It's official, we've scientifically worked out the winners of this year's Premier League handicap market (or at least narrowed it down to the likely contenders!). The handicap market works by giving teams a headstart in terms of the points they receive depending on the perceived strength of the team - thus Manchester United receive 0 points as favourites but Swansea receive a 46 point headstart as outsiders. This should mean that at the end of the season that all the teams finish with similar points totals making it a difficult market to pick a winner but also meaning we are rewarded with odds of 16/1 for each contender making it hugely tempting - punters don't mind waiting a full season to pick up on this market as a small outlay can offer significant returns. We've done the hard work so you don't have to, our panel of experts have picked their finishing positions for each team and we've worked out the average. We've then looked at the average points a team would need to acquire to finish in the predicted position for each of the last 10 and 5 years. When we add together the average points for finishing in a position with the handicap mark that PaddyPower are allocating each team we can identify the likeliest contenders - see below:
It seems that there 5 teams more likely than the others to get upwards of 80 points once the handicap advantage is added in and these are: Man Utd, Man City, Aston Villa, Stoke & West Brom.
West Brom won the handicap market last year after front runners Blackpool and then Bolton faltered at the season's end and they have a great chance again this year especially if they can wrap up the signing of the touted around Shane Long from Reading. It is key that they have cover for the outstanding Peter Odemwingie, as while there are potential scorers from midfield in Chris Brunt & returning Zoltan Gera plus the underrated Paul Scharner, the other options in attack do not breed confidence with Roman Bednar and Ishmael Miller operating in a league slightly too high for their limited abilities. West Brom have one of the few truly elite managers in the league in Roy Hodgson (along with Ferguson, Wenger & Dalglish) and he will be keen to push further up the league this season being a keen advocate of European competition.
The last 5 years have seen lower winning points averages than has traditionally been the case and has meant that teams at the top of the handicap have had little chance of winning on the market. There is a suggestion that our predicted champions Man Utd could get a much bigger points total than last season's paltry 80 points (which still put them 9 points clear of the rest). The key to United getting a large points total will lie in their ability to ensure they take maximum points off of teams in the bottom half of the table when they play away from home, too often last year they played with a much slower tempo than whilst at home. The retirement of Paul Scholes (he who can never be criticised!) will inevitably help speed up their play but much remains on whether Ferguson continues with his inexplicable behaviour in picking the hugely limited Michael Carrick. The second half of Sunday's Community Shield game offered the perfect example of why United are a much more dangerous side without him in, The Guardian's Richard Williams noted he "provided the most insubstantial of midfield shields while contributing nothing to the attack" . If Wesley Sneijder is bought he may be the catalyst in meaning a reduced role for Carrick & an extra dynamism for the side meaning a huge points haul and the win that really matters, at 16/1 on the handicap market!
West Brom each way to win handicap market (+38 points) at 16/1 with PaddyPower
Manchester United to win handicap market (no start) at 16/1 with PaddyPower