At the beginning of August, it is almost impossible to escape pundits, experts and friends reeling off their list of predictions for the forthcoming football season.
Ante-post betting is extremely popular and there are an abundance of markets such as 'To Finish in the Top Half' and 'Top Goalscorer' available and these all provide excellent alternatives to the more traditional offerings such as 'Outright Betting' and 'To Be Relegated' and the number of options continues to grow each and every year.
Some ante-post selections have unfortunately already been scuppered by the time Christmas rolls around but there are many others that will give punters a decent run for their money.
Whilst pre-season betting is a great way of keeping a long-term interest across various divisions, it may be increasingly profitable to wait for the season to get underway or some big-money signings to arrive in the January transfer window before placing an outright bet...
The Premier League isn't renowned for its low-turnover of managers and whilst the constant chopping and changing of figureheads isn't necessarily good for the game's reputation, it can aid outright bettors in their quest to unearth value.
Managers such as Sam Allardyce are drafted in by clubs on a regular basis and the former Bolton boss has saved numerous teams from the dreaded drop by implementing his pragmatic, hard-to-beat style on a previously struggling outfit.
Relegation markets can be extremely volatile and can swing on one or two results. If a club are sitting rock bottom of the table, hire a manager such as Allardyce or Tony Pulis, then backing them to survive and avoid dropping into the Championship as soon as the appointment is made keeps you a step ahead of fellow punters.
If they manage to put together one or two positive results, beat a fellow relegation rival or hold a top-six side to a battling draw, that price will immediately begin to shorten as the market slowly begins to react to these improved displays.
Some appointments do have the opposite effect, however, and are not quite as positive for the club. Historic examples include the mid-season announcement of Brian Law's taking over at Burnley, which should have set alarm bells ringing and the price on the Clarets to be relegated plummeted as a result, whilst any club that sack a manager yet don't appear to have a contingency plan in place could also be worth backing for relegation.
Terry Connor and Steve Agnew remaining in the dugouts at both Wolves and Middlesbrough are relatively recent examples of this. The key is acting fast and placing a bet before the rot begins to set in. You'd much rather have a 4/1 shot on your betting slip than an 11/20 chance.
A decent manager has the ability to completely change the mindset of a club and if this appointment is made mid-season, an upturn in form is almost inevitable.
The 'new manager bounce' may be one of many footballing cliches that are commonly used by pundits, but players genuinely respond to a new face in the dugout and sides can veer from nervously glancing over their shoulder to eyeing up the top-ten positions in a matter of weeks. Markets such as 'To Finish in the Top Half' are extremely popular mid-season bets and having the patience to wait until January or February can pay dividends.
Premier League teams such as Everton are always a short-price to fill these spots at the beginning of the campaign, but if they suffer a disastrous start to the season and find themselves hovering over the relegation zone, their price will noticeably increase and value could be found on the Toffees to eventually clamber their way out of trouble and return to the top ten.
Not all clubs can buy themselves out of trouble, but these kind of outfits usually have the spending power to spend big and ensure they return to their rightful position in the table sooner rather than later. These markets are highly recommended for slow-starters and looking at the opening five fixtures can often be a useful indicator of the kind of teams to keep an eye on.
Expected Goals Statistics
Expected Goals is a relatively new phenomenon that has completely enhanced the betting experience and has even been used on shows such as Match of the Day. This is a great tool for finding underperforming sides and predicting an upturn in their fortunes.
In the Championship, Brentford are often considered dark horses for the playoffs but they regularly find themselves towards the bottom of the table during the early stages of the season.
The expected goals statistics routinely highlights that the Bees are creating enough chances to win each game by a clear margin and indicate that they are competing with top-six sides when it came to fashioning opportunities.
This should prompt savvy bettors to back Dean Smith's side to finish in the top half or to avoid relegation and a noticeable upturn in results usually follows. Some teams are traditional slow-starters or are handed a tough opening set of fixtures and whilst that can be hugely frustrating for the fans, it is seen as a golden opportunity for mid-season outright punters to invest.
Blackpool were promoted to the Premier League unexpectedly in 2010 and despite having a small squad, Ian Holloway's side made the perfect start as they thumped Wigan 4-0 at the DW on the opening day of the campaign.
The Seasiders spent the majority of September, October and November in the top half of the table, with the Tangerine Army playing some scintillating football and regularly being described as "a breath of fresh air". Injuries kicked in shortly before Christmas and a hugely underwhelming January transfer window followed and inevitably, the Fylde Coast club started to slip down the standings.
Their momentum had disappeared, the feel-good factor slowly ebbed away and the cracks started to show. This was the perfect opportunity for punters to back the Seasiders to be relegated straight back to the Championship and many bettors didn't need asking twice.
They were relegated on goal difference after losing 4-2 to Manchester United on the final day of the season. Momentum is such a powerful tool in football and it is absolutely key to mid-season outright betting. It's often hard to shake off a losing run and get back to winning ways and this is a trend that is best spotted early. If the signs aren't looking good, this is generally the time to invest.
The January transfer window is another factor that can have a huge influence on the market. Manchester City have plenty of spending power and are always expected to strengthen whilst Liverpool and Chelsea are not afraid to dip in and make improvements to their squads.
Some teams will lose key players during this period and this can often derail their campaign whilst others can recruit sensibly and enjoy a positive second half of the season. Alexis Sanchez's move from Arsenal to Manchester United in January 2018 was one of the most protracted transfers in recent history but the Chilean's defection has seen the Gunners' price for a top-four finish increase.
It added strength in depth to the Red Devil's squad and their price in the Champions League outright market reduced shortly after the signing was confirmed.
Mid-season betting on outright markets isn't universally popular but it does offer the perfect opportunity to unearth value and snap up some tempting looking prices. If you can spot the signs of a revival or a decline early enough, this can result in big profits come the end of the season.
New managers, marquee transfers and a shift in momentum are all major factors which can cause a change in fortunes and with more mid-season market than ever before, there's never been a better time to get involved.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*