Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Torres Torture: A Year On

Long term readers might remember that this time last year, I made a disastrous current score lay during the Manchester Utd v Chelsea tie. A missed Rooney penalty (he kicked the ball onto his own foot!) and THAT Torres open-goal howler, compounded the misery. The aftermath was the real bank-buster though, as I completely lost the plot:

Torres Torture

So have the wounds healed a year on? Well, it wasn't my last atrocious football bet but I certainly haven't been involved in a match with the same devastating consequences. I can't really be trusted with soccerball, I have just never had the discipline. Until now. With the tennis season coming to a close soon, I have decided that I'm ready to go back and face my fears head on. I can laugh at what happened now but at the time, it almost resulted in me bombing out of trading. So I'm going to attempt to use my new skills honed through tennis trading, on the football markets. I'll be re-visiting some old techniques which I always felt could work in the hands of a sane person. Well, now I have officially re-gained my sanity which was lost during those football trading years, it's time to see if I can make some money.

I've always had a reasonable knowledge of football, though I suppose the vast majority of fans would say the same thing! The truth is that until you really start to watch it day in, day out, looking for patterns and statistical analysis, you probably don't truly know football as well you think you do. There are a lot of myths and completely untrue generalisations which are spoken widely amongst fans, which you will soon find dispelled.  I always remember being surprised at how ingrained some of my beliefs were, which were totally disproved within a few weeks of  watching football from all over the world. Much of it stems from listening to commentators, pundits and journalists who we just take for granted, know more than us. Yet a lot of what they feed us is based on their own prejudices. Some of them don't watch anywhere near as much football as traders do. In short, they've grown up with the same set of ingrained beliefs that we have.

For example, the idea that Italian football is full of nil-nils and low scoring games. Yet Serie A over the last decade, has never had a season where the average goals per game has totalled under 2.5. You can't say the same about the Premier League.

Another thing that you see written regularly across the Internet, is when a team goes 3-0 up or you get a 2-2 or 3-2 in the first half, people seem to think that the game will continue in this vein. This actually rarely happens, as the team in front tend to take their foot off the gas and the teams leaking goals tighten up defensively.

A very common theme is that when a match starts with a very fast pace, with end to end attacking, people will always say 'there will be loads of goals in this'. Anyone who watches games regularly will know that the first few minutes do not always dictate the way the rest of the match will go. Generally, things will calm down as the adrenaline wears off and players take a breather and the match will settle.

Another common misconseption is that a team that has a 0-0 draw will almost certainly not produce the same result in their next game (often prompting a lay of 0-0). Yet my own research showed that actually, the chances of this happening are quite big. It's amazing how many teams produce two or three nil-nils in quick succession.

In the UK, it is particularly bad regarding foreign football. The  rubbish spoken about other leagues and international teams is often laughable, yet these are stereotypes that the average football fan believes and will take into account when placing bets. My favourite has to be the one that crops up whenever a team at the top of the Premier League gets beaten by one near the bottom. You will always get an ex-footballer who says "That's what makes the Premier League the best in the world - you don't get this in other leagues". Which is of course, complete bollocks! Upsets don't happen any more frequently in England than they do elsewhere but this notion can prompt people to back top European teams like Milan and Bayern at silly prices against any team they've 'never heard of'. In fact, there are some leagues which are consistently more competitive across the board - the Bundesliga immediately springs to mind.

And internationally, there are STILL people who have the archaic view that teams from Africa can't defend and lack the strategic nouse of European teams. Whilst it may have been the case decades ago, it certainly isn't today with the stronger nations, especially as most of them are or have been managed by Europeans with players at top European clubs. The way that a whole continent is continually lumped together as being the same, borders on ridiculous.

My point is that there are a large proportion of people involved in the markets who believe they know more about football than they actually do. If you can use this to your advantage, you have a chance of making money. Next time you have a belief about something happening in a  match, try and think about where that belief stems from and if it's actually based on hard evidence - you might surprise yourself!

Maria Kirilenko:


  1. Hi Sultan,

    interesting post, I would agree that it is easy to form biased opinions either based on your own opinions or ones forced onto you by others but not based on fact. Take my most recent post on my opinions on Scott Parker as a prime example.

    Whilst I've never thought that 0-0s don't come in pairs I've never really thought about whether they do. Out of interest I quickly looked back at the last 3 seasons in the premiership. If my math is correct there were 84 draws of which there were 12 pairs of 0-0s (21 individual games) and incredibly Blackburn managed to draw 0-0 with Stoke, Liverpool and Hull in a row back in 09/10. Food for thought.

    Something else that stood out which surprised me was that my team, Everton drew only 5 games 0-0 and Liverpool drew 10. If I had to guess I'd have gone the other way around. So you're right, I've definitely surprised myself. Although perhaps it shouldn't because as an upcoming post will show (unless something ridiculous happens this weekend) I've lost more money on the EPL than I have on any other sport/league.

    1. I read your Parker post, very interesting results for Joe Allen. Was it Shearer who pointed out on MOTD that he goes backwards far too often? First time he's actually been worthy of his pay!

  2. I think Shearer seems to be widely regarded as the worst pundit going so I'm amazed that I find myself agreeing with him. If I remember correctly Shearer compared him to Gerrard and basically said he’s too negative and always looks for the easy ball. Last season’s stats would seem to back that up. Gerrard played less than half (42%) as often as Allen and yet passed forwards on more occasions. Gerrard apparently made exactly 1000 passes and 23.1% of those were unsuccessful compared to 10% from Allen. The data does go into greater depth which all indicates a similar thing. No matter how you look at it, it is hard to argue 15% of passes going forward is a good thing.

    How this can be realistically applied to gambling I don't know.

    1. I'm not sure that it can be applied, which is why I'm not big on stats and don't pay much attention to most of them regarding trading. If those backwards Allen passes meant that Swansea kept posession and started the build up to goals, then that would put a totally different slant on it. And how many of Gerrard's passes actually created anything, even if they did go forward?

      It is interesting stuff but I think a lot of it can be skewed towards what we want to get from it. That's why for me, watching is the best way to get a real feel for how good a player is. This is easier with tennis though - we don't always see or remember the little moments in a football match, which is why the likes of Parker often go unheralded and Gerrard steal the limelight.


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