Can A New Club Gatecrash The Top 4?
The embryonic Premier League table has a familiar enough look to it with three of last season’s top four already in the Champions League positions.
However, it is Leicester City – rather than Chelsea – who take up the other spot, lying proudly in second place after a thrilling comeback win against Aston Villa yesterday.
Spurs were the last side to break into the top four for the first time in 2010 but there may be a few contenders this campaign. We take a look at their chances.
Leicester City (To Finish in Top 4 – 80/1)
The Foxes’ splendid start to the season has been all the more surprising given the fact they were many pundits’ tip for relegation following the appointment of Claudio Ranieiri.
Contrary to his nickname, Ranieri hasn’t tinkered too much with a side that was top of the Premier League form table in the final nine games last season.
The loss of Esteban Cambiasso has been minimised by some astute signings such as N’Golo Kante and Goekhan Inler, allied with the continued progress of players like Danny Drinkwater.
Key to the Foxes’ chances of an unlikely top four finish is holding on to Riyad Mahrez.
The ‘Algerian Messi’ has arguably been the league’s most impressive player so far this term and has already been linked with a move to Barcelona.
After promotion to the top flight in 2014, Leicester’s Thai owners set an ambitious target of a top five finish within three years. If they are to achieve such lofty ambitions they’ll need to ensure their star man stays injury-free and more importantly remains at the club.
Swansea City (To Finish in Top 4 – 33/1)
Swansea’s impressive start to the season – including a win over Manchester United – came to an end on Saturday after they slumped to a 1-0 defeat at Watford.
However, the Swans may be best placed to break the top of the table monopoly having already finished in the top half three times in their five seasons in the Premier League.
TV deals have leveled the playing field somewhat in the top flight, with the likes of Swansea able to attract players of the calibre of Andre Ayew and Bafetimbi Gomis that previously may have ended up at bigger clubs.
Garry Monk has been rightly credited with reinvigorating a club that were in poor form towards the end of his predecessor Michael Laudrup’s tenure. Inevitably, he’s been linked with other roles and keeping him from the clutches of bigger clubs – with Liverpool already mentioned – will be key to Swansea’s chances of success.
Crystal Palace (To Finish in Top 4 – 33/1)
Palace have been a joy to watch under Alan Pardew and were unlucky not to escape with a point against Manchester City at the weekend.
Again, TV money has allowed the Eagles to add the likes of Yohan Cabaye to side that was already overflowing with attacking talent.
Critics of Pardew point to his inability to sustain momentum in his second season at clubs but he seems to have found stability at Palace.
However, if they’re to improve on last season’s tenth place finish he’ll need his strikers to contribute more.
The recently departed Glenn Murray was last term’s top league scorer with just seven goals, so the likes of Connor Wickham and Patrick Bamford will need to take their chances when given first team opportunities.
Southampton (To Finish in Top 4 – 25/1)
Southampton’s best ever opportunity of breaking into the top four may have come and gone. They were still in the Champions League positions by February last season before a relatively poor run-in saw them finish seventh.
They’ve since endured another summer of top clubs poaching their best players, with the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin, Nathaniel Clyne and on-loan Toby Alderweireld departing for bigger clubs.
It remains to be seen if Ronald Koeman can replicate his achivements last season when the club hardly felt the departures of Luke Shaw, Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Callum Chambers. His recruitment last summer arguably improved his squad but the likes of Cedric Soares, Virgil van Dijk and Jordy Clasie have a lot to prove if the Saints are to match, or better, last season’s achievements.
*Prices correct at time of publication.