Two factors, above all others, influence the result of a football match – the difference in ability between the two teams and whether they are likely to become involved in a high-scoring or low-scoring contest. The first has been discussed here before. The second is overlooked by some bookmakers and one consequence of their omission is that there is yet another category of games in which the draw is sometimes offered at bigger odds than it should be.
The fewer goals there are likely to be in a match the more likely it becomes that both teams will score the same number. A good way of illustrating this point is with some figures from Premier and Football League games played during the past 10 seasons. The average number of goals scored in those games was 2.55. Overall, 27% of games were drawn. However, low-scoring teams were involved in more stalemates than high-scoring teams.
Teams whose games averaged between 2.5 and 2.6 goals drew 27% of the time. Teams whose games averaged between 2.9 and 3.0 goals drew only 25% of the time. But teams whose games averaged between 2.1 and 2.2 goals drew as much as 31% of the time. You can see that across this range the incidence of draws varied by 6%, depending on whether teams tended to become involved in open or tight contests.
Bookmakers generally ignore the style of a team’s play, taking into account only the strength of their play. Consequently, some bookmakers rarely quote a draw at shorter than 12–5. However, there are occasions when the odds should really be shorter – namely, when one or both of the teams has a history of low scores.
Fulham’s games this season have averaged only 1.8 goals, less than any other team in the Premier League. It is no coincidence that Fulham have drawn a higher proportion of their games than any other team in the Premier League – 39%. Wycombe’s games have averaged 2.0 goals, fewer than any other team in League Two. And they have drawn 39% of their games, the second highest proportion in League Two. When one or both teams have a tendency to become involved in low scores, the draw can sometimes represent value for money.