WLB Analysis: How Important Are Head-To-Head Records?

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AFTER last week’s critically acclaimed column, Will Dyer (@W2Dyer) returns with food for thoughts on head-to-head records.

 How Important Are Head-To-Head Records?

The head-to-head (H2H) record is a strange phenomenon in football results. Quite frequently, everything conspires to see some clubs hold remarkable records over other teams.

Earlier this week Genoa won their eighth consecutive game against Lazio. They were best-priced at a whopping 11/2 and not much in the way of recent form pointed towards a win for the Rossoblu.

It could have been considered lucky after Lazio had their goalkeeper Federico Marchetti sent off and Genoa scoring the resulting penalty, the only goal of the game, but it was a win nonetheless.

Why did Lazio lose that game? It would be foolish not to think that managers don’t make their players aware of their recent record over the opposition, so perhaps that head-to-head (H2H) record played on the players’ minds? It’s food for thought.

A lot of football, and sport in general, is psychological and that can be seen at its most influential in tennis matches where individuals seem to reach a mental block at times and fail to live up to their expectations.

In football, there are 11 players on the pitch so there’s a case that team mates can ‘paper over the cracks’ for their ailing colleagues whilst substitutions are also an option when certain players mentalities become clouded.

In the same way, strikers are often talked about as ‘creatures of habit’. Momentum can be key and when there are statistics thrown about which hail their prolificacy over specific teams, they appear to get a lift and regularly continue to keep up their good scoring record.

On the other hand, the player might face a team they’ve never scored against and that hangs over them; occasionally causing the forward to play below the best of their abilities.

Adapting H2H To Your Betting Strategy

Simply blindly backing teams with the superior H2H record is not advisable. I use good H2H records as a sort of confidence weighting for my selections. When I selected Genoa to win on Monday night I did so because Lazio had lost their previous game to a weak side, Cesena and were without Senad Lulic and Filip Djordjevic, their playmaker and top-scorer.

Had there not been any other reason to back Genoa than the H2H record, I wouldn’t have done so. I like to use head-to-heads as an indication for what is more likely to happen. Football betting is after all, a game of likelihoods.

Records are there to be broken and they almost certainly will be at some point, so no H2H record is concrete. A H2H record can also have little to no bearing on the current crop of players performances or results against the opposition concerned; players change clubs like they change their socks these days.

Bookmakers do take H2H records into account in their pricing of the markets and that could mean that choosing the right time to oppose the H2H record can be a very lucrative method, if successful. But I prefer to have the stats on my side, or if I don’t fancy the side that is dominant in the H2H record, it might be a ‘no bet’ situation.

History On Your Side

The cream of the crop, i.e. Arsenal and Man United, are going to have good H2H records against the average sides, more often than not, and therefore I think they can be overlooked in many instances.

The trouble with those records from a betting perspective is that they lead to even shorter prices, on the dominant side, in the markets.

  • Manchester United have W29-D14-L1 of their last 44 games against Aston Villa

Backing United to beat Villa at Old Trafford on the 4th April probably won’t make you rich and the law of averages suggests that Aston Villa will one day beat Manchester United. And when that day does come, they are likely to be a big price due to United’s head-to-head dominance.

It’s the H2H records between sides of similar quality that attract me because I find bookmakers value them less.

  • Accrington have W15-D4-L3 of their last 22 games against Morecambe.

That H2H record dates back to 2003. There are many, many more strangely dominant head-to-head records. Clubs frequently hold short term dominance over opponents but that can be just a result of one team out-performing the other for a few years.

I think any sort of dominance over a period of a decade or more should be respected. Siding with Accrington in this tie would have made you a significant profit and when the sides meet in Morecambe on the 3rd April I won’t be siding with the Shrimpers.

Stanley are likely to be below Morecambe in the table when this fixture arrives and as the away side, I would expect Accy to be around the 3/1 mark. In any case, the price won’t reflect Accrington’s dominance in recent years.

Future Betting Opportunities

I would suggest that it is better to have the stats on your side than not but if everything points towards a win for the side with the poor H2H record and you feel they are the value pick, then don’t let a dominant H2H record rule your selection process.

I believe H2H records should be appreciated and supported when all other factors make for a fixture that is tricky to call or when the side with the dominant record looks the most likely to win. However the H2H record should also be combined with all manner of other factors such as recent form, home and away results, injuries and suspensions, the potential approach from both clubs and tactical match-ups between the teams.

When the side with the better H2H record is the outsider in the Match Odds market, I think they deserve support, as long as recent results are not too abysmal and that H2H record has been tried and tested over a sufficient period.

Some things in football are just inexplicable and trends can continue to defy the odds. On Wednesday night Newcastle travel to Selhurst Park. The Magpies have not lost to Crystal Palace in 10 meetings since 2002, winning eight of those. They are the outsiders at 23/10, which implies the bookmakers don’t rate that H2H record. Let’s see how they go.

Your View

Do you vale head-to-head records when making your selections? How important to you find historic head-to-head results?

We’d love to you know your thoughts in the comments box below.

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About Author

Profile photo of willdyer

Will's an avid supporter of his local team, Swindon Town. He got into betting after a serious case of beginners luck landing a 14 fold BTTS accumulator. Whilst mostly transfixed to the English Leagues, he can't get enough of football and can regularly be found watching more obscure matches from around the globe. Will has a growing interest in American Football after watching the Atlanta Falcons in the States a few years ago. Outside of betting he loves nothing more than snowboarding, travelling the world and a weekend with his pals.

8 Comments

  1. Another excellently written and thought provoking article – well done Will.

    I disagree with this sentence: “Bookmakers do take H2H records into account in their pricing of the markets”. I don’t believe they do, and in nearly every case they are correct not to. In my opinion, punters who back teams because they haven’t lost to their opponents for say 12 matches in the last 40 years are blindly ignore the fact that none of the players involved in the next fixture played any part in most of those games, and are justifying a bet on erroneous grounds.

    However, there may be a handful of exceptions where I believe an angle exists to exploit H2H. Atletico’s current hold over Real for example after so many years of Real dominance in that fixture would be one, and there may be others to a lesser extent. But it has to H2H’s where its the same group of players playing against the same group of players – once you go back more than a few years, historic results are meaningless.

  2. Interesting angles. So what do you put H2H records down to? Chance and coincidence? I just find it hard to believe that there can be so many strangely dominant H2Hs, often between teams of a similar quality. I know what you mean about different players though that certainly is the biggest factor.

    Would you say that this is one of the areas where bookmakers get one over punters then? If they are ignoring H2Hs. One thing I would say is that the fans don’t change and they know those H2H records and that can create an atmosphere that is more anxious than usual when they are playing a side that’s got the better of them throughout history. Especially at home. If fans do make a big difference to a sides performance I would be cautious of opposing H2H records. I believe that this is the best place to start with incorporating H2H records in to a betting strategy; to find good reasons to avoid a losing bet should be the first port of call and if x hasn’t beaten y in 20 years it certainly makes me cautious!

  3. I believe in other sports which are 1 on 1 combat – tennis, snooker, darts for example, head to head records can have a massive bearing, as such a big part of the contest is mental.

    While a lot of football is also in the head, I’m just not convinced that players are so wrapped up in a club that they will be aware that their team haven’t won at say Old Trafford in 30 years so go resigned to another defeat. If anything, it would spur them on to be part of history, and I can’t think of any such examples where I would place a bet based on such a stat.

    The Accrington v Morecambe issue you highlight is certainly an interesting one though. I’m reluctant to put it all down to chance and coincidence, although I think most of the skewed H2H stats are just that. For a game such as this, perhaps a small adjustment in prices should be incorporated on the strength of what you say – fans unease and general negativity in the days before will make a difference. I’d be amazed if many bookies do adjust when sending down their opening quotes though.

  4. Howdy

    For me the only thing I would use H2H for is to encourage or dissuade me from placing a bet. I certainly think backing a football team purely on H2H records would be a folly, as perfectly described above.

    Gareth stole my comment to some extent. When you look at the hold Diego Simeone has over the current Real Madrid side then you have to consider the H2H between Atletico and Real as of huge importance but why? Is it how teams match up? Not many would disagree that Real are the outstanding talent but Atletico have the best of it. Is it about tactical nous? The Real manager is hardly a fledgling coach, he knows his stuff.

    It may mostly be about how teams are set up to play, or it may not. Take Motherwell and Hamilton. Motherwell have won just 1 of the last 7 H2H’s. That’s easily explainable this season when Hamilton have outperformed them but for the most of that sequence Motherwell were miles ahead of Hamilton, and often a division higher. Even when Motherwell played Albion Rovers (a club 3 divisions below them) in the cup they lost. Was it because the game was at Hamilton’s home ground? If it was , why?

    Sorry for adding more questions than answers 😐

  5. Hi Guys, thanks for the responses and excuse my late showing in replying! Gareth, you make a very good argument that I can’t find any holes in! I would say that some players mentalities are certainly influenced by the media but indeed, not many and if they were then yes what better than to end that poor H2H record. I think we can agree that H2H records have an impact, albeit slight in most instances and that it’s better to be aware of it than not. Fitba, I think you put it perfectly…look at all the other angles first and then the H2H record and that can be the deciding factor if you are unsure. I think the Atleti and Real case is similar to Man United and Arsenal; two big clubs that have seen a few results go one way consistently and in turn lead to players perhaps trying too hard or letting the occasion get to them which makes it more likely they will lose; in this case Arsenal and Real are the guilty parties! As for Motherwell v Hamilton that certainly is an odd one and I don’t think anyone has the answer. Maybe that is one of the examples of chance/coincidence stepping in.

  6. H2H is the main calculation method for me , i bet only at the right time under 2.5 , over 2.5 , 1 and 2 , only at the right time, this means that i developed a software that take in consideration what happens most often between the analyzed teams vs the record , the record is applyng only when the better theam was in the last or two or three game defeated or make an under etc… , even if they win the last game but before the last game they have being defeated or something was happened , the record will apply , is much more on calculations that i tell you here , but the main logic for that was this kind of thinking , and is the best working software that i developed , i catch big odds and also the small odds , and the program prediction of roi is exactly with what will happen , when my roi is smaller than the program predicts , i know that i had badluck , if is bigger i know that i was lucky and the moment with unluck will soon hit me :). I take in consideration only home and away games between the teams , I don`t take nothing in consideration from actual season , will destroy all my big odds predictions, if i take recent season in consideration , my roi will be destroyed!

  7. I loose some games because a real big change of coach or players had place on one team this season , but i accept this risk beacause is unsignificant! So i suggest all of you to think more about h2h, because i think that is underestimating intentionally , and on the internet is only promoted the ideea of recent season , recent form etc… to take in consideration , i know is not bad , but is almost imposible to make a real good roi from this. With my h2h strategy i have over 65% hit rate at 2.2 odds average , with recent season tipe of thinking and recent form it was almost imposiblle to do this , a hit rate is possiblle over 80% with recent season type of tinking , but the odds ar not valuable and will end with no roi , on the long therm.This is all i had to say , i hope that i have changed someones minds , and will start thinking more at this h2h statistics… Thank you !

  8. My predictions for today are :

    Schalke – Hertha – U 2.5 odd: 1.7
    Gaz Metan – Cfr Cluj – 1 odd: 3.2
    Feyenord – Groningen – 1 odd : 1.26

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