What Does ‘Form’ Mean in Football?

Now and again Soccerwidow receives enquiries as to whether we consider ‘form’ in our match analyses and value bet recommendations.

The reader will have to excuse our increasing ignorance of the concept of ‘form’ and we dare to propose that the true meaning of the word is completely unclear and misunderstood by many.

Our approach for analysing matches and picking bets is the following:

Take the historical results of the last 25 games of each team (i.e. 25 home games if that team is playing at home and vice versa) and combine these with the head-to-head meetings of both teams at that venue over at least the last 10-years to compile an initial odds computation.

The probabilities of each betting option are then calculated (form plays no role at this stage!).

After the probabilities of each event are determined, we calculate what the corresponding odds should be and compare them with the market odds. Only bets where the market odds and our own calculations deviate are selected.

Usually there are four or five potential ‘value’ bet candidates, but sometimes there are none (meaning that our own odds computations correspond accurately to the market odds), and more rarely, there are more than five potential bets.

For making the final selections (picks), taking into account an element of ‘form’ becomes necessary.

We look at the last six matches in a little more detail and consider against which teams these results were achieved (whether relatively weaker or stronger teams). We may also read a few current articles about the teams in general such as the injury news, suspensions, et cetera, before establishing the final short-list of bets determined as holding value.

This approach seems to work admirably as the picks always seem to bring around 25% rate of return but, whether this strategy considers form sufficiently enough, is open to question.

In summary, the term ‘form’ is both misleading and mysterious. No-one seems to know precisely what it means.

What exactly does one understand by the term ‘form’ when applied to teams in a football match?

So, this article is just questioning the concept of ‘form’ and we wish to encourage readers to start a discussion on this topic with an attempt to define and explain what really is meant by it. There seems to be no real clarity either in the Internet or other literature.

Thank you very much in advance, for your valued opinions and contributions!

learn to think like a bookmaker!

Last Update: 25 February 2012

33 Responses to “What Does ‘Form’ Mean in Football?”

1. Glenn
6 October 2013 at 9:24 pm #

Hi Soccerwidow,

Here are the results of my pick selection.

FF = ‘form factor’. SP = ‘scoring potential’. * = actual bet.

MAN CITY (FF 9, SP 34.7) v Everton (FF 5, SP 4.9) – Man City win 3 – 1*
LIVERPOOL (FF 6, SP 3.9) v Crystal Palace (FF 0, SP -24.7) – Liverpool win 3 – 1*
Sunderland ( FF 0, SP -15.4) v MAN UTD (FF 3, SP 24.7) – Man Utd win 1 – 2*
West Brom (FF 3, SP 0) v ARSENAL (FF 9, SP 19.7) – draw 1 – 1

BIRMINGHAM (FF 7, SP 19.3) v Bolton (FF 2, SP -39.5) – Bolton win 1 – 2
BURNLEY (FF 11, SP 30.8) v Reading (FF 8, SP 9.9) – Burnley win 2 – 1*
Doncaster (FF 4, SP -7.7) v LEICESTER (FF 10, SP 9.9) – Doncaster win 1 – 0
QPR (FF 10, SP 19.3) v Barnsley (FF 5, SP -34.5) – QPR win 2 – 0*
WIGAN (FF 8, SP 11.6) v Blackburn (FF 5, SP -4.5) = Wigan win 2 – 1

Colchester (FF 5, SP 0) v WOLVES (FF 10, SP 19.7) – Wolves win 0 – 3*
Oldham (FF 4, SP 0) v LEYTON ORIENT (FF 12, SP 39.5) – draw 1 – 1*
SWINDON (FF 10, SP 27) v Tranmere (FF 3, SP -19.7) – Swindon win 1 – 0*

WIMBLEDON (FF 12, SP 11.6) v Northampton (FF 0, SP -34.5) – Northampton win 2 – 0
MANSFIELD (FF 8, SP 23.1) v Hartlepool (FF 3, SP -14.8) – Hartlepool win 1 – 4
Morecambe (FF 8, SP 11.6) v CHESTERFIELD (FF 10, SP 24.7) – Morecambe win 4 – 3
SCUNTHORPE (FF 8, SP 11.6) v Cheltenham (FF 3, SP -29.6) – Scunthorpe win 2 – 0

9 correct out of 16. I placed a £1.00 bet on a selection of 8 from this 16, and was let down by 1 team – Leyton Orient, which would have won me £40.00 if they had won.

No matter what system any one uses, no one could have foreseen or even have intuited some of these results, they came right out of leftfield, however, I haven’t checked the historical data for these matches over the last 5 seasons. Some of these results suggest that some teams were given injections of a super serum before leaving the dressing room in order to overcome poor form and absence of scoring ability. Very annoyed with Leyton Orient!

Just goes to show that ‘form’ can appear and disappear on the day. It’s a very volatile commodity, but the most accurate data element to go off when deciding whom to bet on.

Best wishes