defenders - Aston Villa's Tyrone Mings (right) celebrates scoring his side's third goal of the game during the Premier League match at Craven Cottage, London.

Inside Edge: The case for the defence in the Premier League

There’s been little reaction from sportsbooks to a near 50% rise in goals by defenders in the Premier League, notes Nick Haynes from Form Labs – a division of Bettorlogic – in his Friday round-up of the weekend’s sporting activity.

We’re already into the fifth week of the season and so much has happened already. Shock results by big scorelines have come to be expected, not just in England but in Germany too. 

As mentioned last week, the Premier League and Bundesliga have offered substantial returns for bettors who side with the underdog, while goal markets have also been profitable for Overs.

The Premier League, Bundesliga and Serie A are all seeing an average of over 3.4 goals per game this season, which has led to a shortening of prices on the regular goalscorers or penalty takers, though there’s been little reaction from sportsbooks in defenders.

Indeed, there have been 18 goals by defenders already in the Premier League, an average of 0.47 per game, 11 in the Bundesliga at 0.37 per game and 12 in Serie A at 0.43. 

While the German league has seen a sharp drop off from 0.47 last season, Serie A has seen relatively no change in defender goal scoring rates and it’s surprising there’s not been a massive market reaction in the Premier League where there’s been a massive jump from just 0.32 per game last season.

There’s been a 39.3% increase in goals this season in the English top-flight, it’s an even steeper jump of 46.9% in goals from defenders, so in theory their price should be shortened even more than the most prolific players in the league.

Two-thirds of the defender goals this season have come from centre-backs, and it’s therefore unsurprising that the most likely source of a defender goal comes from a set piece. 

FulhamBrightonWest Brom and Leicester are this season’s most vulnerable sides from set pieces, each conceding three such goals so far. Chris Wilder’s tactics allow for defenders to often pop up in goal scoring areas, resulting in John EganEnda Stevens and George Baldock all grabbing two goals each last year, and all around 14/1 best price to get their first of the season against a leaky Fulham backline. 

Crystal Palace, meanwhile, aren’t exactly goal machines under Roy Hodgson, though their danger man from set pieces is Cheikhou Kouyate who has been starting in the middle of the back four recently. He managed a goal directly from a corner against league leaders Everton and is 17/1 here, while his partner at the back Mamadou Sakho is a whopping 35/1 to net his first since November 2017 when they take on the Seagulls this weekend. 

Burnley have always had defenders that can grab a goal, with Jimmy Dunne netting directly from a set piece already against Leicester. He is 16/1 to repeat that against the Baggies but the real value seems to lie with Aston Villa, whose Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa go off at 14/1 and 22/1 against the Foxes, respectively, despite both already getting off the mark for the campaign. 

The highlights of the weekend are the derby matches across Europe. Everton host Liverpool in the Merseyside derby in a position higher than their rivals for the first time since October 2015. There have been an average of 53.75 booking points per Merseyside derby since the beginning of the 2002/03 season as it’s always been hard fought. 

Everton have drifted away from their rivals in recent years in terms of quality, meaning that number has reduced to 38.6 across the most recent 11 derbies, which is only slightly higher than the league average. This time round there’ll be a slightly different feel about the game for multiple reasons, not least the lack of crowds and Everton’s form, which leaves over 3.5 cards relatively short at 5/6 with bet365.

Elsewhere, Spurs take on West Ham in a London derby, the two Milan clubs go head to head in Serie A, Villareal host Valencia in the Derbi de la Comunitat and we have the first Celtic versus Rangers derby of the season which always promises fireworks. Booking point prices tend to be altered for derby matches, though aside from the Old Firm, a lack of crowd stimulation should result in a less heated affair and sportsbooks could profit on that.

UEFA’s biggest club competitions are back next week with highlights including PSG vs Man United and Bayern vs Atletico Madrid. While it’s difficult to predict who’s going to come out swinging this year, the latter of those games bears significance for one player in particular.

Luis Suarez hasn’t scored an away Champions League goal for over five years, with his last such goal coming in a 1-1 draw with Roma back in Sept 2015. He’s since scored 17 Champions League goals, all of which have come at home or on neutral grounds, so he’ll be looking to break the run having already got off the mark for his new club.

As we cross sport codes we brace ourselves for the biggest spectacle in the Northern Rugby Union calendar this weekend. French side Racing 92 (15/8) head into their third European Cup final in five years and with them yet to lift it in their 130-year history, they’ll be determined to change that. 

They may have to wait at least another year though given favourites Exeter’s (5/9) dominance at the minute, cruising past heavyweight teams Northampton, Bath and Toulouse in knockout matches, while Racing 92 have had their preparations hampered by a Covid-19 outbreak, losing to the latter last time out.

With French sides dominating this competition between 2013 and 2015, there has been a shift to the north of the English Channel in more recent times, with each of the last four winners coming from either England (x3) or Ireland. 

It’s worth noting though, that since 2007/08, 10 of the 12 European Cup finals have seen fewer than 12 points separate the sides, and with one of the anomalies coming when Leinster thrashed fellow Irish side Ulster in a fairly one sided affair, we’d be surprised if these two evenly matched outfits saw a big disparity between them come the final whistle.

Stat of the day

Luis Suarez hasn’t scored an away Champions League goal for over five years, with his last such goal coming in a 1-1 draw with Roma back in Sept 2015. He’s since scored 17 Champions League goals, all of which have come at home or on neutral grounds.

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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