Looking at the way different football teams actually play football can often be rewarding when deciding on your football bets.
The bare form doesn’t always tell the full story and in a way you can back up statistics with predictions on how the teams you bet on are going to play and which players are actually available.
A team with many players missing through injury is different than a team with full players.
One such example is the recent 0-0 for Liverpool v Man Utd in the 23-24 season. The same fixture the year before was won by Liverpool was won 7-0.
For this fixture Man Utd were out of form, struggling and had a long list of injured and suspended players. So why was this not an easy win for a Liverpool side who would go top of the premier league with a win?
The odds certainly suggested it would be, as did the stats.
The key factor was Man Utd switched to using a Low Block and a 4-4-2 formation rather than there usual open and attacking football they are known for.
It was not that Liverpool weren’t offensively strong, they had 34 shots and could easily have won the game.
Teams adopt a low block tactic to ensure its as difficult to score against them as possible. If you split the pitch into thirds, they are effectively concetrating on protecting their defensive third remaining compact and deep. Its a tactic you might take as a lower league side or bottom of the league team football team would take when competing against a team they have no chance against offensively.
The advantage of this tactic is that it makes it difficult for the opposition to score, the disadvantage is that it is also difficult for you to score as you largely play in your own half. Man Utd effectively had Garnacho and Anthony as 2nd full-backs and Mctominay in attacking midfield with no striker. Its a negative and unpopular style of football, often referred to as “parking the bus”. It is however an effective tactic to protect leads and to run down the clock. In Man Utd’s case it seems it was used to protect another 7-0 humiliation, and in this respect it worked perfectly.
So how do we use this information to bet? If we expect a struggling team might use low block tactics and this has flyed under the radar of the common consensus in terms of odds and stats we might focus on goal related bets. Bets such as under 2.5 or Asian handicap + bets would have made sense on Manchester United. Under 2.5 paid a staggering 3.1 odds, going to show how wrong the bookies got this game. You could have also give Man Utd a 1 goal advantage via Asian Handicap, which would have paid out 2.68 odds for the draw and would have returned your stake should Liverpool have scored a goal.
To summarise. A few indications to guess whether a team would switch to “parking the bus”…
Injuries. With many missing players it makes sense for a team to play more cautiously. This style of football indicates fewer goals.
Manager under Pressure. A manager not performing well sometimes will throw caution to the wind to avoid more painful losses.
Facing a strong opponent. If the team thinks they can’t win, they will try to not lose. Simple as that.
Not all teams follow this pattern. You only have to look at the way Tottenham play to understand that even successive losses, losing leads and injuries do not always change the style of play for manager Ange Postecoglou who religiously prefers a high press and throwing players forward. It makes for exciting football but is sometimes perhaps tactically naive. Bets on a Tottenham match might focus on a high goal count or both team to score.