With talk among the UK’s betting sites being all about the odds on who will be the next Premiership manager to fall, even the harshest critic has to feel just a little sorry for Arsene Wenger.
Widely panned, not least by the Arsenal faithful, for what was seen as muddled thinking at best and financial mismanagement at worst during the transfer window, no sooner was the season underway than the team suffered that 4-0 thumping at Anfield.
What they really needed was a couple of gentle home fixtures against Swansea or Brighton & Hove Albion, but no. Away at Stamford Bridge, where they would not only be up against the champions, but the accompanying fans would be sharpening their knives further as they mooned over Cesc Fàbregas, their favoured son, who could, if what was said in the pre match interviews was true, have been back at Emirates Stadium in 2014 if Wenger had only been willing to welcome him with open arms.
With all that excess baggage, Wenger has to be satisfied with the spirit shown by his under-fire team at Stamford Bridge. 0-0 might not sound like anything to write home about, but it could prove to be the moment that signalled the Gunners’ shift in momentum.
A look at the betting odds – for Arsenal and Wenger
Frank de Boer might have won the “sack race” and been the first to fall, but, like some cruel mediaeval blood sport, this has only served to increase the intensity among those who frequent the UK betting sites to predict who will be next. The great tradition of football betting in the UK is not just about which team will be victorious.
Last week, Wenger was at 16/1 to be the first to go, and that was when de Boer was still in the race. Now, with the field shortened, his odds have actually lengthened to 20/1, with some sites offering 25/1. West Ham’s Slaven Bilić is seen as the man most probable to be heading for the door, at 2/1.
The fortunes of team and manager are always intertwined, so what do the gambling sites have to say about Arsenal’s prospects going forward? The Gunners are odds on to finish in the top six, and with typical odds of 6/4 on a top four finish, the bookmakers clearly feel they will be there or thereabouts by the end of the season. With that in mind, 25/1 for them to finish outright champions looks like a tempting offer.
What’s up next
Of course, there is still a lot of football to be played, and up next, Arsenal have a great chance to build their confidence and start accumulating points, when they face West Bromwich Albion at home on Monday. They are odds on favourites to emerge victorious, but should take nothing for granted. Slip up at this stage, and all bets on Wenger’s and Arsenal’s fortunes for the rest of the season could be right back up in the air.