NEW WeLoveBetting columnist Will Dyer (@W2Dyer) begins his weekly analytical column with a look at the rise of away victories across the English leagues.
English Football punters had their best weekend of the season in a gameweek that saw Arsenal, Manchester United, Southampton, Liverpool and Chelsea all win away from home.
Arsenal won away from the Emirates? At the home of last season’s champions? Hold on a sec, I think I just saw a pig fly past my window!
Make It Pay By Playing Away
Once again, more away sides won than homes in League Two for the seventh time in 26 gameweeks this season. In fact, there have been 95 away wins in League Two so far this season out of 308 games; that’s just shy of a third!
That’s in line with the huge decline in home victories in that division during the past decade; in the 2003/04 season 48.39% of games were home wins. Last season that figure dropped to just 39.13%.
I’ve not researched all of the English divisions since the beginning of time but I’m willing to put my neck on the line and say that was probably the first season that a British league saw fewer than 40% of home teams win when hosting league fixtures.
This isn’t something that’s unique to League Two, far from it. The home win % has been steadily declining across all four of the English divisions for the last decade. The trend isn’t so strong in the Premier League but two seasons ago the top tier did see it’s lowest home win percentage since 2003 with only a 45.98% win ratio.
In League One, there have been 106 away wins this season from 299 games. The third tier has seen the biggest fall of all four leagues with the average dropping from 48% to 45% in the space of 10 years. The Championship follows suit with a drop from 46% to 44%.
At first sight that doesn’t seem much of a decline but when you spread that out over the course of a season, that’s about 16 less home wins, more than enough to squander a few accumulators. Hold on if you’re thinking that’s nothing to get excited about because believe me, it is!
There were five away wins in the Championship this weekend – the same number as home wins. The prices of those selections were 5/1 (Nottingham Forest), 3/1 (Brentford), 5/4 (Ipswich), 21/20 (Bournemouth) and 3/1 (Bolton). A very rewarding crop of figures to say the least. The fivefold of winning away teams payed out at 442/1.
So what about the fivefold of home wins you ask? For Wolves, Fulham, Norwich, Watford and Middlesbrough you got a meagre 29/1. It’s that value in away wins that gets me excited about this decline.
These things are often over-looked or under-valued by the majority of punters. It’s a trend I really like and I think it’s crucial to make the most of it before the media and every man and his dog catches on. Every weekend people look for the home wins and that shortens the price on the home sides giving even greater value to away selections.
Sooner or later punters are going to start realising that playing at home just isn’t the advantage it used to be and this will be reflected in the odds. Now I’m not trying to say oppose home teams. If you think a home team is going to win then you should probably still back them as the familiarity of the stadium and fan support is still there but keeping all this in mind, can only help and keeping an eye out for an away side could be a very profitable strategy.
Don’t let ‘home advantage’ scare you away, is what I would say is. If you think a game is going to be very close and the draw is tempting then you should consider the away win to a greater degree than you would have in the past.
My general betting strategy for the remainder of the season would be to favour draws and away wins in fixtures in which the home side is in poor form and up against a tricky opponent.
There are a few sides around at the minute that are very much away specialists. In the Premier League Manchester City seem to prefer an away trip and even Liverpool have picked up more points on their travels compared to their beloved Anfield. So too, Crystal Palace, Hull and Sunderland.
Stoke have picked up more points away from the Britannia this season. The Potters home record was always a fixture that sent chills down the spines of even the wiliest coyotes but playing the Potters on your own turf now seems to give teams the heebie-jeebies even more.
York and Wycombe spring to mind in League Two whilst this season Bournemouth, Swindon and Bristol City are thriving wherever they play. Other sides like Doncaster and Sheffield Wednesday seem to play better outside of their own backyard. Rochdale score far more away from Spotland and Leyton Orient have been a force on the road for years.
The Science Behind Away Day Winners
So why are away teams winning more often? It’s quite hard to put your finger on it. Other than the English Football Leagues becoming more competitive, I can’t really think of a stand-out reason for the decline in home win %.
One possible answer is many teams are having a hard time at home with financial problems and dwindling support; e.g. Aston Villa, pressures on Randy Lerner from the crowd have created a bit of an edgy and anxious atmosphere, which seems to affect the team. But a game on the road offers an escape from that.
You could argue that managers don’t give as much respect to their opposition these days and have found the right method to win on the road. There are a number of other aspects of in which away performances could have improved.
Travel is easier on footballers these days with many teams flying around the globe or in absolute comfort on luxury coaches. The advances of technology have made research in to your opposition both more detailed and expansive and training routines, sports psychology and nutrition have all been adapted to compliment this.
On Sunday we saw Arsenal take a different approach to an away game against a top side than they have in the past. Arsenal gave up their classic passing football and the majority of possession in exchange for absorbing pressure and hitting Manchester City on the break.
City had 65% of possession, more shots and 13 more corners but still lost. Arsene Wenger’s tactics worked wonderfully well with Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin setting up swift counter-attacks. The Gunners netted midway through both halves to pinch a 2-0 win.
It’s no surprise that the champions and most successful teams since the millennium have all been brilliant at doing the same. If Arsenal can replicate that performance in the remainder of their away games they will surely take third place.
Brighton & Hove Albion v Ipswich Town – Ipswich Town to win (19/10 BetVictor)