By Aidan Elder | Chief Sports Writer
We’re giddy with excitement. It’s what Christmas Eve felt like before we realised the only magical thing happening that night was dad’s ability to consume several gallons of alcohol and not fall in a heap on the Christmas tree.
The new Premier League season is upon us and it’s hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm. Even though experience tells you it’ll end about as well as Ron Atkinson’s punditry career, the blind optimism we experience in the last few days before the new season is irresistible. This could be the year. Better start Googling ‘open top bus rental’ now.
As we all know, it doesn’t take long before the hopes are crushed with the first weekend of the season often being the crematory of unrealistic dreams. Even if your team begins with a win, it’s rarely in the Harlem Globetrotters of football-style you dreamt of during those summer months. Without wanting to offend anyone due the semantics of what constitutes ‘the Big Six’, here’s the Paddy Power Blog report on how the top six teams in the Premier League betting have performed in their first game of the season for the last 20 years.
Seeing Manchester United are the most successful team on the opening day of the Premier League season is about as shocking as hearing Joey Barton use a quote he doesn’t fully understand. As you’d expect from the 12 times Premier League winners, they hit the ground running better than most.
Fergie has rarely had to crank up the hairdryer on the first day of the season. Thanks to moments like David Beckham’s curtains haircut lobbing Neil Sullivan from the halfway line, the Red Devils have started their league campaign with a win 65 per cent of the time, drawing 20 per cent of the time and losing 15 per cent. United to wait until Monday to begin this campaign against Everton. Their record is a reason for confidence, even if their most recent defensive display against the Toffees isn’t.
Chelsea’s record in the first game of the season is impressive, especially in recent years. And it’s a record that pre-dates Roman Abramovich’s decision to shower the club in his billions. The Pensioners haven’t lost their opening assignment since 1998 when Dion Dublin stopped thinking about inventing the Dube long enough to score what turned out to be the winner at Highfield Road. Since then, they’ve amassed a record of 11 wins and two draws on their first outing and that contributes heavily to their impressive 60 per cent over the last 20 years. That’s a nice stat to take into a potentially tricky tie away to Wigan on Sunday.
Arsenal’s opening day form can be split up into two categories – pre-Wenger and with Wenger. Before the then little-known Frenchman rocked up at Highbury in 1996, the Gunners won just two of their first five Premier League opening day fixtures. Since then though, opening day defeats are rarer than an Arsenal player in the pub. Wenger has kicked off the new season with a defeat just once during his 16 years at the club. 60 per cent of the time, Arsenal’s Premier League campaign has begun with a win and they’re 2/5 to improve that record by beating Sunderland at the Emirates on Saturday.
Liverpool have won half their games on the opening day of the Premier League season. Ironically, their best opening day of the season form ran right through the height of the Spice Boys era and into the new millennium. Between 1993 and 2002, Liverpool won eight and drew two of their ten opening games of the season. It was only when they broke out the white suits and started partying with Posh, Scary and Co that the results started to dip towards another season of disappointment.
In the 20 years of the Premier League, the Reds have only lost three of their first outings which compares favourably with United, Chelsea and Arsenal, but their habit of dropping points via the medium of the disheartening draw has been costly. They’ve won just two of their last nine opening day assignments, drawing five and losing two. Liverpool’s overall win rate of 50 per cent isn’t bad, but might just have you thinking a win over West Brom at the Hawthorns isn’t an absolute banker.
Considering they spent much of the last 20 years scrapping against relegation and thinking Paul Dickov counted as a top quality striker, Manchester City haven’t too badly first time out. The record includes their drops to the artists formerly known as Division 2 and Division 3, but overall still isn’t too bad. City have only lost 30 per cent of their opening day fixtures against 35 per cent win and draw rates. But with the injection of cash from Sheikh Mansour, applying the historical stats to the present day version of City is about as useful as Wayne Bridge’s right foot. All things considered, they tend to start the season relatively well and it’s hard to see that changing when they host new arrivals, Southampton.
For a club with a proud tradition of thinking it’s the early 60s and they’re still a force to be reckoned with, Tottenham have generally disappointed first time out on the Premier League era. 40 per cent of their opening fixtures have ended in defeat and a further 30 per cent have resulted in draws. That’s 70 per cent of ‘not winning’.
To somewhat defend the White Hart Lane outfit, they haven’t always been the strongest of teams over that period. But to snatch away the crumb of comfort, they’ve won one, drawn one and lost four of their last six opening games of the season – a period when they’re generally considered to be on the up. Their chances of improving that record look dubious this time around as they’ve been handed a tricky trip to Newcastle first up.