Diary Of A Football Trader – Issue 27
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ProTrader started his career and fascination with the financial markets as an Index Analyst at FTSE. He has since consulted for 15 years for some of the top Financial Institutions and Investment Banks in the world, where he specialized in financial instruments, pricing data, trading platforms and risk management solutions. He first started trading sports markets in early 2000, after the introduction and discovery of Betfair. He now trades the financial markets whilst working on entrepreneurial ventures with a focus on sports trading apps and e-commerce. He lives with his wife and young daughter and enjoy travelling (when permitted). In his spare time, he is writing a series of books, enjoys outdoor pursuits with his family, and of course, trading football markets.
Diary of a Football Trader
Welcome to the latest edition of “Diary Of A Pro Trader”, you can read all the past Issues here.
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ProTrader started his career and fascination with the financial markets as an Index Analyst at FTSE. He has since consulted for 15 years for some of the top Financial Institutions and Investment Banks in the world, where he specialized in financial instruments, pricing data, trading platforms and risk management solutions. He first started trading sports markets in early 2000, after the introduction and discovery of Betfair. He now trades the financial markets whilst working on entrepreneurial ventures with a focus on sports trading apps and e-commerce. He lives with his wife and young daughter and enjoys travelling (when permitted). In his spare time, he is writing a series of books, enjoys outdoor pursuits with his family, and of course, trading football markets.
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Diary of a Football Trader – Issue 27
In Issue 25, I showed the uses of xG (expected goals), and how it can be a useful instrument in your football match analysis tool-box. This week an article was published in one of the UK's broadsheet newspapers about another use it is being deployed for.
“In another case, a team suspected of fixing the match had no touches in the opposition box, suggesting a lack of intent and triggering an alert. A third match under review involves a late goal from a near-post corner following a large number of suspicious bets on the number of goals in the game. Although on the surface nothing appeared wrong with the players’ actions, investigators used tracking data to show the defending team’s set-up and movements were completely different for the final corner.” Source: The Guardian
If you are interested to read the whole article, it can be found here:
Match fixing is more prevalent in some countries than others, with South American and Eastern European leagues being an example as the most susceptible. The vast majority of the trade recommendations I make are based on the English Premier League, or if European cup games are selected they will usually involve a Premiership team. This is a conscious decision, because not only are the market’s liquidity in these matches far higher (meaning a fairer, more trade-able market), but these matches should be less likely to involve any outside forces of match manipulation. But that’s not to say it’s totally exempt, or approaches are not made. The player position that is probably most likely to be approached are goal-keepers.
One of the most famous exposes in Premier League history involved Liverpool (and then Southampton) goal-keeper, Bruce Grobbelaar of Zimbabwe. During covert recordings by a third party (financed by a British tabloid newspaper), it was heard how Grobbelaar arranged to let in goals for payment.
There were five matches – three with Liverpool and two with Southampton – which were deemed to be suspicious based on things Grobbelaar spoke of while unknowingly being recorded.
In one of the most memorable matches of the early Premier League era, Liverpool came back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 with their rivals Manchester United in January 1994. Grobbelaar was recorded saying he lost £125,000 by making two fantastic saves in the match, almost by accident. “I dived the wrong way and it fucking hit my hand,” he said.
Whatever the truth of what went on, this illustrates a clear flaw in any attempt at match fixing in football. Even if one player can be successfully paid off, there’s 10 others who will be giving everything they can to earn a positive result for their team.
Now going back to xG and what it was designed for. The table below shows the next set of Premier League fixtures, starting today with Wolves v Leeds. Using just the xG for both teams, the expected result is shown, as well as potential trading strategies that could be used for each match. For example, taking the first match, Wolves look likely to win. However, if you also combine this with each team’s average first goal-scoring minutes, Wolves is 51 minutes, whilst Leeds is 33 minutes. Therefore, a scenario is developed, where Leeds score first, yet Wolves come back in the second-half. This is actually exactly what happened in Wolves last match where they played Southampton, went a goal down and come back to win 2-1.
How this table fares with the listed fixtures remains to be seen, but the actual results and conclusion on whether the ‘high-level’ trade recommendations were profitable will be published next week.
Saturday, 13th February, 2021
Summary of Market Trading
Leicester City v Liverpool
Liverpool go in to this match as favourites, currently priced at 2.16, whereas Leicester are 3.7, with the draw also 3.7.
Given that Leicester have won just 2 of their last 5 home matches in the Premier League, combined with Liverpool's latest 1-3 away wins against decent opposition (Tottenham and West Ham), another away win looks most likely here for the defending Champions.
Add to that the fact that Leicester played midweek in the FA Cup, whilst Liverpool have been rested since their match last Sunday, and it makes an even more compelling case for Liverpool to take the 3 points here, at a high-value price.
The day before kick-off I placed a back position on ‘Liverpool’ for £100 at odds of 2.18. I expected this to get matched before the start, but Liverpool’s price kept dropping and it didn’t. At kick-off, their price is around 2, and I don’t have any matched trades in the match. As the match progresses to half-time and still 0-0, Liverpools price has risen again, and I backed them at 2.24 for £50. In the 67th minute, Liverpool score and so I close the trade for a £40 profit.
Because I couldn’t get matched initially at the desired price in the match odds market, I turned my attention to the over / under 2.5 and 3.5 goals markets, backing over 2.5 whilst laying over 3.5. These trades were then closed out to bank £137 profit.
In the end, this match actually ended 3-1 Leicester, with Alisson for Liverpool making some howling goal-keeping errors to allow the goals. However, even with the match odds trade backing Liverpool, with them scoring first and closing quickly, £177 was banked from this match.
Sunday, 14th February, 2021
West Bromwich Albion v Manchester United
Manchester United unexpectedly go in to this match as huge favourites, currently priced at just 1.33, whereas West Brom are 11, with the draw at 6.
Looking at other markets for potential value, backing over 2.5 goals is currently trading at 1.6, which still is not appealing, considering Manchester United have seen under this total in 3 of their last 5 away matches. More appealing, and currently at a better price is the Both Teams To Score (BTTS) market, favouring ‘No' at 1.93 (just earlier it was 1.97).
Considering that West Brom haven't scored in 4 of their last 5 home games, and have the lowest average xG at 0.71 per match, it really doesn't look likely they will be doing so against a title chasing Manchester United.
The day before kick-off, I took a back price on ‘No’ at 1.91 for £100. Now, all stats and analysis pointed to West Brom not scoring here. It was expected that Manchester United would score. However, in THE VERY FIRST MINUTE OF THE MATCH, AGAINST ALL ODD AND PREVIOUS FORM, West Brom score a goal! This is the worst start imaginable for this type of trade. I didn’t close this straight away, I let it continue to tick upwards to minimise the loss. Just before half-time I closed it, but then imagined that West Brom may now so strongly defend this lead that Manchester United don’t score. I then took a small position laying ‘Yes’ at 1.25. However, Fernandes scored a wonder volley goal and this was done for an £82 loss. The only consolations being that no further goals were scored, Manchester United dropped two points against a team almost bottom of the table, both were anomaly goals, and nine times out of ten this trade would have come good.
Monday, 15th February, 2021
Chelsea v Newcastle United
Chelsea unexpectedly go in to this match as huge favourites, currently priced at just 1.26, whereas Newcastle are 14, with the draw at 7.2.
Considering that Newcastle's top-scorer Wilson is not playing, combined with Chelsea's new defensive mind-set under their new manager, it does appear that Newcastle are unlikely to score here.
Looking at the markets for potential value, backing Both Teams To Score (BTTS) ‘No' is just 1.67, which is not a decent trade recommendation price.
Considering that Chelsea have seen under 2.5 goals in 4 of their last 5 matches, and Newcastle have a habit of not scoring, the under 2.5 market makes decent appeal at 2.4. This is further backed up by the fact that Newcastle have conceded more than 2 goals just once in their last 11 Premier League matches.
Over / Under 2.5
I took a back position on unders for £101 at average odds of 2.4. This was then traded out as the match progressed to reduce risk, and with the match ending 2-0 an £89 profit was made.
Tuesday, 16th February, 2021
Barcelona v Paris Saint-Germain (PSG)
Barcelona go in to this match as favourites, currently priced at just 2.06, whereas PSG are 3.65, with the draw at 4.
Looking at other markets for potential value, backing Both Teams To Score (BTTS) ‘Yes' is just 1.57, and over 2.5 goals is 1.63 – as much as I expect goals in this match, both of these market prices are not decent enough for a trade recommendation price.
Considering that PSG's top-scorer in the Champions League, Neymar is not playing, combined with their top assist maker (Di Maria) also ruled out, this game certainly favours Barcelona who are on an upswing in results. Neymar and Di Maria have combined for 10 goals and 11 assists in Ligue 1 this year and have a combined 1.19 xG per 90-minute rate. With these two being out, it will have a major effect on the PSG performance.
Before the start I took a back position on Barcelona at 2.06 for £100. As the match progressed goalless, and Barcelona’s price rose, I increased this position at various increments, including at 2.88. Barcelona scored first via a penalty, and the trade could have been closed for a decent profit. However, the expectation was that Barcelona would maintain / extend their lead. In fact, the opposite occurred and PSG even without two key players as mentioned above, went on to score four goals, including a Mbappe hat-trick. Barcelona on this performance look done in this competition, and in winning their league. Looking at this performance I would be surprised if they even qualify for the Champions League next year.
Wednesday, 17th February, 2021
Everton v Manchester City
Manchester City unexpectedly go in to this match as favourites, currently priced at just 1.36, whereas Everton are 10, with the draw at 5.9.
It's difficult to see how Everton will score against Manchester City without Calvert-Lewin on the pitch.
Manchester City have also been extremely good defensively over the last two months and haven’t allowed a goal to a team outside the top five sides, and lead the table in lowest goals conceded. In fact, based on expected goals, Manchester City created 36.09 xGF and only allowed its opponents to create 6.19 expected goals.
Therefore, BTTS ‘No' looks the value trade in this fixture at 1.86.
I took a lay position on ‘Yes’ for £91 at 2.12. The trade was looking in good health, even when Manchester City scored (penalty) in the 32nd minute. However, Everton unexpectedly equalized just five minutes later, and this trade was done for a £102 loss.
Thursday, 18th February, 2021
Benfica v Arsenal
It’s the return of the Europa League, and the match selected for today is Benfica v Arsenal.
Arsenal go in to this match as favourites, currently priced at just 2.36, whereas Benfica are 3.25, with the draw at 3.7.
This is basically a non-home match for both sides, considering they are playing in Rome, Italy (due to Covid-19 restrictions). Arsenal at the weekend brushed Leeds United aside winning 4-2, with Aubameyang scoring a hat-trick. This is after him coming back after being out due to personal family circumstances. I believe that we will see another good performance from the Arsenal striker and captain, and he will see the team to victory.
Arsenal should have too much for a Portuguese side just 4th in their division. They also have the disadvantage of not actually playing at home here.
The day before kick-off, I took a back position on Arsenal at 2.36 for £250. Shortly before kick-off, the price on Arsenal has fallen and the position is already showing over £50 profit if it were to be closed.
The below chart shows the steep fall in Arsenal's back price before kick-off:
As the match progresses and Arsenal are creating chances, it is now over £80 available. I use the opportunity to lower the risk by laying Arsenal at 1.8 for £100. Benfica then against the run of play are awarded a dubious penalty. Arsenal equalize two minutes later, but then spurn a good few chances to capitalize. With the match ending 1-1, this resulted in a £150 loss.
Friday, 19th February, 2021
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Leeds United
Wolves go in to this match as favourites, currently priced at 2.46, whereas Leeds are 3.2, with the draw at 3.45.
This should be an entertaining match, although it is difficult to call an outright winner. However, with Wolves top-scorers Neto and Neves expected to start, and with Bamford and Harrison for Leeds, goals should be expected. BTTS ‘Yes' is currently trading at 1.78 to back, whilst over 2.5 goals is hovering around 2.
Over / Under 2.5
Before kick-off I took a back position on overs at 1.99 for £100. As the match progressed goalless I increase this position further. Wolves eventually scored in the 64th minute, which takes the pressure off the trade a little. Minutes later, Leeds equalize via Bamford and it now looks game on, both for the trade and the game. However, VAR ruled him off-side and the goal was not allowed. I don’t agree with this decision, since it was too fine to call, and the rules state that advantage should be given to the attacking team. Here it wasn’t, and like myself, Patrick Bamford was rightfully aggrieved when he posted on Twitter after the game.
The match then remained 1-0 (with Wolves even taking the ball to the corner flag with 10 minutes to go, and the goal-keeper being booked for time-wasting) and made a £145 loss in this market.
I’m happy that the last week is now behind us and a fresh week starts again, tomorrow. Sometimes weeks like this do happen, where every single possible thing in a match seems to go against form, odds and expectations. But even when things like this happen, there are still lessons that can be learned and carried forward, helping you to make better trading decisions. My main one’s from this week, and in no particular order are:
– Avoid matches involving Leeds United. They are too unpredictable to base any solid trade upon.
– Liverpool are also slowly moving in to the above category
– Arsenal are not far behind Liverpool
– Manchester City currently look unstoppable, and should be considered at even short-odds
– Chelsea look like a decent Manchester City reserve team, in that they will grind out a win whilst not conceding
Enjoy the rest of your weekend, stay safe, and stay profitable.
ProTrader started his career and fascination with the financial markets as an Index Analyst at FTSE. He has since consulted for 15 years for some of the top Financial Institutions and Investment Banks in the world, where he specialized in financial instruments, pricing data, trading platforms and risk management solutions. He first started trading sports markets in early 2000, after the introduction and discovery of Betfair. He now trades the financial markets whilst working on entrepreneurial ventures with a focus on sports trading apps and e-commerce. He lives with his wife and young daughter between their homes of London, Sardinia, Odessa and Sochi. In his spare time, he is writing a book, enjoys outdoor pursuits with his family, learning Russian and of course, trading football markets.