Over the last 2-3 seasons, we have seen Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Man Utd and Tottenham (I’d be delighted if they finish in that order) form this so called top 6 clubs who are above the rest of the Premier League clubs in terms of stature, players and resource. While it is entertaining to see these 6 give it their all to win the Premier League, it would be even more fun to see someone break through and trouble some of the leaders. Based on transfer activity and ability of their coaches, I believe that Everton and West Ham have the best chance of trying to break into that top 6 or at least putting up a season long fight for positions.
Let’s begin with West Ham. I think they are a club that deserve tremendous credit simply for the fact that they have recovered after losing Dimtri Payet. During the 2015-16 season, if it weren’t for Leicester’s title, all eyes would’ve been on West Ham. It was a tremendous season for them that saw them qualifying for the Europa League.
A lot of this was down to Dimitri Payet and his magic. The 2016-17 season though, was a whole different story. After Payet’s public intention to leave, West Ham almost found themselves in a relegation batlle, something that a manager like Slaven Billic should have never allowed. It was an underwhelming season for them last year but this year they have a few positives to look forward to.
Recent signings like Javier Hernandez, Joe Hart, Marko Arnautovic and Pablo Zabaleta are players of good quality. The unique thing about these signings are that they all have a point to prove in the Premier League for different reasons. The important thing is that they are motivated and I think Slaven Billic has done very well to acquire them. Add to that Jose Fonte, Manuel Lanzini, Michail Antonio, Caroll, Reid, Snodgrass, etc and you have a very interesting and experienced group of players.
This is a squad with very decent Premier League players and a depth in quality which is frightening to some. All of this is managed by Slaven Billic, a brilliant tactical manager who’s squad has somewhat gone under the radar due to other clubs transfer activities. The Hammers could really be a surprise package in this league and none of the bigger teams can take a match against them lightly. Two players that I would really watch out for in this team are Joe Hart and Javier Hernandez, both on extreme opposite ends of the pitch, but both have to prove something to some big money clubs in Manchester.
Now we move to Everton, who solidified their position as best of the rest last year when they finished 7th and were actually closer to Man Utd than they were to Southampton. One might think that the departure of Romelu Lukaku would’ve hampered their hopes but their transfer activity speaks otherwise. They have made multiple signings this year starting with purchasing Wayne Rooney, Michael Keane, Jordan Pickford, Davy Klassen, Sandro Ramirez, etc. Imagine if they could add Gyfi Sigurdsson to that list, selling Lukaku might not even be spoken about then.
They also have players like Ross Barkley, Ashley Williams, Leighton Baines, Seamus Coleman, Schneiderlin, etc. This would give them a squad with a very good mix of youth and experience. A right mix between the two is always essential in the Premier League. Maybe this is the vision of new owner Farhad Moshiri, a billionaire businessman who has injected new life into a club that has so much potential.
Gone are the days when David Moyes would have to be a money manager and count every penny he spent as manager. Now with a vibrant manager and a proactive owner, it seems Everton are finally on the rise and may even have what it takes to pip their neighbours in the league. If they manage to do that it would be a strong message sent as Liverpool are also on the rise with Jurgen Klopp but are vulnerable at times as we saw last season.
The loss of Lukaku may not seem like a loss after all as Everton have shored up their defence and have a Wayne Rooney who still has some football years left in him. I would really watch out for him because I think that with some first team football, Wayne Rooney could become the striker he was always supposed to be.
A really exciting season awaits us this year with things looking very tight at the top and clubs below fighting to rise and break into that elusive Top 6.