Football trading – What key stat do I use?

I am going to tell you why you should ignore the football odds given to you by popular websites and use this ONE key football trading statistic. If you are Betfair trading or enjoy betting on football on the betfair exchange then read the rest of this blog.

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Key football statistics you see everyday

Most common web sites have some stats on football to aid your lay the draw or other football trading strategy. You’ll see at the bottom of a match preview ‘key stats’. The key stats will say something like this: –

‘so-and-so has won when they played away at this venue, they haven’t lost, they don’t score many goals’. All these key stats pop up at the bottom, telling you things that are relevant to that particular match… but they’re not.

This is because generally, the stats are historical items that bear no relevance to the match that’s in front of you. Matches between teams vary and interlock in quite complex ways and looking at historic results, such as you find on websites or at the bottom of match summaries very often don’t bear any relevance to the outcome of the particular result. If you are looking for football predictions, then these statistics are useless.

So you won’t be surprised to know that I don’t use them.

Statistics are often a form of ‘bet stimulus’

Stats are everywhere, in fact, you’re often spoilt for choice. Unfortunately most of them are completely irrelevant.

The reason for this is that most of the stats that are generated are based upon historical data, throw together and often create spurious correlations. It’s possible to have a correlation without causation. In other words, something can be correlated despite there being no particular reason for being so. This team haven’t scored for six matches in a row, that equals….. These teams have met 20 times…. You may as well throw in when a player score in the last match with a birthday in…..

When done like this they inherit a bias in terms of the way that they’re interpreted. But more importantly, these stats are not really there to help you directly. The creation of these stats is there to stimulate you to do something. It could be to view a page, share the information or something more sinister. Rather than being for informed betting decisions they are there for ‘entertainment purpose’ but more typically they are there for bet stimulus. Services where they throw stats out to get people to actively bet.

Most people just can’t be bothered to go through that pain and suffering that comes with accurately trying to predict the outcome on a football match, they just want some simple little stats to make a profit from. So a whole industry has popped up to serve the need.

The key football statistic you need

There is an underlying core that sits within a football match that allows you to predict any number of different types of interesting things about the match. Using two variables, I can describe:

  • the chance of the home team winning
  • any of the correct scores
  • the away team winning
  • the chance of a draw
  • both teams to score
  • when their first goal is likely to be scored
  • if that first goal is scored
  • by whom
  • an away team come back
  • the number of corners
  • the number of likely shots on-target

Just two variables describe the whole thing. BUT, you very rarely see people actually talking about them in any great deal of information.

Before I talk about those, let’s go back to where we suffer from in terms of the historical stats.

Why statistics are like a pack of cards

Let’s say we have an unlimited deck of cards, let’s say that we can just deal infinitely into the future – there’s an infinite pack. If we keep turning over those cards, it’s very likely at some point, a sequence will occur. The fact is, every time that sequence occurs, when you turn the next card in an infinite deck of cards there’s no increased chance of a black or a red it’s completely random – as long as you’ve shuffled the deck (and there’s no funny business going on).

I guarantee you if I show you this method you can win money from anybody, despite the fact that the turn of the next card is completely random and it’s all part to do with the way that people mix up sequences.

The Gamblers Fallacy

If you have a sequence of long periods of red or black, that will somehow influence the outcome of the next turn of the card. The cold hard fact is, it doesn’t. Just the same as when you’re in the roulette and six blacks come up it doesn’t influence the outcome of the next red or black. As a consequence, the gambler’s fallacy permeates permanently a string of winning favourites.

The fact is, what’s happened in the past does not necessarily predict what’s going to happen in the future but a lot of people will bet on it and that’s where the stats on football do lead you astray. They’re designed to stimulate you to perform an action and that is because of the sequencing of patterns and trends within it, when in fact that’s an irrelevance in terms of where you’re going to predict the next match.

The only two things you need to predict in Football matches

So what are the two key variables that I use to predict everything within a football match? It’s really simple, it just boils down to goals:

  • how many goals is the home team going to score?
  • how many goals is the away team going to score?

If you can accurately predict both of those things, then everything works out from within those two key statistics. So I spend all my time working out what these numbers are likely to be. We are not taking about a team winning 1-0 or 3-1. When we talk about goals being scored, we are assesing if these teams played each other 100 times, what would be the average number goals in 100 matches? Over the long term you will average around 1.50 for the home team and 1.10 for the away team. But you need to look at it a bit deeper than that and shape and adjust your estimates for each team and match.

If the home team is going to score X number of goals and the away team’s going to score Y. If the away team scores a goal, then that metric is still present within the match and then the home team is expected to score this many goals. Therefore the chance of them coming back into the match is going to be related to:

  • the difference between goals between the two teams
  • how many goals have been scored
  • how much time is left on the clock?

So, you can actually predict all of that just using the number of goals that home team scores and the number of goals that the away team scores.

When I do the football ratings that’s what I’m doing, I’m working through all of the detail in terms of:

  • how many goals are likely to be allocated to the home team
  • how many are likely to be allocated the away team
  • how many going to be scored overall

From that key information, everything spins off of that.

Predicting secondary market football odds

Most stats sites are not focused on the real key metrics. I don’t blame them really as that would be really boring and somewhat irrelevant and uninteresting to your average punter. But it’s key if you are going to profit from either betting on football or trading football. Most Betfair football strategies will be profitable if you get these right and unprofitable if you do things at random or get the estimated goal range wrong. It’s that simple. So you should focus on these metrics.

From those simple metrics, if you know how many goals are likely to be scored you can forecast 0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 3-0. You can then group all of those scores together to create the match odds market over and unders. Then you can start to look at other things such as:

  • What time the goal is going to occur
  • If a goal occurs at this time what’s the likelihood of another goal at this point until the end of the match


I learnt to price football markets over 30 years ago and since then have spent years looking at many differing variables. But at its core of all of this are just two variables. The goals to either team. From that, you can derive pretty much the pricing from all markets. They are all related. Once you understand this trading in and out of different markets makes less sense and focusing on underlying metrics makes more sense.

If you’re going to research and look at football in great depth then I suggest that’s where you put your focus, in studying intensely how many goals are going to be scored and who is likely to score them. Look at these scoring stats and ignore the previous results or the majority of statistics that get pushed to you.

  1. Tony 4 years ago

    Interesting article but how do you accurately predict how many goals the home and away teams are going to score?

  2. sportniik 4 years ago

    Would you recommend to watch every 90′ of every game in football league you are betting? Or is the statistics 90%?
    Thank you!

    • Peter Webb 4 years ago

      The statistics are useful but only when used with what you see in the match.

      • sportniik 4 years ago

        So, if I plan to become professional, how much time per week I would have to invest for analyzing one football league like Serie A, EPL … ? I know as much as I want, but on average how much professional trader would invest per week in video analysis?

        Thank you very much!

        • Peter Webb 4 years ago

          Statistics describe all the matches that have happened. But you need to be watching the match to get the best chance, of comparing what the market is telling you, against what you see. That’s what I was trying to say.

  3. Grandmacards 4 years ago

    Other than calculating a scoring average for home/away team using the league results to date, what other variables do you adjust your rating for – and how? Recent form, who’s in the team, incentive to win – are these relevant and how do you weigh their impact? Thanks!

    • Peter Webb 4 years ago

      It’s sort of a personal preference as to how you ‘shape’ the model you are using and what weightings to apply to secondary factors. But missing players is a little easier to discount but is easier with a smaller squad.

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