The five themes that have defined the first half of the 2023/24 Premier League season

By Alex Brinton

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9 January 2024

The FA Cup third round weekend has been and gone with most of the Premier League clubs avoiding a cupset.

Therefore, it seems like an appropriate time to reflect on what we have seen so far this season and take some time to look at what some of the key themes have been.

Everyone’s good

This may seem like an odd, and overly positive, place to start but there are simply more good teams this year. 

Over the past few seasons we have grown accustomed to the Premier League title race being one with only two horses in it. Either Man City and Liverpool or City and Arsenal, like last season. 

This season it is really a three-horse race with Aston Villa, currently second placed, expected to drop back as the second half of the season goes on and Liverpool, Arsenal and City to make the running.

What the increase in standard has meant is that teams are taking more points off each other. The top four have already lost 12 games between them, on New Year's Day last season that total was just eight. 

Manchester City are the favourites for the title @ 1.83 yet from their 19 games so far they have picked up just 40 points. If you project that onto a 38 game season that is just 80 points which would not have been enough to claim top spot in any of the last ten seasons. It would also be their lowest total since they got 78 in 2016/17 - Pep Guardiola’s first season.

Goals, Goals, Goals

One of the biggest trends of this season has been the sheer number of goals being scored by teams in the Premier League. 

Looking back at the history of the league, there are typically around 2.7 goals a game with a low of 2.45 in the 2006/07 season and a high of 2.85 last season.

All very exciting I know, but this season has seen a remarkable rise to 3.13. There have been seven matches in which a home team has won by a margin of five goals including Aston Villa’s 6-1 win over Brighton. Newcastle’s 8-0 away victory over Sheffield United and Chelsea’s 4-4 draw with City also helped boost the amount of goals significantly. 

There has been no change to the rules on defending so it is difficult to understand why so many more goals are being scored this season, but it is certainly worth keeping in mind when you are thinking about your bet builders.

Patience is a virtue

Being patient is not something that comes naturally to owners of football clubs and sometimes the axe does need to be swung. While I was sad to see Steve Cooper leave Nottingham Forest, it will probably end up better for him and the club. 

Everton and Bournemouth both suffered tricky starts to the season, but have been recently rewarded for their patience. After last season finished, the Cherries took the surprising step to sack Gary O’Neill who had led them to not only safety but a comfortable 15th placed finish when they looked set for the drop. 

They appointed Spanish coach Andoni Iraola, but the season got off to a tricky start. They were winless until October 28 when they beat a hapless Burnley side 2-1 and at one point they were priced @ 3.55 for the drop. In their last nine matches they have been a team transformed picking up 19 points, only West Ham, Villa and Liverpool have done better in that time. They now find themselves up to 12th and in Dominic Solanke they have a striker in fine form.

Sean Dyche’s Everton side also started the season poorly, not winning until September 23rd. In November, they also became the first Premier League club in over ten years to be punished by a points deduction. After the deduction they were priced at 2.90 to be relegated. It would have been understandable to panic to set in but the ten-point deduction has galvanised the club and united the supporters behind Dyche and his players. 

Since then they have beaten Newcastle & Chelsea and put together a run of four consecutive wins. They are still in danger in 17th and only one-point off the drop, but their form has been good. If you take the points deduction away they would be 12th. Make no mistake, the rest of the season will be tricky for Everton, but I think they will be fine.

Considering this and the first point about teams taking points off each other, it is important to keep a team’s form at the front of your mind when placing your bets. 

Overachievers to underachievers

The success of both Newcastle and Brighton last season was one of the season’s biggest stories. 

Finishing fourth and sixth respectively was a great achievement for both clubs. Newcastle returned to the Champions League for the first time in 20 years, despite it only being the first full season of the Saudi ownership and Eddie Howe’s appointment as manager. 

Their fast-paced attacking football was thrilling to watch and their rejuvenated supporters made St James’ Park a fortress. A result of which was that on the opening day of the season they were at 2.84 to finish in the top four.

However, this season has been a struggle for the Magpies. A combination of a tough Champions League draw and a long injury list have meant they have struggled to replicate last season’s form. Their biggest problems have come away from home where they have the second worst record in the league. This is in stark contrast to last season where they only lost three games on their travels all season, giving them the third best record in the league.

Brighton were everybody’s second-favourite team last season with their attractive football and underdog mentality. Despite losing Marc Cucerella, Leandro Trossard, Yves Bissouma and Neal Maupay throughout the season their production line of talent combined with incredible scouting meant there was never a drop off in performance. They also lost manager Graham Potter, his backroom team and senior executives to Chelsea as Todd Boehly looked to turn around the club’s fortunes. 

The Seagulls have had similar injury troubles to Newcastle, and a busy Europa League campaign which saw them in a group with Marseille and Ajax has meant they have also struggled. They are two places and two points better off than Newcastle so there is no need to panic for Roberto De Zerbi’s side. Their defence will be a bit concerning though, they are shipping 1.65 goals a game on average compared to 1.39 last season.

Put a plaster on it

Injuries have been a major talking point of this season, some clubs have come off worse than others, but every team has missed key players this season.

At the current time of writing, there are a total of 145 players unavailable to Premier League clubs through a combination of injuries, suspensions and international commitments according to Premier Injuries.

Brentford currently have the most players missing with 12, while City have the fewest with three. Although City are missing Haaland and Stones while Kevin De Bruyne is yet to be reintroduced to first team action.

Back in November, an article written by the Athletic detailed the increase in the number of injuries that were occuring. They found that there had been 196 injuries up to November 20, a figure that was 15% higher than the four-season average. 

There had also been a 96% increase in the number of hamstring injuries from last season. We have all enjoyed having more additional time added on at the end of the games and it has certainly meant an increase in drama.  

This season more than ever, you need to check injury and suspension lists before you place your bets.

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