If you are going to bet on football, just like any other sport, then it is a good idea to devise a strategy first rather than just betting on games on a whim or a “feeling” of how it is going to go.
It is very unlikely you will beat the bookies just by putting a few teams in an acca each weekend. Doing so just hands more and more money to the bookmakers over time.
On the other hand if you want to join the elite professionals who make money from their soccer betting it takes skill, dedication and most of all a solid strategy.
Below we take look at some potential football betting strategies you could use to assist your betting.
Strategy One: Focusing on Home and Away Form
First up we have a strategy that focuses on the nuances of home and away form.
There are some teams that for one reason or another do much better on home turf and even a few that do better when travelling to play away. However, the odds for football matches are normally based on a team’s overall form and not on the specific home/away disparity they may have. Let’s have a look at some examples:
Valencia are an example of this phenomenon. If we take their results from the 2020/21 season from soccerstats, you can see that they were strong at home with eight wins, seven draws and just 4 defeats. That included wins against Real Madrid, Villareal and Celta Vigo.
However, their away form was almost the reverse, with just two wins on their travels all season. They suffered 6 draws and 11 defeats.
In the La Liga Home/Away table for the season, Valencia were the seventh-best team when at home, but the second worst in terms of their away form.
That is a significant discrepancy and may be down to the intimidating atmosphere at the Mestalla, a stadium usually packed to its 55,000 capacity and known as one of the toughest places to play at in La Liga. It may also be that Valencia’s playing style is particularly effective at home.
From a betting point of view, generally the odds will just reflect the supremacy between the two teams rather than the specific difference between their home and away form. So you could potentially get good value on Valencia when playing at home, and good value opposing them when they are away.
There are many examples like this. Sheffield Utd in the 2020/21 season of the Premier League were an example of a very poor away side, winning just 2 out of 19 away games all season, drawing 1 and losing 16.
That equated to a loss rate of 84%. Yet when playing mid-table sides or even other lower-table sides, you would have got considerably better odds than 1.2 on Sheff Utd losing – which is the approximate odds they should have been based on an 84% loss rate.
There are many examples like this throughout the leagues. Whether it’s sides with a particularly strong record or particularly weak one, often there are reasons for it.
Summary: by studying a website such as soccerstats you can get some very useful information about teams’ home and away records. There is great value to be had in focusing on these records and using them in your betting.
Strategy Two: Opposing out-of-form “Big Name” Teams
One of the surest way to profit from football is to oppose big name teams when they are out of form. The markets generally do not catch up with their form and are pricing these teams almost solely on their name recognition.
A great example of this has come in the last few seasons of the Premier League.
Arsenal have generally struggled since Arsene Wenger left the club. They have been through a series of managers since then, but with little success.
Here are their league finishes over the last few seasons:
- 2020/21: 8th
- 2019/20: 8th
- 2018/19: 5th
- 2017/18: 6th
They have failed to qualify for the Champions League in any of these seasons and have been well below previous levels.
Looking at the 20/21 season for example, they suffered some very poor results at home, including losses to Wolves, Burnley, Aston Villa, Everton and Leicester.
However, they were still priced as if they were the Arsenal of old and likely to dominate the game. Against Leicester for example they were priced at just under evens (1.97 in decimal odds), even though Leicester were a strong side and actually finished above them (fifth) in the table that season.
And against Burnley for example they were priced at under 1/2 (or 1.5 in decimal odds), whilst Burnley were over 6/1 (7.0).
Arsenal proceeded to lose both of those game in ignominious fashion, despite being odds-on favourites and still priced up like they were one of the dominant teams in English football. In other words they were priced up as much on name value as on actual form, which wasn’t good at the time.
Now these trends may change of course and there are signs that Arsenal may be gradually improving this season under manager Mikel Arteta.
This is not the only example of this phenomenon however and there are plenty of opportunities all the time to profit from market overestimation of big name teams. Barcelona are a classic example of this. They have been in decline for a while following a period of unprecedented success, but after Messi left the club they were in disarray and just a shadow of their former selves.
This “name value” can also work in another way – by making very good teams with little name recognition go “under the radar” for quite some time before the market catches up.
Good examples of this include Leicester’s title-winning side in 2015-16, who were consistently underrated throughout the season but kept producing good results.
Lille are another example with their title win in 2020-21 defying all the odds to overcome PSG to win Ligue 1. Their coach that season, Christophe Galtier, worked wonders in molding a team of players that were tough to beat whilst being clinical going forward, without spending huge sums like their rivals from Paris. He has continued to show his credentials at Nice in the 2021/22 season, whilst Lille have struggled since he left.
That shows another point, which is the importance of managers and not to presume a team will continue to perform as well – or as badly – after a manager has left them.
Another example of an undervalued lesser-name club is Athletico Madrid, who for many seasons were underrated by the market as Diego Simeone worked magic to turn them into contenders for major titles without spending huge sums on transfers.
Normally the market does eventually catch up to teams like Athletico Madrid and Lille prices them as they should be. You won’t find much value on these teams now, but there is often a good season or more of value to be had whilst punters come to terms with the quality of these “lesser lights.”
Summary: There is great value to be had by opposing “big name” teams who are out of form and backing high quality lesser-known teams. This should not be based on just short runs of form like four or five games, when any team can hit a good or bad run of form, but stronger underlying trends over a season or even a number of seasons. The great thing is that value can be had over long periods by following this betting strategy.
Strategy Three: Opposing Teams who Need to Win
One of the biggest myths in football is that teams who need to win, more often than not, do win.
This is simply not true and there is a great opportunity to profit from this popular misconception. The vast majority of the time, bookies will price up teams who have to win to secure promotion, avoid relegation etc, much shorter than they would normally be during the main season. This is in expectation of an avalanche of money for such teams as punters pile in, sure in their view that because these teams need to win, they will.
Writing in The Definitive Guide to Betting on Sport, Kevin Pullein comprehensively refutes this theory with data from 10 seasons of the English Championship and League One. Pullein points out that “these promotion-hunting teams did worse in May, when they played their last few games, than they did in any other month of the season.”
If the theory that teams who need to win generally do held up, then you would expect the opposite to be true – they should win more games in May.
Rubbing salt in the wound of proponents of this theory, Pullein goes on “Over the years in the Racing Post, I have produced a number of similar graphs, each one depicting the results achieved by a different group of teams who were either chasing promotion or running away from relegation. And they all pointed to exactly the same conclusion – that teams who need to win in the final few weeks of the season are no more likely to do so than they are at any other time.”
If you think about it, the theory rests on two presumptions – both of which the evidence suggest are likely to be false.
The first is that teams who need to win will be trying harder than they were for the rest of season. But that presumes they weren’t trying in previous weeks. Despite popular notions that footballers are overpaid and underworked, to suggest that they are consistently not trying when they run out in front of thousands of fans and millions watching on TV, doing the thing most of them love and are very competitive about, does not stand up to scrutiny.
Secondly, it presumes pressure will produce better performances. But often in life pressure can do the opposite – those who regularly watch sports like golf and snooker will be used to seeing players missing shots under the extreme pressure of winning a tournament or maintaining their tour status that they would never miss during a practice session or less intense playing situation.
The same may well be the case in football. Sven Goran Eriksson is quoted as saying he has seen a number of players who will make 99% of penalties in training but only make around 60% in actual matches.
Pressure may actually hinder players from producing their best then, rather than inspiring them. Certainly the statistics would seem to back this up.
Summary: At the end of the season, there is a great opportunity to profit from the strategy of opposing teams who need to win when their odds are shorter than they would normally be during the main season.
Strategy Four: Using Expected Goals to Find Value
One of the main statistical developments in football in recent years is the use of expected goals, often shortened to “xG.”
We have discussed what this means and how it works here, but essentially it is a metric for measuring how many goals a team would be expected to score (or concede) in a game based on the number of shots, chances, corners and so on they had in a game. If for example a team scored one goal but their xG was 3.0, you could say they were unlucky, or missed some good chances. Or conversely if a team scored four goals but their xG was 2.0, you could say they were lucky and must have taken their chances very well.
Advocates of xG say it provides a way of gauging performance and over time teams that grossly over- or under-performing their xG will tend to revert to the mean.
A betting service that has built a model around xG data is +EV Football. It uses xG data for teams and leagues to build a supremacy for each match based on the Asian handicap odds. If this supremacy represents value against the odds then it becomes a bet. The strategy has shown promising results so far and is one we are monitoring with interest.
Summary: A number of tipsters and betting professionals use xG to aid their research and analysis of matches. It gives a good picture of teams’ form and is a good place to build further research from. It can be used from both an attacking and defensive point of view to see how teams are performing and any stand-out figures in the xG – in terms of teams either over-performing or under-performing – could point towards a value bet.
Strategy Five: Backing Teams after Playing in Europe
There seems to be almost universally-accepted wisdom that teams are liable to suffer a dip in form after playing in European games – either the Champions League or Europa League – and should therefore be opposed.
You often hear pundits talking about how tired teams will be after playing in Europe, how it will have “taken a lot out of them” and there will surely be a reaction.
However, once again the evidence simply does not back this up. Kevin Pullein presents data from seven seasons of Premiership teams playing in European fixtures.
And guess what? Not only does their performance not dip after playing in Europe, but actually slightly improves. Teams won 49% of games after playing in Europe versus 48% over the course of the season.
If we think about it, is this really that surprising? We are talking about highly paid, elite athletes with some of the best training facilities and medical and fitness teams in the world making sure they are in prime physical condition.
Plus of course, half of European games are played at home, so don’t involve any travel. Even those that do, a lot of them will be to venues close by in Europe like France, Spain and Germany – not the most arduous places to visit.
Summary: There can be value in backing teams after they have played in Europe. There is a common misconception that their form will suffer following a European game, but the statistics do not back this up.
Conclusion – Football Betting Strategy
Making a profit on football is tough and if you want to do so, it is vital to have a good strategy first. Just betting willy-nilly or on your gut instinct is unlikely to lead to success. A carefully thought-out strategy that seeks value in the odds is the only way to profit in the long run.
Above we have set out a variety of football betting strategies for you to consider. This is by no means an exhaustive list and there are countless strategies you could devise. Hopefully though these have given you some ideas for how to approach building a strategy.
Plus you can always try out some free football tips if you are struggling to devise your own strategy!
Either way we hope you have found this article useful and please remember to always gamble responsibly.