fans - Chelsea’s Mason Mount is consoled by Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane after his missed penalty in the shoot out leads to them losing the Carabao Cup fourth round match at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London.

Inside Edge: Man City ‘too short’ for the title and the impact of fans on home advantage

With confirmation that a limited number of fans will be able to return to live sporting events across parts of England, it looks like we could soon be enjoying that matchday experience once more. Nick Haynes from Form Labs explains why the lack of fans has also been a detriment to the home team advantage.

We’re already a quarter of the way through the football season, and it’s at this point that we begin to take note of who is where in the table. Spurs lead the league after nine games for the first time in Premier League history, which has bolstered them up to fourth favourite in the title race at a best price of 11/2 as we take a look a past trends back to when the league was reduced to 20 sides and assess this year’s prices.

Are Man City overestimated?

The biggest surprise is to see Man City remain as second favourites for the title, despite their 13th place in the table. For context, no side has finished in the top two having been below ninth at this stage of the season, which would effectively negate both Manchester clubs and Arsenal from this year’s challenge.

Only five have managed to reach the top four with Liverpool managing the feat four times in eight seasons between 1999/00 and 2006/07, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side went from 14th after nine games to finish up in 3rd last season.

In fact, with the exception of Leicester (5th) in 2015/16, Man City (7th) in 2013/14, and Man Utd (6th) in 2008/09 all winners in a 20-team league have been in the top four at this stage.

While places off the top can give a good indication of how far off the pace a side is, as well as how many teams they need to surpass to get to the top, another angle to look at is points tally after nine games. Amazingly, 24 of the 25 title winners in this league format have been within six points of the pace setters at this stage of the season.

The exception to this being Man Utd back in 2008/09 when they were eight points off, though they did have a game in hand. A whopping 19 of the 25 winners had been within four points, a position only six teams occupy this season, though Aston Villa and Man Utd would join their bracket should they get maximum points from their game in hand.

Empty stadiums having detrimental effect on home teams

Whichever way you look at it, Man City are far too short to be second favourites for the league. The only thing in their favour is that this season is unlike any other with a condensed schedule to kick off the season and a lack of fans in the ground which goes some way to negating a home advantage, and has meant a more competitive league so far.

Indeed, the average percentage of home victories over the last eight seasons has been 45.6%, which has seen a slight tail off to just 38% so far this season, though the percentage of away victories has risen drastically from an average of 31% to 43% this season. This isn’t just the case in England though, with away wins in Italy jumping from an average of 31% to 39%, from 31% to 35% in Germany and a small jump from 28% to 31% in La Liga.

However, markets have been so far slow to react to this trend change, with bettors seeing profits from away victories in three of the four leagues mentioned above. The Bundesliga would actually see punters register a near 28% loss when backing away sides, though Italy and Spain return a healthy 8.47% and 10.82% profit, with the Premier League leading the way with a huge 27.02% ROI at this stage. Signs are there for fans to be returning to grounds, though until that becomes a reality, sportsbooks need to adapt prices accordingly.

Chelsea vs Tottenham: Does lack of fans make Spurs great value?

William Gallas has come out with the prediction that one of these two clubs will win the league this year, and based on form and table position there’s every chance that the Frenchman could be right. The previous meeting this season in the League Cup saw the sides play out a 1-1 draw with Spurs coming up trumps in a penalty shootout, though Jose Mourinho is still looking for his first outright victory over Frank Lampard, losing both fixtures against the Blues last season as well as a penalty shootout against Lampard’s Derby back in his Old Trafford days.

Both sides are in terrific form, with the hosts winning six on the bounce now across all competitions and keeper Edouard Mendy keeping seven clean sheets in his last nine games for his club. In fact, when the Senegalese has been playing, Chelsea have conceded just three goals in 10 matches, and not more than one in a single game, so the visitors will have their work cut out here. Spurs themselves have gone W12-D3-L1 since their opening day defeat to Everton across all competitions, with that defeat coming in the Europa League to Royal Antwerp when fielding a weakened side.

The most impressive of those victories was last weekend against Man City as they executed their game plan to perfection, grabbing an early goal, sitting deep to defend their lead and managing to break quickly and cause their opposition some problems on the counter. Their joy came through Harry Kane dropping deep, as he has done all season, and finding pockets of space to be able to play in. He’ll likely not be afforded that luxury against Chelsea, with N’Golo Kante seemingly back to his brilliant best, and that could be the battle where this game will be won or lost.

The Lilywhites have quite an abysmal record at Stamford Bridge though, winning just once in the last 34 meetings between the two, a run stretching back to 1990, losing six of the last eight while they’ve gone D1-L4 in their most recent meetings across both venues going back to January last year.

We’ve previously mentioned the increase in away victories this season, and that plays massively into Spurs’ hands here, making this an extremely difficult matchup to call and it depends on which manager gets their tactics right on the day, though Spurs at a best price of 11/4 looks extremely long considering the lack of fans in the ground. 

Stats of the Day

  • The Premier League leader after nine games has won each of the past three titles
  • A team has never finished in the top two after being outside the top nine after nine games in the 38-team format. There have been five top four finishes: Liverpool managed it four times between 1999/00 and 2006/07, and United last season went from 14th to 3rd.

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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