Last season Manchester United won the Premier League by eleven points, and most of the excitement surrounded who would finish fourth. This year, things are set to be different. In the first of a two part betting preview on the Premiership, we look at the betting options for the top of the table

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It has been an unprecedented off-season, with each of last season’s top three team teams seeing a change in manager and lots of uncertainty over three of the key players in last season’s League namely Rooney, Suarez and Bale. The three combined scored over fifty goals and certainly Suarez and Bale’s futures are crucial to an assessment of the prospects for two of last season’s top seven, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool

Also unusual is to see comfortable winners last season Manchester United priced as third favourites to win the title again as follows, using current available prices:

Chelsea 9/4

Manchester City 9/4

Manchester United 5/2

Arsenal 10/1

Tottenham Hotspur 33/1

Liverpool 33/1

Factored into these prices are the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and doubts as to whether there will be a seamless transition to a David Moyes team, the return of Jose Mourinho to Chelsea and Manchester City’s continued investment in quality players that makes it look to many that they have the strongest squad entering the season.

Whilst this is an exciting prospect for fans and the League itself its both an interesting and difficult proposition for the bettor. I have been of the opinion that if Manchester United were to hit 3/1 at any point, then that would be unavoidable value. Robin Van Persie is going nowhere and, injury permitting, presumably good for another 25 goals. Last year’s squad is retained, with options at every position and Moyes would like to strengthen before the transfer deadline.

Yet the feeling persists that one of Chelsea or Manchester City will improve past them. Personally I feel that the squad Mourinho inherits this time round at Chelsea is not as “bomb proof” as the squad he managed five years ago. The Cech-Terry-Lampard spine is ageing and under successive recent managers the Chelsea focus has been more attacking and open than Mourinho’s Chelsea teams. The excellence of Mata, Hazard and Oscar combined with young defensive talent like Cahill and new signings like Schurrle will no doubt have Chelsea in the top three, but they are not a betting proposition at 9/4 for me, priced to overcome a 14 point shortfall to Manchester United last season.

Manchester City might be the one though. Despite the travails of last season they only conceded 34 goals in 38 league games and what I regard as the best “spine” in the league Hart-Kompany-Yaya Toure returns. Added to that defensive solidity there is a mouth watering set of attacking options. Aguero, Silva and Dzeko are joined by Negredo, Navas, Jovetic and Fernandinho and new manager Pellegrini has stated an attacking intent. Last season Manchester City scored twenty goals fewer than Manchester United and I would expect this gap to narrow considerably.

Whilst the composition of squads may yet change before September 2nd, Manchester City are my selection to win the 2013-14 Premier League.

In terms of a Top 4 finish, Arsenal just beat Tottenham to the spot last season and current prices are as follows:

Arsenal 4/6

Tottenham 11/5

Liverpool 11/5

Everton 16/1

Of course here the major uncertainty over Bale and Suarez really kicks in. Could Arsenal challenge the top three with the addition of Suarez? What price Liverpool without Suarez? What price Tottenham without Bale?

Given these uncertainties, lets focus on what we know. As it stands Liverpool should be much closer to the top 4 than in prior seasons, helped by the emergence of Coutinho and Everton should struggle to replicate their over-achievement under Moyes. Yet the feeling remains that the top 4 position is a shoot-out between the North London clubs.

With quality signings like Paulinho and particularly Soldado, with one goal every two games over 150 appearances in La Liga I like Tottenham at over 2-1, a decent price to overcome Arsenal even if Bale were to depart. The arrival of Soldado is crucial because of the inconsistency of Defoe and Adebayor last season and a reliable poacher up top was a key addition.

Its understandable that Arsenal are favourites for the spot but 4/6 is not a price for me at this stage, in part because of continued doubts about the goalkeeper-central defence axis and its quality compared to Arsenal’s rivals. At the other end Cazorla and Arteta will continue to prompt and combinations of Walcott, Giroud and Podolski will continue to be successful but it is Tottenham’s new squad that is less exposed in terms of seeking a value price

Tomorrow, a look at the following markets: Top Goalscorer, Relegation and Handicap prices

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