This article is part of our Betting on Soccer series.
I'll make this easy: most of the things I'm covering in this article were talked about in the weekly Kits & Wagers podcast. That's what happens when you write an article after podcasting. If you don't like podcasts, continue reading.
The main thing discussed in the podcast is that schedules matter a lot when betting in-season futures. A month ago, Mikel Arteta was a massive favorite to be the first manager to be sacked and Arsenal were favored to finish in the bottom half of the table. After a nice run of fixtures, Arsenal are middle of the table, Arteta hasn't been sacked and they are -1000 to finish in the top half. If you want to bet futures, these are the things to look at.
On that precedent, it makes the most sense to bet Chelsea at +275 to win the league. They've already gotten points from tough matchups (at Arsenal, at Liverpool) and their upcoming schedule may be best in the league, with Brentford, Norwich, Newcastle and Burnley up next. Chelsea are already top of the table and could be more than three points ahead of second place by the next international break. If you think Chelsea are going to win the league, now is the time to bet them.
Manchester City are -120 at the moment and their schedule is also mostly favorable. I think these two will be above everyone else in the table by a few points a month from now, but Chelsea could gain a point or two on City if things go to plan. I still like Liverpool to win the league, but their odds could jump after a slightly more difficult run of matches. My guess is that Man City will be around +120, Chelsea around +200 and Liverpool at +500 in the next international break.
The funniest thing for top-of-the-table numbers is that Arsenal have the fifth-best odds (+650) to finish in the top four. I guess it's because there isn't really a set fifth team, but it's still funny after their first few results.
For top-half finishes, I like a couple underdogs to make some noise. Brentford are +165 to finish top half, which is pretty good considering they are tied for seventh right now. Brentford have a decent bench and seem to fight every match. I think that's enough to bet on them as an underdog (I already have them to be the best of the promoted sides, which was +110 before the season). As of now, it seems like they can take points from anyone at home, including Chelsea in their next match, and they also have a nice schedule after that game.
With the same strategy, I took Wolves at +330 last month and they're now +175 to finish top half. Southampton are more of a long shot at +400 and the more I talk about it, it probably makes less sense. The upcoming schedule is nice, but James Ward-Prowse is suspended for a few of those and their inconsistent play over the last year is hard to back. Still, they finished 11th in the table two seasons ago, and that was behind both Sheffield United and Burnley. Look how far the league has come.
I'll continue to take Norwich to finish bottom of the table as long as they're at plus odds, currently +105, depending on the site. They were +250 last month and I don't think it's getting better for them. They're the only team in the league that hasn't really shown some kind of spark of quality.
As more of a fade, I think Leicester City +200 to finish bottom half of the table is worth a look, maybe as a hedge after I took them to finish as the top club outside of the top six teams in previous articles. They'll probably figure things out at some point because they have the depth, but something isn't clicking for them. They're struggling on the back line and only recently moved Kelechi Iheanacho into the starting XI. Combine that with Europa League competition and I'm not sure how much better they are than some of the mid-table teams.
Similar to the team odds, I don't think now is the time to bet Mohamed Salah at +225 to finish with the most goals. He's great and everything, but a tough upcoming schedule won't help his odds and you still have to account for the Africa Cup of Nations in January when he'll miss three matches. I think there's a chance Romelu Lukaku gets on a run with a favorable set of matches, and he'll again be the favorite in a month. If you like him, now is the time to bet him at +300 odds.
Cristiano Ronaldo's odds will always be juiced, which is why I'll pass on him at +310. Unlike Lukaku, he's old and isn't guaranteed to start every match, as seen in the draw against Everton.
Jamie Vardy is a reasonable shot at +1000 if you don't like the favorites, but he's another guy creeping up in age. The hope is that he doesn't start any Europa League match, allowing him to stay fresh for the league. He scored 15 goals last season, but his overall numbers weren't much different from prior years. He's currently on 2.90 shots per 90 minutes, compared to 2.59 last season and 2.64 the year before that when he had 23 goals. He's an underdog, and this kind of goes against my Leicester play from earlier, but it's something to consider. That said, given his schedule, I wonder if it's better to wait until the next international break, as Leicester have a run of Watford, Southampton, Villa and Newcastle at the beginning of December.