These teams can spring a surprise this season and finish higher than anticipated.
The Premier League is one of the toughest leagues in the world. There is stiff competition for places, especially the top four, as they bring direct qualification to the group stages of the UEFA Champions League. The “big six” teams are usually the favourites to challenge for the four available spots. These include Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. However, due to the financial might of the rest of the teams in the league and the quality in their squads, one can expect surprises.
Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are struggling to keep up due to being in a transitional period. The Gunners are finding their feet under Mikel Arteta, while Spurs are finding their identity under Nuno Espirito Santo. Due to the fierce competition, clubs outside these traditional “top six” can enter the European qualification places. Leicester City have finished fifth in the last two years, for instance.
The ongoing 2021/22 season is gearing up to be a close one as well. There are contenders who are looking to punch above their weight and will use the opportunity to break into the top four places. Here are the five underdog clubs that can finish amongst the top four positions this campaign:
Brentford are one of the newcomers in the Premier League after attaining promotion. The club have started strongly and are playing with incredible ambition. They have the factor of the unknown working in their favour and a great togetherness in their ranks. Brentford are unlike other promoted clubs who are struggling in the league. They have a unique system which is paying dividends.
The club’s recent success is down to their smart recruitment in recent years. Brentford have stuck by the players that played an important part in achieving promotion. Ivan Toney leads their frontline and is exhibiting his quality. More importantly, Brentford have been playing incredible football and have already caused a few upsets. They have only lost two of their eight matches so far and should compete for the European places given their consistent performances.
4. Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton & Hove Albion are one of the surprise performers from the early phase of the season. The Seagulls are sitting in fourth place in the league table, having collected 15 points from eight matches already. Graham Potter is a brilliant manager who is working his magic with the outfit. Thanks to his displays, the tactician is being linked with a move to big clubs within the Premier League.
Brighton & Hove Albion always play good entertaining football and the results are what they deserve. Grinding out close victories is a hallmark of a successful team and Potter is capable enough to keep them focused. This could be the most successful season in Brighton’s recent history as a Premier League club.
Everton have started strong in the Premier League under Rafael Benitez as the manager. They lost their first home game recently against West Ham, but relatively look a more comfortable unit than last season under Carlo Ancelotti. The last two seasons have been disappointing for the Toffees, but they are out to correct that this time around. Everton have 14 points after eight games, only one point behind fourth position.
Their success will depend on the performance of Dominic Calvert-Lewin. He has struggled for fitness, but remains their best source of goals. Richarlison also adds another aspect to the attack. New arrivals Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend have started well too and Benitez’s experience could be vital in the club’s aspirations for a top four position.
2. Leicester City
Leicester City have been trying to break the hegemony of the Premier League top six clubs for a few years now. The Foxes are a really strong unit with notable players like Jamie Vardy, James Maddison, Youri Tielemans and so on in the squad. On top of that, they also have a really capable manager in Brendan Rodgers, who is constantly linked with a move to a bigger club.
Leicester City have a strong case for being counted as a big six club ahead of Arsenal and Spurs. They have finished above both of them in the last couple of years. Narrowly missing out on the top four places and finishing fifth goes to show how close Leicester City are from breaching the Premier League top four. They have started slow, but a 4-2 win against Manchester United recently has put their season on course.
1. West Ham United
West Ham United are in sensational form and have started the season strongly. David Moyes has transformed the team from struggling to stay in the league to challenging for a European spot. The Hammers finished in sixth place last term and are playing in the UEFA Europa League in the 2021/22 season.
They have carried their form into the ongoing campaign and will look to take it a step further and breach the top four places. Players like Kurt Zouma, Vladimir Coufal, Declan Rice and Michail Antonio are leading their charge. Antonio in particular has been exceptionally good, who has scored five goals in seven league appearances already. West Ham have 14 points as well and are within the reach of the top four places.