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.
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.