SBC News - March 2016

The Marcus Rasford phenomenom applying analytics on the fly to the latest teenage sensation

SBC’s Football Odds Expert Jeevan Jeyaratnam, of odds compiling firm Super Soccer GPS, explains what happens when an unfamiliar name unexpectedly hits the team sheet.

The promotion of Marcus Rashford into the starting XI for Manchester United’s must-win Europa League game with Danish champions Midtylland on February 25th 2016 was a landmark for the player, but created a wave of rapid ‘Googling’ in trading rooms.

Rashford had made two bench appearances in November 2015, but had never set foot on the pitch in a professional capacity. An injury in the pre-game warmup to one of United’s better known young stars, Anthony Martial, meant 18 year old Rashford would be starting up-front at Old Trafford.

Young players making the transition from youth team to first team is typical of end of season dead rubbers, so this particular example is rare and magnifies the injury situation at Manchester United.

In terms of goalscorer pricing there are a couple of things to, swiftly, consider before deciding on a price. Has the personnel change caused a significant match supremacy and/or goal expectancy change?

In this case there wasn’t significant movement, which suggests prices about Memphis Depay, Jese Lingaard and Juan Mata, in particular, could be a touch large. It is unreasonable to expect Rashford to account for the same percentage of Man United’s goals as Anthony Martial, therefore some tinkering with the prices to accommodate the youth team striker follows.

Another consideration is the punters’ knowledge of the player. It is very unlikely that the recreational gambler will have any stronger idea of Rashford’s qualities than the compilers. This can have an effect on the direction of the wagers. Punters invariably prefer to back players with whom they are familiar, taking this into account means we must apply an element of negative bias to the Rashford price.

As it happened we’d have been justified in applying Martial’s full percentage across as Rashford was the star of the show. These kind of stories help keep football intensely interesting and though they can cause an initial level of mild panic we wouldn’t want it any other way. The real fun occurs when similar scenarios happen in, for example, the Russian Premier League.

As for this weekend, well Rashford is 9/2 for the first goal in the game against West Brom, the same as Anthony Martial now. Maybe after this weekend his prices will be even shorter.

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