Considering the current application of the handball rule in the Premier League, I will track the returns to ‘anytime goals’ for the primary set-piece takers for each club over the forthcoming weeks. This is in the tradition of various entries on this blog over the years that have looked at ‘beating the bookies’ using systematic decision-rules.
My motivation is the sharp increase in the number of penalties being awarded. In the EPL 2019-20 season there was 92 penalties awarded, 19 of which were for handball. Out of 28 games so far this season there has been 20 penalties awarded, 6 of which were handballs.
Sky Sports forecast that, at the current rate of penalty awards, there would be 292 given by the end of the season – surely this is good news for set-piece takers? To put that number in perspective, over the past five seasons the highest annual count of penalties was in the 2016-17 season at 106. On average over the last five seasons 94 penalties have been awarded - 3 gameweeks in, we're a fifth of the way there.
So, is there money to be made from the increase in penalties awarded in the EPL or has the market incorporated the information already? Lets find out.
I’m taking the first penalty taker as defined by the Premier League fantasy football game for the twenty clubs and the odds from a well-known bookmaker. I’ll also control for any injuries i.e. Richarlison is likely to miss out this weekend for Everton due to injury.
It will be a €1 stake on each penalty taker and a €20 weekly bet in total. Of course, these players could return outside of penalties too. For the forthcoming week the betting odds probabilities range from 4/5 (Aubameyang anytime goal scorer) to 13/1 (Norwood anytime goal scorer).
All of this is assuming continuity in the application of the current rule going forward. The cynic in me thinks a better bet would be that words (in private) will be had with referees’ to ease up. Shame there’s not a price for that, it would probably be odds on if Sky's projections are correct!