Which team will be this season’s Premier League surprise package?
With the start of the new Premier League season just around the corner, we take a look at which clubs could be the surprise package of 2021/22.
The Premier League likes to market itself as the one of the world’s most competitive sports leagues. Some may dismiss this, pointing to the recent dominance of Manchester City who have won three of the last four titles. However, over the last ten years, the Premier League has been won by five different clubs with no club winning more than twice in a row. By this measure it is more competitive than La Liga (3 different winners in the last decade), Serie A (2), Bundesliga (2), and Ligue 1 (4).
It’s not just competitive at the top, either, with a number of clubs significantly exceeding expectations in last year’s competition. While Aston Villa deserve a mention for progressing from last-day survival to a solid mid-table finish, the most notable 2020/21 overachievers were West Ham and Leeds.
In 2019/20, it was Burnley and Sheffield United who burned a big hole in the bookies’ pockets; in 2018/19 it was newly-promoted Wolves who barged their way into the Europa League spots; and the season before that saw all promoted clubs survive, with Newcastle finishing in a creditable 10th place and Burnley taking an unlikely Europa League qualification berth. Which all begs the question – who will be this season’s surprise package?
Perennially earmarked for a relegation struggle, Crystal Palace survived comfortably once again last time out, which is testament to the capabilities of Roy Hodgson. A true great of the game, Hodgson picked up the flaming wreckage of a team that lost their opening four games of the 2017/18 season without scoring a goal. For Hodgson to rescue an 11th-place finish for his boyhood club that season and follow up with three seasons finishing no lower than 14th is nothing short of exceptional.
However, Palace are now looking to kick on. It’s been busy down in Croydon over recent weeks since Arsenal and France legend Patrick Vieira stepped into the now-retired Hodgson’s shoes as Eagles boss. The big man has started his rebuilding in earnest, with senior pros like Mamadou Sakho, James McCarthy, Gary Cahill, Patrick van Aanholt, and Andros Townsend all leaving this summer.
Confirmed replacements so far include highly-rated centre-back Marc Geuhi from Chelsea for £21m and Reading’s star attacking midfielder Michael Olise for £8m. At 21 and 19 years old respectively, Geuhi and Olise could help spark an exciting new era for Palace. The dark horses of previous seasons have shown us that a top-six finish is not completely out of the question if Vieira can add a few more exciting new recruits and get the best out of Wilfried Zaha. Most of the best betting sites offer a Premier League Top 6 Finish market and Palace are as long as 41/1 with some. That’s value.
Another potential shout for a surprise shoot up the table would be Brighton & Hove Albion. This may seem like an unusual pick considering they have consistently flirted with relegation during the past four seasons since returning to England’s top-tier for the first time since 1983. However, anyone that has watched Brighton play since Graham Potter took the reins two years ago will tell you that they play some absolutely brilliant football at times.
Their main issue, though, has been finding a player who will reliably stick the ball in the back of the net. Neil Maupay only managed 8 goals last term despite having a higher xG (13.0) than Son Heung-min (17 goals, xG 10.3), Danny Ings (12 goals, xG 8.3), and Alexandre Lacazette (13 goals, xG 9.7). Although Danny Welbeck impressed last season, he hasn’t scored more than six league goals in a season since 2014 (and he’s never reached double figures).
The Seagulls have already secured the services of midfielder Enock Mwepu, a four-time Austrian Bundesliga winner with RB Salzburg, for the coming season. If they can add a serious goalscorer to the mix (Celtic’s Osdonne Edouard is rumoured), they could certainly challenge for a Europa League spot.
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