IT hasn’t been long since Chelsea was crowned the English Premier League champion, but the odds for the next title race are already up.
And, remarkably, the champions can’t even get a look in, rated only third in the race with WilliamHill.com.au.
Our mates over at Hills have Manchester City as the $3.40 outright favourite, ahead of Manchester United at $4.
The Pensioners, despite owning the title, sneak in for fourth at $4.25, with Tottenham the only other team under double figures at $7.50.
Liverpool, at $10, and FA Cup winner Arsenal, at $13, are the only other teams in the market, with Everton way out at $81 and the rest $151 or worse.
After a putrid performance in 2015-16, when at one stage it was almost a chance of being relegated, Chelsea secured the 2016-17 title on the back of brilliant play under the expert guidance of master coach Antonio Conte.
Conte came in, cleaned house and really changed the culture of a club that had suffered miserably under the enigmatic Jose Mourinho.
After finishing on 50 points at the end 2016, Chelsea steamrolled through the Premier League to improve that record by a remarkable 43, its 93 points enough for a fifth title.
The 85 goals Chelsea managed were the second most it had ever scored in a season, thanks chiefly to star striker Diego Costa, who became just the third Chelsea player to fire in 20 goals or more in three straight seasons, joining big guns Didier Drogba and Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink.
And the remarkable turnaround had a lot to do with one of world soccer’s most maligned players – Brazilian defender David Luiz.
Luiz has had to deal with the scorn of the football public, but his work as Chelsea’s attacking central defender in a back three with Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta has been vital in turning things around for Chelsea.
Of course, former Leicester City midfielder N’Golo Kante became the signing of the season, absolutely tearing up the midfield and giving himself personal back to back titles after winning it with the Foxes in 2016.
With John Terry retired, the obvious choice for the captaincy is Gary Cahill, but Conte is hoping to secure a long term deal from his employers, despite the reported interest from Italian giant Inter Milan.
“If the club give me the possibility to stay here and to extend my contract, for sure I am available to do this,” Conte said.
“But we have the same idea about the future. The way we have to do things together, to improve the squad and the team.
“But, I repeat, I’m happy for this season and am happy to stay here. I hope to stay here for many years.”
But Pep Guardiola’s men in Sky Blue are the title favourites.
The master manager has had a year to settle in in Manchester and the smart money from the punters is that the big moves will come in the offseason and City will reload for another crack at taking the top spot.
It also helps that they had a barnstorming finish to the season, with four straight wins that yielded 15 goals and third spot on the EPL table.
The red side of Manchester got itself back into the Champions League by winning the Europa League final against Ajax Amsterdam and that will help in its efforts to recruit star talent.
They need more from monster signing Paul Pogba and that help should come as United aims to put itself back into EPL title calculations.
Let’s not forget about those Spurs. An injury to star striker Harry Kane put a curse on their season and they had to settle for second best.
You feel they are building and, while it’s been a tough slog to keep pace with the big four clubs, they’ve done it well the past few seasons and the likes of Christian Eriksen and company might just be primed to finally claim the title.
Liverpool would have been disappointed with their 2017, but buoyed by the fact they snuck into fourth place and managed to secure a chance at Champions League Football next season.
You can expect them to be big spenders as they search for the formula to make The Kop great again.
With Arsene Wenger locked down as Arsenal manager after a winter of discontent from fans calling for #WengerOut, the Gunners have silverware in their locker and their eye on the premiership.
That silverware, of course, was the FA Cup final, which they claimed by beating Chelsea, 2-1, last week.
“I love this club and I am looking forward to the future with optimism and excitement,” Wenger said.
“For me it’s always easy on a loving affair because I identify myself so much with the club.
“When you can be where you love to be, that’s easy.”
The fans might be saying otherwise if the Gunners can’t improve on their finishes over the past few years.
At the other end of the spectrum, Hills for some reason, hasn’t offered a market on Aussie Aaron Mooy’s newly promoted Huddersfield Town, but Sportsbet.com.au has them at $501, head of the likes of Burnley, Watford and Brighton, all at $1001 with Hills.
Kane is Sportsbet’s favourite to win the Golden boot at $3.60, ahead of Everton’s Romelu Lukaku, and City’s Sergio Aguero.
2018 English Premier League title market
Manchester City ($3.40)
Manchester United ($4)
Leicester City ($201)
West Ham ($501)
Crystal Palace ($501)
West Bromwich ($751)
Odds provided by WilliamHill.com.au