Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Let's Bet On Big Zlatan

We've never placed a season-long soccer bet. Normally, that's something we reserve for college football (see my last post).

But this season might be different, because the most popular team in England signed the most eccentric player in the world. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will don a Manchester United kit for the first time later this month, and it will be a glorious debut.

The line on his goals for the Premier League season, however, is set at just 14.5 on Bovada. That seems really low to me, and I'm thinking we might be able to (1) make some money and (2) get even more Saturday morning enjoyment while watching one of the best teams in the world.

The line being 14.5 poses two questions:

  • How many goals do ManU's strikers normally score?
  • How many goals does Zlatan normally score?
Let's start with the big guy first, and then look at his new team and league.


Zlatan Ibrahimovic

I'm going to include all major competitions in the last three years because I want to be able to use as large a sample size as possible. 

2016 Euro Cup (and Qualifiers): 11 goals in 13 games
2015-16 with PSG (Ligue 1): 38 goals in 31 games
2015-16 with PSG (Champions League): 5 goals in 10 games

2014-15 with PSG (Ligue 1): 18 goals in 24 games
2014-15 with PSG (Champions League): 2 goals in 6 games

2013-14 with PSG (Ligue 1): 26 goals in 33 games
2013-14 with PSG (Champions League): 10 goals in 8 games

Overall, that's 110 goals in 125 games, or 0.88 goals per game. The EPL season is 38 matches long, meaning he'd blow past the 14.5 total before Christmas if he kept his usual pace. That's an easy bet, right?

Manchester United's Goal Scorers

It's not quite so simple when you look at Man United's stat sheet from last season:


Zlatan is probably better than all of these players, especially when it comes to pure goal scoring, but is the team capable of generating enough offense to allow him to score 15+ goals? Overall, the team scored just 46 goals in EPL play. And what's even more concerning is there wasn't a single Forward who played more than 30 games (Martial led the way with an even 30). 

So if our boy Zlatan is only playing 30 games or so, and they're only scoring 30-35 goals in those games, is he good enough to score half of them with Rooney, Martial, Mata, Rashford, and Memphis breathing down his neck? 

It's really tough to envision him matching his goal totals from France on this United squad. Perhaps, though, this disparity is rooted less in the Red Devils and more in the English league as a whole. 

Premier League Goal Scoring


Last season, in their 38 matches, PSG led Ligue 1 with 102 goals (2.68 goals per game). They were, however, a large outlier, as the next-highest-scoring team was Olympique Lyonnais with 67 (1.76 per game). In Ligue 1 as a whole, 960 goals were scored. 

Manchester City led the was in the EPL last year with 71 goals (1.87 goals per game). But between all 20 league teams, they combined for 1026.


So, excluding the dominance of PSG, England is actually more scoring-friendly. I went through the league tables for France's Ligue 1 and the English Premier League last season - here's the comparison:


Essentially, the bottom half of both leagues was the same in terms of goal-scoring. Troyes brought up the rear in France with just 28 goals for the season (0.74 per game), and Aston Villa did the same in England with 27 goals (0.71 goals per game). Those two teams are now in shittier leagues. 

The whole Over/Under 14.5 goals bet really boils down to one question - how much of PSG's offensive dominance was caused by Zlatan? He scored 38 of the 102 goals and assisted on 13 more. He shared the field with Edinson Cavani (19 goals) and Angel Di Maria (10 goals), and even young Lucas Mora (9 goals) would have ranked highly on ManU's stat sheet. 

The difference between PSG's 102 goals and United's paltry 49 was Zlatan-Cavani-ADM combining for 67 and Martial-Rooney-Mata combining for just 25. That is a HUGE difference - and my bet would be Zlatan is a big part of it. 

Questions To Ask Ourselves

  • Do we want to bet on soccer and commit to watching it on weekend mornings and weekday afternoons?
  • Do we like Zlatan as an athlete/character?
  • Do we think that at least a third of PSG's offensive trio's output was generated or caused by Zlatan?
  • Do we think Zlatan is better than Anthony Martial and/or Wayne Rooney?
The obvious answer to all of these questions in a resounding YES, so please go ahead and sign me up for Zlatan Over 14.5 EPL goals (-105). 

1 comment:

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