5 futures bets to make for the 2021-22 Premier League season
As the sun rises on another Premier League campaign, it's time to lock in those futures bets while hoping for a healthy payout in nine months.
Here are my five favorite value bets - with a few bonuses along the way - to make before the 2021-22 season begins.
Brighton finish top 10 (+175)
This bet won't be surprising to the analytics crowd, as Brighton were a force last season according to the underlying numbers, despite a 16th-place finish.
The Seagulls posted a minus-6 goal differential even with a +13.91 xGD, the Premier League's fifth-best mark. They also managed the third-best xGD at home - after Manchester City and Chelsea - but collected only 21 of a possible 57 points at the Amex.
The club's finishing can be questioned, but plenty of bad luck factors into such a discrepancy. Brighton's inability to win games it dominates became almost comical last season, leaving the team languishing in the bottom third when it deserved to be fighting for a European place. Graham Potter has done an excellent job despite what the standings may indicate, and now Brighton simply needs to stay the course and better results will follow.
The arrival of box-to-box midfielder Enock Mwepu will help lighten the load on Yves Bissouma, and another striker is expected to be signed before the window closes to complement the likes of Neal Maupay and Leandro Trossard.
Supporters returning to the hostile Amex will also help the club's home form, as the Seagulls - an excellent pressing group - are primed to press their way into the first top-10 Premier League finish in club history.
Bonus bet: Brighton over 46.5 points (-125)
Everton finish bottom 10 (+125)
If Brighton is going to climb into the top 10, another club needs to give way. Carlo Ancelotti departed Goodison Park at the end of last season after Everton failed to live up to lofty expectations following a summer spending spree. Now optimism has changed to unrest as Liverpool legend Rafael Benitez replaces him - a decision Everton supporters were universally against.
Benitez's resume speaks for itself, and while he could be the man to turn things around, the 61-year-old will first need to rebuild the squad. James Rodriguez and Moise Kean headline a growing list of expected departures amid a very quiet transfer window, which would leave the club quite thin in the attacking half. Holding on to gold-medalist Richarlison will be essential.
The Spaniard's position is certainly unenviable. The board's lofty expectations remain, but Benitez wasn't afforded the extravagant spending of his predecessor. He's already on thin ice with supporters who didn't want him, and now Benitez needs to repurpose a patchwork squad without reinforcements.
While a slow start is to be expected, it might not be tolerated.
Bonus bet: Everton under 53.5 points (-130)
Norwich over 36.5 points (+100)
Following a one-year leave from the Premier League, Norwich are back in the top flight and keen to prove they belong after being relegated at the end of the 2019-20 season. Daniel Farke is a smart and fearless manager, and he's surely learned a lot after the Canaries' last big-league bout. His team should be better positioned for success during this go-around.
This is the 11th time in the Premier League era a team has been promoted from the Championship and relegated straight away, only to immediately return. During the previous 10 occasions, just twice was a club relegated again, which is half as many times as teams went on to finish in the top half of the table.
New recruits Milot Rashica and Josh Sargent will provide much-needed support for Teemu Pukki while softening the blow of Buendia's departure. Meanwhile, Billy Gilmour (on loan from Chelsea) and Pierre Lees-Melou (signed from Nice) will fill the midfield void. The club is also still pushing for Skipp to return for another season on loan, which would leave it with an embarrassment of riches up the middle.
Norwich didn't stop there. Loan deals for defenders Ben Gibson and Dimitrios Giannoulis were made permanent, while goalkeeper Angus Gunn was brought in as the perfect complement for an aging Tim Krul.
Bonus bet: Norwich not to be relegated (-110)
Southampton to be relegated (+450)
Southampton finished an uninspiring 15th-place last season after a scorching start to the campaign quickly petered out. From Dec. 18 onward - the final two-thirds of the season - no club notched fewer points than Southampton, who accrued just 19 over 25 matches.
Life isn't about to get easier without talisman Danny Ings, who's off to the West Midlands. The striker has been a permanent fixture in attack for the Saints since joining the club, and he's virtually irreplaceable up top.
Ings has been Southampton's runaway leading scorer over the past two seasons:
Ralph Hasenhuttl has been vocal about how difficult it is for his club to win when Ings isn't present, and that was evident last season when Southampton earned just one victory over its nine Premier League matches without the striker. Ings featured in all 38 league fixtures the season prior while helping the team to an 11th-place finish.
Replacing him is striker Adam Armstrong after he was signed following an impressive Championship campaign with Blackburn. His 28 league goals were by far a career best, but this move is a big step up in class for the 24-year-old who has never scored a Premier League goal. He's started just one top-flight match during his professional career in December 2014.
Reinvestment in the squad was desperately needed with the club trending in a troubling direction, but Armstrong was the highest-profile arrival during an uninspiring transfer window for the Saints.
No one at St. Mary's can be feeling great heading into the team's 10th straight Premier League campaign. Is this when the run ends?
Bonus bet: Southampton under 43.5 points (-130)
Leicester City finish top six (+110)
Leicester has finished inside the top six in consecutive seasons, and failing to achieve that for a third campaign would be shocking. The Foxes return all of last season's squad, and they added impressive reinforcements that will allow them to contend for a Champions League berth. Even if Leicester stays stuck behind the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, and the two Manchester clubs, neither Tottenham nor Arsenal improved enough to bump the Foxes out of the European places.
The mesmerizing Patson Daka adds another element to Leicester's fearsome attack alongside Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy, while the signing of Boubakary Soumare further strengthens the spine of the team. Leicester will also be improved defensively if they stay healthy.
A top-four finish is once again the expectation for the Foxes heading into the 2021-22 campaign.
Bonus bet: Leicester finish top four (+450)
Alex Moretto is theScore's supervising editor of sports betting. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.