When I first heard about the concept of “forecasting” Las Vegas lines, I thought it was almost a kind of paradox. Why would you want to handicap an outcome against your own “odds” when the bookmaker and the betting public are ultimately your opponents anyway? That’s like drawing-up a defense and then preparing your team to attack it without having a clue what the real thing will look like.
Line-forecasting isn’t useless at all, of course, and can help gamblers maintain objectivity and confidence when tempted to 2nd-guess their own analysis and speculation.
I’m discovering that forecasting lines is also a very versatile tactic. It can help the bettor in more ways than simply to identify bad prices at the sportsbook.
For instance, in games such as baseball and ice hockey where the “run line” and “puck line” traditions cause the payoff odds, not the points (or “the number”) to run wildly long and short, gamblers who forecast a spread anyway (a traditional spread aimed at a (-110) payoff) can look for “alternative” lines and find the exact ATS wager they’re looking for…or choose to go with the puck line.
Then there’s a whole other kind of forecasting – and in this kind, we get a cheat sheet.
State-side soccer betting sites are consumed with the Women’s World Cup, Africa Cup of Nations, and other worldwide events in summer of 2019. London, however, is already – surprise, surprise – obsessed with the fortunes and fates of English domestic clubs headed into 2020.
Bookmakers from across the pond have released markets on Manchester City winning “quadruple” titles next season – a feat that even a legendary lineup at the top of its form couldn’t accomplish in 2018-19. But the Sky Blues almost got there, winning a “treble” instead.
The payoff line out of London looks spectacular, well worth a few “pounds” investment.
But it could also be designed as a “yes” prop market for suckers.
London’s Prop Odds on Citizens in 2019-20
The rapidity at which the bookmakers of England release new soccer odds goes against everything I thought I knew about football culture in the United Kingdom.
Why, after Raheem Sterling and Citizens won the 2019 treble by crushing Watford 6-0 in the FA Cup Final, surely everyone in Great Britain stopped what they were doing for a moment to have a pint or 3…no?
Not the bookies of London. Before you could say “Flaming Plum Pudding,” new lines were released on the Premier League season and top domestic tournaments of ’19-’20…including a 100-to-1 proposition on Man City winning 4 out of 4 competitions.
To make the wager pay off, Manchester City would merely have to win the Premier League, the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup, and the UEFA Champions League.
Fatigue? Injuries? Liverpool? Juventus? No big deal, Julian.
Actually, though, the odds aren’t that preposterous at face value. City crushed almost every opponent it faced in a championship scenario in 2018-19. Sergio Agüero is being called the best striker in the business yet again, and no domestic opponent was able to bother the Sky Blues down the stretch, with the exception of Tottenham and Chelsea in the Carabao Cup. But arguably, Citizens’ form improved after that tournament concluded early in the calendar year. Pep Guardiola’s club looked invincible at times.
I wouldn’t take the wager at much-shorter odds than 100-to-1 though. Not just because next season, like all new seasons, will be a new deal. Not because the quadruple is such an historic, monumental task, and certainly not because Manchester City couldn’t conceivably whip every EPL, Bundesliga or Ligue 1 club it comes across in spring of 2020. There are other factors at work.
It will be interesting to try to forecast where the payoff odds land when the City-to-win-quadruple prop starts showing up on American betting boards. 50-to-1 would sound good when you close your eyes and imagine City’s excellent chances against anyone in UEFA or the EPL in a given showdown.
But anything not longer than 75-to-1 would be a sucker’s market. Scroll ahead for why.
Understanding the English Domestic Tournaments
It took more than 180 total minutes for Tottenham to take away Man City’s dream of a quadruple championship in 2019.
First came a tense 1st leg of the Champions League semifinal at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Hugo Lloris is exactly the man you’d want guarding the net in a do-or-die scenario against Citizens, but he only had to make 2 saves as Spurs’ tremendous backline warded-off opportunity after opportunity for the guests. The passionate Son Heung-min scored in the 2nd half to give Lilywhites a 1-0 advantage.
Manchester City did not lose the 2nd match, outscoring Spurs 4-3 in a corker. But Tottenham Hotspur advanced due to the UEFA’s “away goals” rule, ruining the quadruple bid for the favorites.
As difficult as the Champions League may be, the UEFA club competition is actually 1 of 2 outcomes in which I’d be comfortable touting Man City to prevail in 2019-20, even at this early date. I also like the club’s chances to repeat 1st on the English Premier League table…relative to the chances of doubling-up on the Carabao and Football Association Cups again.
I know it seems like total backwards logic. Isn’t City more likely to run-up against a truly tough opponent on Matchday 37 or in a Champions League final, as opposed to whatever random League One “minnow” or Premier League also-ran that it might face in a given FA Cup or EFL elimination fixture?
Therein lies my point. The FA Cup and the Carabao Cup tournaments are virtually made for minnows. The Premier League and the Champions League formats and traditions favor the aristocrats.
Getting the “Reserve Lineup” Blues
Who was Man City’s goalkeeper in the Carabao Cup Round-of-16 against Fulham, a dangerous opponent from the Premier League?
Why, it was Ederson, no doubt. The famed Brazilian keeper who was almost impenetrable throughout March, April, and May. Surely manager Pep wouldn’t jeopardize his squad’s chances to win a quadruple by playing anyone but the “Bull” between the posts in a Round of 16!
Erm…nope. Ederson wasn’t in the box when Man City played Fulham at City of Manchester Stadium back in November. It was Arijanet Muric, a 20-year-old greenhorn from Montenegro…”little Montenegro!” as Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby.
Why would a rookie keeper from “Little Montenegro” have replaced a South American phenom in such a crucial elimination match? Obviously, the FA Cup and Carabao Cup events are important, or they wouldn’t be part of the fabled “quadruple,” right?
To understand why football managers play reserves in early-round domestic tournament competition means stepping back and looking at the broader scope of a club season. Like in Major League Baseball, the sheer number of outings that a superstar pro is expected to take part in on a yearly basis creates a conundrum for any player-personnel department.
Play Ederson, Sterling, and other Man City stalwarts in every minute of every tournament match, and surely Manchester City would advance through to the semifinals in both domestic competitions. Meanwhile, though, fatigue and injuries might have taken a mighty toll…and the 2 most prestigious titles of the quadruple – the Premier League and the Champions League – could be out of reach.
So head coaches are more likely to hedge their bets and play reserve-laden lineups early in the long, grueling tournament format, hoping to produce just enough quality to comfortably win every elimination match without sacrificing their top assets for the stretch run.
It worked for Guardiola against Fulham on that day in November, as Citizens prevailed 2-0 and advanced to meet Leicester City in the Carabao Cup quarterfinals.
But the same tactic did not work for Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool in either domestic tournament. The 2018-19 Reds lost to Chelsea in the 3rd round of Football League Cup competition with backup keeper Simon Mignolet allowing 2 crucial tallies. In the 3rd round of the FA Cup in January, Klopp tried mixing-and-matching Salah and other superstars with a reserve-laden lineup (and again Mignolet instead of Allison between the posts) and lost to Wolves 2-1.
Perhaps Klopp knew that his team – who would ultimately become the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League winners – was not cut out to win 3 or 4 separate competitions in April and May. The deluge of injuries – including a scary blow for Salah – down the stretch may have proven his point.
It’s not that English managers ever sabotage their clubs’ efforts in the early stages of domestic tourneys. But like March Madness coaches headed into postseason league play, they’re more than content to look at the big picture and weigh quality on the pitch against the long-term health of a roster.
That’s why the 100-to-1 line for Manchester City to sweep 4 events in 2019-20 really isn’t all that mispriced. The odds take into account that a less-than-ideal Citizens lineup could lose in domestic brackets as early as winter, wiping-out the “yes” wagers before the real soccer even gets going.
Why I Like a Small “Yes” Wager on City to Win 4 Trophies
When the state-side odds on the 2020 quadruple show up at Bovada Sportsbook and elsewhere, I’m taking the “yes” market with at least a tiny wager.
But only if they’re around 100-to-1 or longer.
100-to-1 means a Benjamin for every buck. That’s worth any spare change you might have in a stake, for instance a round-off from $1506.43 or $1500 even with $6.43 wagered on Citizens to conquer everyone and everything next season.
Pep Guardiola is a little more aggressive in his early-round lineups compared to other Premier League managers taking part in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup. After all, City’s reserve lines are deep and reliable, but that only means that the coach can be sturdier in his 1st-half substitutions. Gabriel Jesus began the Fulham match up front, and soon-enough Ederson was in the net for every important fixture.
It will take some luck to pay off. Making a futures bet like City-to-win-quadruple is like gambling on a poker hand before you’ve seen your cards.
If the Sky Blues progress deep into spring of 2020 with all 4 milestones still within reach?
That means you’ve got a puncher’s chance to win that $643 on a penny play…and the opportunity to watch the market shrink and shrink while having gotten-in at the longest payoff odds.