Even in World Cup year it seems a long time between the end of the Premier League season and the start of the new campaign and it is always worth spending some of that period (97 days this year but, hey, who's counting?) thinking about what might happen this season.
The benefits are twofold: firstly, identifying good opportunities in season-long markets such as handicap and match betting and, secondly, working out how the balance of power might shift in various sectors of the table.
A good approach is to draw up how the final table might look. While it is impossible to be right about how the season will pan out for every one of the 20 teams, you will have an edge if you can spot two or three potential improvers and a couple of teams that might underperform compared with last season.
In the 2013/14 season, for instance, half a dozen teams moved at least six places compared with 2012/13 and anyone who made an early decision to back Southampton (up six places and 15 points) or oppose Norwich and Fulham (both down seven places and 11 points) had a significant advantage.
The surprise mover from the lower reaches of last season's table could be West Brom, who finished 17th but have a new manager in Alan Irvine and have made efforts to strengthen every area of the team. Most importantly - and this may surprise some - they have a similar form profile to several notable improvers of recent seasons.
One encouraging aspect is that only eight teams lost fewer games against top-half opposition last season, which indicates they may not have been as bad as their final position suggested. The club was swamped in negativity during Pepe Mel's short-lived reign and, with a new manager and fresh signings, a little positivity could take them a long way.
Joleon Lescott appears the key recruit in defence - along with Cristian Gamboa, Sebasten Pocognoli, Andre Wisdom, Jason Davidson and Chris Baird - while Craig Gardner bolsters the midfield and £10m Nigerian striker Brown Ideye is given the task of scoring the goals that were missing last season.
The Baggies scored 10 goals fewer in 2013/14 than in 2012/13 and that largely accounted for their drop from eighth to 17th. The margins are tight from eighth place downwards and, while there are some negatives, West Brom have the underlying form to go well with just a little improvement at both ends of the pitch.
Irvine's team could provide some value in their early matches but, for now, back them with a start of +44pts at 23.022/1 in the Handicap Win market. My calculations indicate they could end up with an adjusted figure in the 90s, which would put them in the mix at a big price.
Other teams worth considering for early support are Newcastle and Stoke.
Newcastle have been a yo-yo club under Alan Pardew (fifth, 16th, 10th in his three full seasons) and the key question is whether they have managed to plug the gap left by Yohan Cabaye's departure with the recruitment of the likes of Remy Cabella and Siem de Jong.
The Magpies tend to be underrated in the markets, mainly because of the negativity surrounding Mike Ashley's ownership of the club, and they look a good bet at 1.865/6 in the Top Northeast Club market, which also includes Sunderland and Hull.
Newcastle should hold their own compared with last season, which means Sunderland or Hull would have to improve into the top half to beat them.
Stoke figured as a possible improver on my calculations last season and one of the clinchers was that Mark Hughes had finished in the top half of the table in every previous complete season as a Premier League manager.
Hughes maintained that record last season with Stoke's ninth place and, although there are some negative aspects to their form profile, he possesses another big plus this time with a favourable early fixture list.
Stoke play only one of the big six in their first 10 games (Manchester City away on matchday three) and that could be worth an extra three or four points in that period, all other things being equal. That means they could shorten in markets such as Handicap Win 2014/15 (currently 12.5 with +38), Top 10 Finish (currently 2.466/4) and Winner W/O Top Seven (currently 6.25/1).
Hughes's record indicates Top 10 Finish as a solid bet and Stoke should make good early inroads, raising the prospect of an early opportunity to trade out if desired.
Back West Brom at 23.022/1 +44pts in Handicap Win 2014/15
Back Newcastle at 1.865/6 in Top Northeast Club
Back Stoke at 2.466/4 in Top 10 Finish 2014/15 with a view to trading out after 10 games