so not quite money back. But, as we've seen above, if any other team makes the playoffs, there's a chance to hedge to profit even from there. Any other double will produce a small profit.

Of course, we still have to get two of these eventualities to come to pass!

Looking on the bright side, an all correct trixie involving Bolton would return £2,932.03, while if Cheltenham joined them in the promotion slots, and both Posh and Villa obliged, the best outcome possible is £6,994.52.

Seven grand for £350 makes the maths easy: it's a 20/1 possible return, including stake, with plenty of (granted, somewhat precarious) safety nets built in.

A £35 stake delivers a possible £700 return, and £3.50 gets the chance to cheer for £70. That's assuming you don't think the above is outright claptrap, which of course it very well might be.

But it's eight months of fun for one up-front investment, and I've laid it out, potential warts and all, to be shot at. Caveat emptor, natch!


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11 replies
  1. gilly 666
    gilly 666 says:

    Hi Matt. Excellent read as usual. However I would take a slight issue with Fulham yo yoing if you will (lol) As a long suffering supporter, I admit two years ago was a mare. To much spent on very average stock. Before that our last stay at the top table was 15 years. Hopefully an addition of a CB and a RB will see the team make more of a fist of staying up this time. We certainly have the owners willing to spend, but more of a savy approach, is needed, and looking like taking shape.

  2. Mark
    Mark says:

    Sensible picks there, I have followed at a slightly smaller stake…. I agreed on Mansfield last year – what happened to them! Even as a Hammers fan I think 5-1 for us to get relegated is fantastic value… not signed a player yet and let one of our best young talents go to a relegation rival…. the circus continues!

  3. alpha2
    alpha2 says:

    Clearly the sour grapes (or should that be cherries) have played a disproportionate part in your choice of the Villains for the hangman’s noose.

    The Blessed Jack is a Villa man through and through and would never contemplate a transfer. You have clearly spent too much time in the company of easily bruised South coast fruit fanciers. We Midlanders are made of sterner stuff.

    I am disappointed that someone who has such a clear and analytical view of sport could be so blatantly biased.

    Mind you if they drift out to 5/2 I could be tempted :>)

    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Haha, good work, Hugh, and apologies!

      Every time I put up a team for relegation I’m mindful I’ll be disjointing noses somewhere. The saving grace is I’m often wrong!


  4. chrisj2812
    chrisj2812 says:

    I’m a Villa season ticket holder so here’s my take. Slim chance Villa get relegated imo, jumped the gun way too early before their business is done. Ollie Watkins now in, and GK issues solved with Martinez rumoured to be joining from from Arsenal. I wouldn’t be surprised if another 2 players also arrive soon, one highly rated winger from Germany and another forward who Villa are keen on. Money is not in short supply, and that attracts players.

    The two multi billionaire Villa have owners understand sports (turning the failing Bucks around in the NBA) have promised they will not leave the team exposed this year. The team also improved markedly late last year, the huge influx of players finally settling in, the defence looking solid (after being plagued by injuries to Heaton, Engels) & could easily have won their final 4 games had they not conceded a late late equaliser away at Everton, and a fluke late equaliser looping inaway at West Ham. I’m a big layer at 2-1 so we’ll soon see who’s right, but i’m confident.

    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Fair play, Chris.

      My view would be that a) I have to put the preview up before the season starts so it’s necessarily premature; b) buying a Championship striker for £33m looks dreadful business (for all that he might be their saviour, lots to prove); c) a keeper hasn’t yet arrived, nor have wingers/forwards up top. If they do it will change the dynamic, but Villa played poor sides or those with nothing to play for in the last few games.

      You’re betting 1/2 and I’m betting 2/1: ultimately it’s a value call, as Fulham at 11/10 look more likely to drop.

      As you say, we’ll see. (And I do think betting on relegation is a bit unsporting in one regard).


      • chrisj2812
        chrisj2812 says:

        Some good points made Matt. The angle for me is that 2-1 is probably as low as it goes right now, if more players do come in (as i’m fairly confident they will) the price is drifting purely on that basis. It also helps that we’ve had our first game postponed so hopefully someone will have a shocker this weekend and look prime relegation candidates. I’m a natural trader in any case so if I can reduce liablilites, I will. I’m not going to fall in love with my position even though i support Villa, for me I just know more about them than any other team so like to back my viewpoint (Like i backed them to go down back in 2015-16). Personally I think Palace might be in trouble, so i’m slotting them into the bet instead. 🙂

        Watkins was very expensive admittedly, but it was a sellers market and Brentford know we had money, and wanted him badly enough to pay it. From what i’ve seen of him he reminds me of Tammy Abraham, so I hope he progresses like he has. Smith signed him for Brentford, so clearly knows him well. He may not hit the ground running like Wilson will, but he is 28 now and rather injury prone so personally I wasn’t so upset that Newcastle landed him.

  5. Chris Worrall
    Chris Worrall says:

    If Ian Evatt can get the Bolton squad to gel, they win the league. Anything short of the playoffs will be seen as failure.

    The new-ish (just over 12months) owners have backed his judgement and approved 17 new signings to date, including League 2’s top scorer from last season, Eoin Doyle plus one of that division’s best players, Antoni Sarcevic (a Mancunian despite the name).

    There’s a new style of play being learnt and we can already see goals/entertainment, now just a case of shoring up the defence. Bolton games at BTTS or over 2.5 goals will be the regular bet this season.

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