penalties - Referee Peter Bankes checks the VAR pitch side monitor before giving a penalty for a hand ball against Tottenham Hotspur's Eric Dier during the Premier League match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London.

Inside Edge: Penalties galore…but has the market overcorrected?

Over the next few months, Nick Haynes from Form Labs – a division of Bettorlogic – is doing a Friday round-up of the best of the weekend’s sporting activity. As you can imagine, penalties are top of this week’s agenda.

Three game weeks down and we’re beginning to get a taste of what this Premier League season may have in store, and right at the top of that list are spot kicks.

The introduction of the new handball law combined with the availability of VAR and some sluggish defending has seen a whopping 20 penalties from just 28 games so far and although that’s not exactly a large sample, there are indicators that show that penalties are going to remain far more frequent this season.

Six of those 20 spot kicks have been awarded for handball, the same amount as in the entire 2017/18 season. That means we’re on course for a huge 88 handball penalties this year, and while we’d be surprised if it even got close to that number, it should soon pass the five year average of just 13.2 per season. 

While the bookies have reacted to the start of season surge, there’s an argument to be made that they’ve overcorrected and prices are slightly too short heading into the next round of fixtures.

The price for a penalty is currently at 6/4 for Leeds’ clash with Man City this weekend, an unusually short price even considering both sides’ record of winning penalties and their managers’ style of play, while that’s also the same price for Everton vs Brighton who both possess tricky players who like to make surging runs into the box. 

It’s an even shorter 7/5 for Saturday’s first match between Chelsea and Crystal Palace, and understandably so. Although there have been four penalties in the six matches the two have played this year, referee Michael Oliver has awarded five penalties in his three matches so far and will be in charge of that game. 

In fact, Oliver and Anthony Taylor have awarded 45% of this year’s penalties between them, and with Taylor taking charge of Man United v Spurs, 2/1 is an extortionately long price considering the hosts’ record last season. While we’re expecting the rate to drop, the other European leagues suggest it won’t drop by much.

From 2011/12 to 2017/18, there was an average of 0.28 penalties per game in La Liga, until the introduction of VAR since which that figure has increased to 0.36, while there’s been an even steeper 50% increase in Serie A, from 0.32 to 0.48. 

We’re currently sitting on a figure of 0.71 in the Premier League this season, and referees will be as aware of the controversy that has been caused as the rest of us, so we’d expect more of a reluctance from the officials from this point, either conscious or subconscious, as that figure begins to drop off.

Elsewhere, the French Open is looking wide open in the women’s draw, with all four women who reached the semi-finals in New York earlier this month already gone in Paris. 

Simona Halep will be a very tough favourite to beat on her favourite surface as the Romanian has won her last 16 matches since the Australian Open semi-final back in January and has been only playing on clay since the restart, winning in both Prague and Rome coming into this. At 3.15 it’s a wonder why there’s not more staked on the 2018 winner.

The courts are much slower than in previous years due to the cold climate, which men’s favourite Rafa Nadal has admitted doesn’t suit him, though you’d not have thought so with him yet to drop a set and only losing four games in his second round match. The Spaniard’s 93-2 record at Roland Garros speaks for itself, while he’s even 22-1 against the six Grand Slam winners he’s faced here, with the last defeat coming back in 2015. 

He’s won 11 of the 12 titles he’s gone in as favourite in Paris, and at an odds-against trading price of 2.76 on the exchange it’s no wonder why much of the liquidity in the market has been staked on him.

Over £1,000 has been matched so far in the men’s draw, with the majority of that on the top three seeds, all of which are trading at 5/1 or less, though the bookies will be hoping for another outside winner with fourth favourite Stan Wawrinka at 45/1.

Over the pond, we’re in the midst of the NBA finals. The Lakers took Game One convincingly 116-98, easily covering the 5.5 spread after being down for much of the first quarter. The LA side went off at a heavy odds on price of -192, and recent history would suggest the Miami Heat will struggle to come back. 

Five of the last six winners have come out victorious in Game One, with none of those five finals going the distance, though we’d be surprised if this was a whitewash and an +138 best price doesn’t look to hold value considering there’s only been one 4-0 final in 12 years. With a lot of the liquidity staked on that outcome, overhype could play right into the sportsbooks’ hands.

In fact, the last team to have lost Game One away from home were the Heat themselves back in 2013, and they came back to win that series 4-3 over the Spurs. While we wouldn’t expect the same, the finals are rarely as straightforward as they seem.

Stat of the day

BTTS & Over 3.5 Goals has landed in four of Leeds and Man City’s combined five matches this term, with the exception when Marcelo Bielsa’s men travelled to low-scoring Sheffield Utd – whose matches have seen the lowest goals per game of any team this season, as well as holding that title last term.

Form Labs delivers bespoke editorial covering a variety of sports to a number of sportsbooks. Click here for more information or contact Nick Haynes on [email protected].

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