The English Premier League (EPL) is arguably the toughest league in club football. And although it doesn’t feature the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi or Neymar it is the most competitive of all the top European leagues.
So far, this campaign has been very intriguing from a neutral’s perspective. Reigning champions Chelsea have had a terrible start to the season, which has heaped an insurmountable amount of pressure on manager Jose Mourinho. And while the London club has faltered, other lesser known teams have prospered.
Manchester City and Arsenal currently top the EPL table with Manchester United not too far behind. But who are the other teams that we should be looking out for this campaign? And who’s made marked improvements this time around?
Under the guidance of “The Tinkerman” Claudio Ranieri, Leicester City have performed unbelievably well; scoring at will and forcing their way into the top 3 in the EPL. Star striker Jamie Vardy has been their shining light having scored in 7 consecutive league games and earning a call-up to the national team courtesy of England manager Roy Hodgson.
Whether they can maintain this form for the long term, we’ll have to wait and see but with attacking options such as Riyad Mahrez, Leonardo Ulloa, Shinji Okazaki and Vardy — the Foxes are always a danger in front of goal as they’ve proved on countless times this season.
Manager Alan Pardew has steadied the ship since Neil Warnock was dismissed as coach in 2014. After signing French international midfielder Yohan Cabaye from PSG in the summer, the Selhurst Park side have turned themselves into a formidable side that have become extremely hard to break down thanks to the ex-Newcastle man and defensive rock Scott Dann.
If Pardew can keep hold of the bulk of his overachieving Eagles team then the likelihood is they won’t be too far away from the Europe League spots.
In Yannick Bolasie, they have one of the most exciting prospects in the league but he’ll likely have a slew of potential suitors sniffing around him in January. If Pardew can steer the Eagles to European football this season, many will argue that he has reached his ceiling at Selhurst Park due to their financial constraints, and that he could well become the next England manager after Hodgson.
West Ham United
Fans will be wary of West Ham’s good form this year. Last season at the same point, they imploded and went on a torrid run of results, which ended with them finishing in the bottom half of the table. They’ve also just lost French playmaker Dmitri Payet for three months after a tackle from Everton’s James McCarthy left him with damaged ankle ligaments. Payet has been the Hammers best player this season, and he’ll be a huge loss going into the Christmas period.
But, in coach Slaven Bilic the Hammers have got one of Europe’s best young coaches. And many feel that if his squad stays relatively injury-free this season, he will be able to guide them to a top half finish.
Though, it could depend on how they cope without the injured Payet pulling the strings in midfield. Can Bilic bring European football to the Olympic Stadium when the Hammers move there next season?
It would be a fitting first season if they did achieve such a feat.
This guest blog post was submitted by Edward Abney and contains affiliate links.