2020/21 Football Season Preview

2021/22 Football Season Preview

After the weirdness (and, at times, tedium) of last season's concertinaed behind-closed-doors matches-every-day affair, the delayed Euro 2020 tournament has acted as a palate cleanser ahead of the return to something closely resembling normality in the upcoming 2021/22 football season.

The regular reader (thanks mum) will know this is my one-time foray into my other passion, footy, and she also knows I like to frame a bet within this virtual page. More on that in a moment but first, as is customary, how did last season's effort go?

Last Season: Nearly...

The shape of the bet has been unwavering: a perm trixie (four picks, doubles and trebles) comprised of a team for Premier League relegation, a team for Championship or League 1 promotion, and two teams for League 2 promotion (where there are three auto spots and playoff positions down to seventh).

After a total blowout in 2019/20 - it certainly won't be the last of those! - we almost got the lot last term, though it was very much a case of a first fence faller meaning we never actually had the chance of the full ticket. Here's why:

- Aston Villa 15/8 to be relegated from EPL (11th, comfortably stayed up)

- Peterborough 7/2 for League 1 promotion (2nd, automatic promotion)

- Cheltenham 3/1 for League 2 promotion (winners)

- Bolton 5/4 for League 2 promotion (3rd, automatic promotion)

The problem with this perm trixie was that Villa started in electric fashion and were all but safe by Christmas meaning the jackpot dream was sunk. That said, Bolton looked doomed early and we were hanging on for a (good-priced, in truth) double courtesy of Posh and Chelto. They got their jobs done relatively comfortably and a searing late charge from the Trotters meant we had two doubles and a healthy profit.

Last year's post is here, if you want to review.


2021/22 Picks

For the first time in these annual previews, I'm going to slightly change things up. Win or lose, I won't regret it because the shape of League Two this year is almost unplayable such is its competitiveness, on looks at least. So, instead, I'm going to risk a yankee (11 bets, doubles, trebles and a fourfold) across the four divisions. I'll be smaller staking it compared with previous years because, naturally, an extra leg involves a higher degree of risk (and potential reward).

It is also the case that nobody really knows how reliable last season's form will be given the genuinely unique nature of the truncated campaign and playing without fans, as well as financial implications left, right and sideways.

With more caveats in situ than a dyslexic tie seller, then, here we go...

Premier League Relegation

This looks competitive with at least two of the promoted sides fancied to swerve the trap door; and there are some weak-looking sides who have flirted with the drop in recent seasons. All of Newcastle, Burnley and Crystal Palace look vulnerable, which immediately suggests this may be hotly contested.

Burnley are tenacious and might benefit from getting fans back at Turf Moor more than the other pair, while Newcastle have a bit of class with the likes of Saint-Maximin and goals in Wilson.

Palace have a wantaway talisman who hugely over-performed on his career scoring tallies last year in Wilf Zaha. More than that, they have a big name manager completely unproven in the Premier League in Patrick Vieira. The Frenchman did well enough in New York and Nice, and obviously understands the EPL dynamic, but he's inherited a moderate squad in need of significant bolstering. The level of player turnover at Selhurst Park is borderline alarming, old heads replaced with young potential.

Their 14th position last season owed much to over-producing from their chances (41 goals scored versus an expectation closer to 35), and a reversion to the norm - where Blunteke and Zaha produce single-figure output - looks likely. The talented Eze is out until 2022 and, while I was impressed with Michael Olise at Reading last term, it's asking a chunk for him to hit the ground running in the big league.

It feels like a recipe for a very difficult season for Palace, all the more so if Zaha finally gets his wish to move away.

Championship Top Six

I'm going to get whacked for this, no doubt, but my team, Bournemouth, have a decent chance of promotion making odds against for a top six finish look pretty fair. I don't generally call Cherries geese swans so, while the expected loss of the classy Arnie Danjuma will be a blow, it is strongly mitigated by a fit again Junior Stanislas and David Brooks looking in great shape. Of course, they are two regular sick notes, and Dom Solanke's work for the team has been more of an asset than his finishing; but the sale of Sam Surridge means new manager Scott Parker will almost certainly be in for a striker.

The south coast outfit are very strong in midfield, with the likes of Jefferson Lerma, Ben Pearson, Brooks, Stanislas, and the soon-returning Lewis Cook bolstered by emerging talent Gavin Kilkenny. Even if the brilliant Lerma departs there is still a lot in the engine room.

Defensively, things are more concerning, especially with Parker's high intensity high press looking like we'll be a 'both teams to score' sort of outfit. Leif Davis has been signed at left back, Steve Cook is a fantastic (and grossly under-rated) player - but is injured currently, Adam Smith has signed on again having been linked with the top division, and Lloyd Kelly continues to develop. In sticks, Mark Travers may have an opportunity to assume the number one position. But there's very little in reserve: additions are undoubtedly needed.

For all that, Cherries have bundles of quality and a failure to make the top six would be seen as a very poor season.

League One Promotion

No big surprise pick here - as if the first two were - as I agree with seemingly every pundit on the planet that the combination of an excellent manager, a decent squad from last season, ambitious signings and money in the kitty from new owners makes Ipswich Town look good value to get promoted to the Championship.

Paul Cook is the man in the hot seat, stepping in for the final two months of the last campaign: long enough to run the rule over his inheritance and establish where funds required investing. Cook decided an overhaul was necessary and no fewer than 15 players have since left the club (as well as two loanees), while eleven have come in (including one of the loanees).

Macauley Bonne gets support up top from Joe Pigott (20 goals in 45 league games for AFC Wimbledon last season) and Conor Chaplin, who registered a lot of minutes - if not a lot of goals - for Barnsley in his most recent campaign. Rekeem Harper has been recruited in centre midfield: I don't know much about him but he has 44 games in the Championship to his name, including 18 last term, so this is an easier grade.

A goalkeeper, Vaclav Hladky, and plenty of defensive cover have also been added. The worry, as with Bolton last season, is that it often takes time for large influxes to gel. The Tractor Boys have been notably fast starters in the last two seasons but faltered towards the finish; it's just possible this will see the converse transpire and, if they're within eight points at Christmas, they'll be a runner.

As usual, Sunderland help make the market and, as usual, I want to be against them. They'll get the job done one of these years but, boy, are they expensive to follow.

League Two Promotion

I normally like to take two for promotion from this division given the three automatic places and the playoffs keeping us engaged down to seventh place. But this season League Two looks inscrutable. Salford, and their famous ownership, head the lists with double-figure odds available about any other you like. In truth, I don't especially like any other, a faintly credible case possible for at least a dozen teams.

Having toyed with Tranmere Rovers, I eventually plumped for the consistency of Exeter City. Perennial play-off participants prior to uncharacteristically falling three points short last season, manager Matt Taylor is one of the most ensconced in the division. Taylor has retained most of last term's playing squad, with the primary exceptions of Randell Williams who has gone up a couple of divisions and a couple of hundred miles, to Hull; and Ryan Bowman, 14 goals last time around, to Shrewsbury.

He's brought in bundles of experience - the likes of 'keeper Scott Brown (36), Jonathan Grounds (33), and Timothee Dieng (29) - as well as some promising youngsters, such as Aston Villa youth product Callum Rowe and former MK Don, Sam Nombe.

It doesn't look a world-beating squad, but with captain Matt Jay capable of reprising his 20-goal season, and plenty of quantity if perhaps not top quality in support, they ought again to be in there pitching.


The 2021/22 Wager

As mentioned, I'm breaking with perm trixie tradition and instead playing a yankee to slightly smaller stakes. It's asking a lot to hit all four, or even three, but a double will recoup much of the stakes and a treble with three doubles will well reward the ambition. Catching the lot will be good times.

Betway don't let me wager horses with them but they'll happily take my footy punts, and they are the best price - just - on this quirky quartet. The acca with them amounts to 99/1 with the same play paying 96/1 with bet365.

It's a season's worth of entertainment for £5.50 if you want a 50p slice of the action, or whatever stake suits your budget and your gullibility/conviction* (*delete as applicable) in my selections.

Here's hoping...


Other interesting bets

I have no special in on football (or racing, for that matter) but I do think that Man City are a bit of value even at 4/6. Much has been made of their slow start last season, but less of their middling finish with the silverware already in the bag. Specifically, they lost at home to Leeds and Chelsea and away at Brighton. They also struggled to get past Newcastle in that run.

Even without signing one or both of Harry Kane and Jack Grealish, they're standout contenders and two-thirds of your stake is more than I'd personally want to lay. I've stuck them in a chunky double with an unspecified horse racing special market!

Aston Villa to be relegated is no back number. The play is predicated on Jack strutting elsewhere, so much of Villa's goodness emerging from his boot and brain double act. SkyBet are 9/1 which, even allowing for the volume of drop contenders, is mildly appealing.

Burnley or Palace to score the fewest goals at 6/1 and 15/2 respectively is also attractive inasmuch as non-scoring football teams can be attractive.

And in the top scorer market, dutching 10/3 Kane and 9/2 Salah at better than 11/8 combined will be hard to beat. If Harry goes to City, the play looks stronger for him; while if Kane stays at the Lane, Mo's prospects are improved.

It's quite hard to make a case for the rest who are either too profligate (Werner, Sterling, Mane) or too old (Vardy, Cavani) or too irregular a starter (Jesus). If Aubameyang stays at Arsenal and stays fit, it wouldn't take a huge leap of faith to see him back near the top of the charts. But he'll be 33 at some point during the season so teetering on the brink of the 'too old' category.

I love a finisher from a promoted Championship side in this market, and Ivan Toney is a 50/1 sore thumb in that context. He has snaffled 55 goals over his previous two seasons, in League One and the Championship, granted, but he will be the focal point through which all Brentford work flows. And he takes the pens. He's got some quality, too.


So that's where I've splurged my footy cash. Who do you fancy for the season ahead? Leave a comment below with your best bets.


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8 replies
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  2. shell62
    shell62 says:

    Good read, a big talk from where i live in Wrexham 2 high profile owners have it now and big things are expected in the National League and the have invested in players from higher leagues to get out of this division. This is going to be a big season and the team will be the best supported in this league most of the season tickets have gone. This could be a big season and they are the team to watch.

  3. chrisj2812
    chrisj2812 says:

    Well, I did try and put you off the Villa bet last season, so it comes as somewhat of a surprise to see you tip a negative result for us yet again. So, listening to the media, they’ve already written us off…so I’m happy because there’s more juice for us believers. Sure, Grealish has gone, that would’ve been a concern but with the additions made we have a much stronger squad, will be less reliant on one player (more difficult to prepare for) with another quality (& proven) option upfront (whereas last year Watkins played every minute of every match when available).

    I don’t think our spending is even close to getting done either so I’d want far more than 9s on us to go down. My bet: Villa to finish in the top 10 at 5/4

  4. TonyMac11
    TonyMac11 says:

    Great read Matt and I will be following you in – at lesser stakes mind – with the Yankee, thanks for putting a really interesting column together.

    I don’t usually play football wagers anymore, but this year I saw a price that caught my eye.
    Wolverhampton Wanderers to be relegated at 6/1.

    By the time I got round to placing the bet, I could only get 11/2 on Tuesday, indeed they are now 5/1 on Friday morning.


    Wolves have been slowly declining in the last two-years/18 months.

    Digging deeper, I found an interview with Technical Director, Scott Sellers who emphasised the need, this time round, to loan, loans to buy, swap deals and selling big.

    A new head coach in Bruno Lage comes with plenty of promise in his press releases, well they are not going to belittle him are they?
    He says all the right things, “We need to manage the ball better and be more aggressive without the ball,” he says. “We want to go forward, to play in a different way. I do not know if it is better or worse, it is just my idea. We need to be a more competitive team, a better team.”

    Lage was out of work for the 12 months between July 2020 and June 2021, when brought in to replace compatriot Nuno Espirito Santo.

    The 45-year-old took charge of Benfica in January 2019, winning two Lisbon derbies before leading Benfica to the biggest Primeira Liga margin of victory since 1964 and the goal scoring record, held since 1965.
    18 wins in 19 matches helped Benfica secure their 37th league title, with a 94% winning strike rate for Lage.
    Unfortunately, the success of Lage quickly unravelled the following season when Benfica equalled their worst series of results, two victories in 13 matches – Lage was sacked on 4th July 2020.

    Keeper, Rui Patricio has moved to Roma, replaced by Jose Sa from Olympiakos. Sa will be making his Premier League debut behind a less than solid back three of Conor Coady, Willy Boly and Romain Saiss.
    The promise of a more attacking mindset will leave the side in trouble when losing possession.

    Wolves board have made plenty of the fact that funds are low, sales are needed before money is available for the new coach.
    The club have said Adama Traore and Ruben Neves are not available, which usually means if a big enough offer comes in, let’s talk.

    Norwich, Brentford and Watford are favourites to return to the Championship, but with Wolves undergoing a vast amount of change, they may find life tough in an unforgiving league.

    Wolves to be relegated 5/1 (Generally)

  5. hillsy945
    hillsy945 says:

    I agree with you that Ivan Toney at 50/1 could be value, he certainly knows where the back of the net is. In League One (and I have to start by admitting I am biased as a (long distance) supporter), but Sheffield Wednesday have recruited very well and in Darren Moore, have a very competent and capable manager.

    The deadwood of the squad has finally gone and be replaced by a good mix of experienced but (hopefully!) hungry older players and some younger legs with an exciting pedigree. Crucially, Wednesday now have a very decent goalkeeper in Bailey Peacock-Farrell and goalscorer in Lee Gregory. It should be a very exciting season ahead in S6 if Moore can get them up and running quickly. 3/1 to be promoted.

  6. Denmania
    Denmania says:

    Good read Matt.

    I’m a season ticket holder at Newcastle and I’ll be surprised if we stay up. ASM and Wilson miss too many games with injuries and our best player from last season is back at Arsenal without them we’re woeful in attack.

    It would be nice to stay up even if it’s to keep the Mackems the at the socially distance 2 divisions apart.

    I’m pleased to see Hartlepool back in the football league Dave Challinor seems quite a cool customer they might out perform their price

  7. Chud777
    Chud777 says:

    Interesting read as always Matt, and I’ll be having a small stakes play. I must say though I’m curious as to what the “unspecified horse racing special market” that you’ve combined Man City with is?

  8. chazzer66
    chazzer66 says:

    Thanks Matt – a very good read and hard to argue with your picks. I’ll have a little on this one too. Good luck to us all! I feel Havertz is a good each way shot at top PL scorer – 50/1 in places. It is his second season and if he plays more centrally which I think he will he will be expected to score more goals.

  9. tullyjta34
    tullyjta34 says:

    Hi Matt
    Like chrisj2812 feel you should’ve hold fire on the negativity regarding Aston Villa bearing in mind the positivity of the club to cover the lose of a charismatic player like Grealish has replace him with several positive signings therefore instead of looking at relegation look more at finishing in top 6 at a very tasty price along with Chelsea to win the league in a double

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