Betting behind closed doors: How lockdown has changed football

The return of football may have been welcomed with open arms after the almost global suspension in mid-March but, while it’s far better than nothing, let’s not kid ourselves into thinking everything is the same.

Yes, we can opt to have crowd noises pumped through our television speakers and the stadiums are filled with virtual avatars enjoying the game from the comfort of their own homes, but the lack of fans has an unavoidable impact on the players and teams themselves.

There was no roar from the Kop as Liverpool thrashed Crystal Palace in their final game before being crowned Premier League champions, and the Stretford End remained eerily silent when an Anthony Martial masterclass helped Manchester United to a 3-0 thumping of Sheffield United.

The changes don’t end there, though – these high performance athletes have just spent three months confined to their own homes before being thrust back into the hyper-competitive world of elite football. The already massive physical demands have been put on steroids due to the congested fixture list, and a one minute water break per half is unlikely to make much of a dent on that.

This undoubtedly has an effect on players, but the burning question is: How much of an effect does it have?

That’s what we’re here to answer. From home advantage to goalscoring to slow first half starts, we’ve dived into a pool of data from the Premier League, Championship, Bundesliga, Serie A and La Liga to determine how football and betting has changed in the post-lockdown world. As a note, this article includes results up to Tuesday, June 30th.

Remember, you can keep up to date with all our betting tips and analysis on our football predictions page.

Has home advantage disappeared?

This is one of the more obvious hypotheses. Many teams build their entire campaigns around turning their home into a fortress; a cauldron of fervent fans amplifying the performance of the home side and causing the visiting opposition to wilt under the hostile atmosphere.

But has that actually happened? Well, see for yourself:

Home win, draw, away win behind closed doors

Yes, it most certainly has.

Every league apart from Serie A has seen a significant reduction in the number of home wins, and all five of the leagues in question have seen a boost in away victories.

The most affected so far seems to be the Championship, where home wins have reduced by a massive 10% on the season average and away wins have increased by 6%.

The Bundesliga – the league with the biggest sample size – also saw a big shift and, interestingly, nine of the 26 home wins (35%) were won by teams that finished in the top four. In fact, across all leagues, 29 of the 80 home victories (36%) came from teams in the top four of the division.

The conclusion: Home advantage no longer makes up for a gulf in genuine quality.

Betting tip – Back undervalued away teams

The percentage of draws has remained relatively unchanged so, with the biggest increase being seen in away wins, backing the visitors for the outright victory is something to consider.

This can be especially useful when they’re travelling to teams renowned for their home form, where the bookies might put too much faith in the hosts’ previously impeccable home record.

Slow starts and fewer goals

If you’ve spent any time watching the Premier League since the restart you’ll probably have noticed the sedentary starting pace. In fact, in most cases you could’ve probably saved 45 minutes of your time and not bothered tuning in until the second half.

58% of the 26 games since Project Restart kicked into action have been goalless at the break compared to a 29% average over the course of the season. There has been an average of 0.65 first half goals, another significant drop from the 1.18 season average.

Unsurprisingly this has caused a drop off in the total number of goals, but do the other top leagues match up?

Total goals and first half goals post lockdown

There has certainly been a noticeable drop off in the total number of goals being scored, with the exception of Serie A (you’ll start to see a pattern emerge from Italy here).

Four of the five leagues studied show a reduction in the average number of goals, but the biggest shift is clearly from the English game. The Premier League has dropped from 2.67 goals per game to 2.15, while the Championship has seen a similar drop from 2.62 to 2.29 goals per game.

The issue with slow starts seems confined to the shores of England as well. Both the Premier League (1.18 to 0.65) and the Championship (1.12 to 0.87) have seen a huge drop in the number of first half goals, while the Bundesliga held firm and both Italy and Spain actually increased their first half goal averages.

Betting tip – Look to second half goals in England

While almost all leagues are experiencing some drop off in the total number of goals, England seems to be paving the way for low scoring affairs. However, this is largely confined to the first half of games, with the average number of second half goals (1.50) hovering around the same as the overall season average.

With this in mind, it’s worth looking into the 2nd half most goals market.

Over 2.5 and BTTS taking a hit?

The overall reduction in the number of goals being scored obviously means that there could be a knock on effect on two of the most popular betting markets around: The Over 2.5 Goals market and the Both Teams to Score market.

There are a couple of potential reasons for this, but the main one is likely to be a result of the lack of intensity. With no roaring crowd urging teams to push forward there could be a reduced appetite for goals.

Winning teams can sit back and protect their lead without any fear of crowd retribution, while teams on the losing side don’t get that blast of encouragement from the terraces.

BTTS and Overs post lockdown

Once again, four of the five leagues studied all suffered a reduction in the number of games that saw BTTS and Over 2.5 Goals land. And, once again, it was that pesky Serie A that proved to be the outlier.

Serie A has actually seen a significant uptick in the number of games where both teams found the net (77% compared to 61% season average), while Over 2.5 goals increased to 73% from 60%.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Premier League has been the hardest hit when it comes to BTTS with a massive 24% drop off. Over 2.5 Goals has seen a less significant reduction, although the Championship’s Over 2.5 Goals fall is a relatively large 10%.

Betting tip: Look to Italy for goals

Serie A has proved to be the exception throughout this study, but the difference in Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams to Score percentages are the most significant of the lot.

Both teams have scored in 16% more games than before lockdown, while there has been a 13% rise in games featuring three or more goals. Atalanta, Inter Milan and Juve have continued to bang in the goals despite the lack of crowd support, and it certainly seems like the Italy-based defenders have forgotten all they know during the three-month break in play.

Indeed, the general quality of defending in Serie A has been evident all season. Only Juventus and Lazio have conceded less than a goal per game this season and all of the many attack-minded teams have come back playing exceptionally well. There have been a total of just six clean sheets in the 26 games since the resumption, so Italy is definitely the country to turn to when it comes to goals.

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