The first six games of a new Premier League season might feel too small a sample to use for sweeping judgments about the rest of the campaign but it’s far more important than you might think.
For instance, the eventual champion has only been outside the top four after six matches four times since 1995/96. Start slowly in this league and your title aspirations are done for almost immediately.
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What makes 2023/24 so interesting is that we currently have five teams with at least 14 points, more than we’ve ever had after six matches. In 2020/21 there weren’t any such sides, though as Everton were top of the league and the matches took place in deserted stadiums, that season was clearly beamed direct from the Upside Down.
Despite several teams making fine starts, the reality remains Manchester City are expected to stroll to yet another title (yawn). The defending champions are 4/11 to be top of the pops next May, with Liverpool (6/1), Arsenal (7/1) and Tottenham (no, honestly, 22/1) next in line in the market.
If someone is to upset the apple cart, it will take something very special. Maybe they will need to go the whole season unbeaten? Or at the very least avoid defeat at home? Let’s consider how likely an outcome that is for any side in the 2023/24 Premier League.
As your Arsenal supporting mate regularly reminds you, the Gunners went unbeaten throughout the entirety of the 2003/04 season, the only team to do so in the modern era of English football.
To illustrate how the Premier League has changed since, consider that twice in the last five seasons Liverpool have finished as runners up with more points than the Invincibles amassed. No, the Reds didn’t remain unbeaten (your Arsenal mate is back) but they put up arguably better campaigns and still couldn’t catch City.
Liverpool’s 2018/19 season is the perfect example. They lost just once but as it was against City it ultimately determined the title. Any team looking to match the Invincibles must get past the Abu Dhabi machine twice which is hard enough, never mind what might happen on a wet Tuesday night in wherever the new Stoke is now. Brentford?
City are 12/1 to avoid Premier League defeat in 2023/24, and the only side with a vaguely realistic hope of doing so in Paddy’s opinion. You can back Arsenal or Liverpool at 80/1, with Tottenham priced at 125/1.
Remaining unbeaten at home is a more realistic target, with it having been achieved 14 times in the 19 seasons since Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles obviously did it. Only twice in that period have we gone two seasons without a side not tasting defeat on their own patch, and as nobody managed it last term it must be on the cards in 2023/24, right?
This idea is going to face a very stern test over the next two weekends. This market could be decimated before the next international break.
Tottenham v Liverpool
Tottenham have made their strongest six-game start to a Premier League season, and they’ve done so having faced Manchester United and Arsenal. It hasn’t all been 98th minute comebacks against Sheffield United, you know?
Spurs’ unbeaten home record will face a severe test when Liverpool come calling for the Saturday evening game this weekend. While the odds will shift, at the time of writing they imply that although the Reds are favourites, Tottenham has about a 56 per cent chance of taking at least a point.
And as much as Ange Postecoglou is the media’s darling for awakening Tottenham from their Antonio Conte slumber, Spurs have lost their last two games with Liverpool and nine of the previous 11.
If they can get at least a point from their clash with the Reds, they stand a fair chance of remaining unbeaten at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for a good while longer. Their fifth and fourth last matches of the campaign see them host Manchester City and Arsenal in successive weekends in April but until then the schedule isn’t too daunting. Over to you, Jurgen, what have you got?
Arsenal v Manchester City
Another unbeaten home record will face a severe examination next weekend too. Arguably an even sterner test than awaits Tottenham on Saturday, because if you think they’re in the doldrums against Liverpool, please allow me to introduce Arsenal and Manchester City.
Sure, the Gunners have had their moments in the FA Cup and Community Shield, but they have lost their last 12 league meetings with City and are winless in 15. With Kevin De Bruyne out of action through injury and Rodri suspended, Arsenal will have few better opportunities to turn this horrendous record around.
Again, these odds are only indicative at this point, but Paddy currently gives Mikel Arteta’s boys around a 60 per cent chance of not losing. Given their history with City they’ll certainly take that.
Arsenal’s potential sticky patch for a lossless home record (if they can negotiate this) looks to be in February, with Liverpool and Newcastle both visiting that month. If you think the Gunners can get through 2023/24 unscathed, make sure to have a bet before the City game.
We need to have a quick word about Liverpool, for a very simple reason. Since Tottenham went unbeaten at home in 2016/17, there have been four instances of a team doing likewise, and it has been the Reds every time.
Cliché or not, Anfield really is a fortress. Liverpool has lost one league game in front of fans there since April 2017, with their 2020/21 stumbles occurring behind closed doors.
Going unbeaten through all 38 games remains a colossal task but history suggests the Reds could easily have the home side of the equation covered.
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