Will there still be home advantage behind closed doors?
We look at whether away sides could benefit when the Premier League returns
It’s always harder to play away from home, or that’s how the logic goes anyway.
You don’t know your surroundings as well in a different stadium. You don’t have the support of your home crowd. And you may have to make a long journey just to get there in the first place.
But with the Premier League due to restart behind closed doors tomorrow, could home sides see less of an advantage for the remainder of the season?
Premier League’s return
The second of Wednesday’s games sees Arsenal travel to Manchester City. City are 1/3 favourites, with Arsenal back at 8/1. Those odds aren’t much of a surprise – City have won nine of their 13 league matches at the Etihad this season, while a stuttering Arsenal side have only won two of 13 games on the road.
But Mikel Arteta believes the lack of fans could give his side a boost. Speaking ahead of the game, the Gunners boss said: “It is going to help. Football is passion and energy, and when you lose that things balance much more, in my opinion.”
What’s happened in the Bundesliga?
If you look to the Bundesliga, Arteta’s argument seems to have merit. The last 18 games in Germany’s top-flight – two full rounds of fixtures – only produced three home wins.
That’s a tiny sample size, but away sides do seem to be doing better since the restart in Germany. According to research by The Guardian, 43.3% of games ended in a home win before the enforced break, 21.9% ended in a draw and away sides won 34.8%. In the first five rounds of games since returning, home sides only won 21.7% of games, with draws rising to 30.4% and away wins soaring to 47.8% – home sides are half as likely to win.
Will we see more surprises?
Think about a ground like Anfield. Liverpool have a great team, but teams turn up feeling nervous about the atmosphere that awaits them. They’re on the back foot before the game has even started.
The Reds haven’t dropped a single point at home in league action this season. Will that change without the Kop cheering them on?
There’s also an argument that playing without the pressure of a big crowd could benefit some players. Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster said: “You’re going to get players coming into form that haven’t been in form all season or low in confidence and then suddenly thriving. Whereas on the other side of the coin, you’ve got players that need the crowd, you need the buzz, you need the adrenaline and you’re not going to have the same sort of buzz.”
The Premier League has never had to deal with a situation like this before. Playing in such unusual circumstances, we could see a few very unexpected results. And however it plays out, it’s going to be fascinating to watch.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication