Move over Liverpool? In his latest betting column, Jones Knows makes a case to back Manchester United for next year’s Premier League title at 25/1.
Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp are a force of nature. I know that. You know that. Their success is being rightly celebrated – some still will not have been to bed.
But, standing still will get you nowhere in this game – it’s time to look ahead to next season where everyone goes back to zero points, new plot-lines are formed, surprise packages unveiled and hopefully fans can return to stadiums.
Liverpool and Manchester City are two juggernauts that have created a rivalry with a serious edge on and off the pitch – and one that is expected to roll over into the next campaign.
Chief executive Richard Masters says the Premier League remains hopeful the 2020/21 season will begin in August or September – and will be played in full – following the conclusion of the current campaign.
City won the Premier League title in 17/18 with a record-breaking century of points and then were pushed all the way to the line to go back-to-back a year later with 98 points to their name; Liverpool the team chasing them down in vain.
Somehow, Liverpool – domestically – went up another notch in what has been an odd campaign for a variety of reasons and look set to smash through the 100-point barrier before the end of the current campaign.
Looking at Sky Bet’s betting market for the 20/21 season further intensifies the thinking we are in the epicentre of the Premier League being a predictable beast in terms of title challengers. Liverpool and City have created a Premier League rivalry that puts them so far clear, the rest are nowhere. It’s like looking at La Liga.
Klopp’s side are favourites at 10/11 with Sky Bet to land back-to-back titles and Manchester City are available at 5/4. That’s just a difference between the two of seven per cent in terms of probability.
Picking which side of the fence you would rather be on, Klopp or Pep, is a tantalising question for next season.
Premier League 20/21 season title odds:
To some, a team being available at 10/11 that have just won the same league by a record-breaking margin will be like Christmas come early. But then you have the data gurus who put forward the argument that despite the huge points gap between the two teams, the performance metrics suggest City are unfortunate to be lagging so far behind Liverpool. Many feel they remain the best team in the division.
With my betting analyst’s head on, it’s hard to argue with the prices on offer. Like most high-profile markets, the traders have not allowed any room for manoeuvre.
But. Is this really a two-horse race?
In my opinion there is another team at the prices that possess the necessary tools to make a title challenge.
And no, it’s not Chelsea, whose price at 14/1 is ludicrously short for a team set to go through a big recruitment drive in the summer. They will need time.
I’d rather invest my hard-earned on a team that have shown evidence of elite performance level and a consistent ability to take points off the big two. They are rough around the edges still but their capabilities are massive.
To answer your first question, no I’m not a Manchester United fan. I laughed when Sergio Aguero scored in 2012.
Like all my betting based decisions, this was made with no emotion. Just with metrics, performance data, visuals and most importantly the price on offer. The carrot of 25/1 for a team with such potential was just too big to ignore.
United’s philosophy of being defensively solid without the ball and super speedy in transition with a front-line full of pace, trickery and quality is making them a force to be reckoned with.
The 3-0 win over Sheffield United stretched Ole Gunnar Solskjaer side’s unbeaten run to 13 games across all competitions – a period where they have scored 33 goals and conceded just three. The unassuming boss has got the balance between attack and defence spot on.
Solskjaer has a team going places, and one that reminds me of Liverpool in the 16/17 season under Klopp, who were showing sporadic signs of title-winning form.
Over the course of that season, Klopp’s side went unbeaten against the traditional ‘big six’ – showing a tactical acumen and high-quality performance level in big games. They took four points off champions Chelsea and recorded big statement victories against Manchester City, Tottenham and twice against Arsenal. The reason they finished fourth that season was because of their struggles in keeping clean sheets against inferior opposition – Burnley, Crystal Palace and Hull were among the teams to beat Klopp’s men.
Does this pattern sound familiar? It should, as it mirrors Manchester United’s 19/20 campaign.
Against the current top seven in the Premier League, United have lost just once in 11 fixtures this season. That includes beating Manchester City home and away and doing the double over Chelsea by an aggregate scoreline of 6-0.
Their problems have come against lower-ranked opposition, suffering defeats to Burnley, Crystal Palace, Watford, West Ham and Bournemouth with an inability to break down a deep defence the obvious issue.
However, like Klopp did in fixing the issue of defensive blips by signing Virgil van Dijk and Alisson, Solskjaer has taken United to the next level by snapping up the hugely influential Bruno Fernandes. And there could be more to come in the summer with Jadon Sancho’s price tag of £100m unlikely to scare off United.
Even Klopp referenced that season in question on Sky Sports when Liverpool’s title win was confirmed: “Three years ago we knew we had a really good season and we finished fourth. It was clear what we lacked: consistency. You have to work and create that. And that’s what we did together.”
The early signs are Fernandes’ long-term impact could turn out to be just as crucial as Van Dijk and Alisson’s.
The 25-year-old has had a transformative impact since his £68m arrival from Sporting Lisbon on the penultimate day of the transfer window, living up to sky-high expectations. In 11 appearances in all competitions so far, there have been four goals, five assists and a lot more besides. In the Premier League, United are second in the form table from the last seven games, picking up 15 points despite a tough run of fixtures that included playing five of the top eight.
Fernandes has brought leadership, belief and a creative link between midfield and attack. And the early signs surrounding his relationship with Paul Pogba have been very encouraging – those two with Nemanja Matic mopping up behind them – or Scott McTominay – would arguably make them the best midfield threesome in the Premier League.
Questions do linger of David de Gea’s long-term future at the top level – his career downturn is threatening to follow the same path of Joe Hart on current form – but in front of him, Solskjaer has put together a solid and settled back four that can boast third-best defensive record in the division according to ‘expected goals conceded’ data – just 1.65 off Liverpool.
In attack, Anthony Martial’s slow development might just be picking up pace now he’s settled through the middle while Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood are only going to improve, which is a scary thought.
With the current trajectory of their progression, it’s easy to foresee this exciting United team challenging at some point over the course of the season which will significantly shorten that 25/1 and bring in the option of trading out of the bet for a profit if that’s the way you like to play.
This is the first time in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era you can argue with any conviction that Manchester United are on their way back.
And, at 25/1 I’m willing to find out if they truly are.