Due to various reasons, several Premier League teams began the ongoing campaign facing lowered expectations amongst the faithful, widespread criticism and enormous pressure to fulfil the demands of both the board and fans.
However, a few of these teams have so far managed to not only meet these lowered, more pessimistic expectations, but have even surpassed them – defying the dreaded bookmaker’s odds.
Whether their fortunes have been transformed by huge investment, intelligent transfer activity, a change of management and/or simply an infectious work ethic, these teams have been underestimated by their competitors and have the opportunity to exploit this.
This article will therefore list three of the biggest surprise packages of the Premier League season thus far.
In spite of Nigel Pearson spending a comparatively low transfer outlay of just £11 million – and six free transfers – the 2013/14 Championship winners have make a remarkable start to their season, currently lying in 12th position with nine points from seven games.
Including games against Chelsea, Arsenal and the 5-3 victory against Manchester United.
One of the key factors for Leicester has been their winning mentality – built from their previous season. This has created great confidence and desire among the squad, with Pearson using this as their most dangerous weapon in order to encourage his team to attack anyone they play against.
In addition to the atmosphere in their camp, they have managed to keep hold of their young, talented stars like Liam Moore, Riyad Mahrez and Anthony Knockaert (who will all be keen to impress). By fielding them alongside experienced players like Wes Morgan and Paul Konchesky, Pearson has created a well-balanced blend of youth, experience and talent.
2) West Ham
After their miserable 2013/14 campaign (glossed over by a 13th placed finish), the East London side were destined to suffer another underwhelming season, according to both the bookmakers and their own heads. The majority of the fans were even calling for Sam Allardyce’s head, such was their dismay at the mind-numbing, defensive style the team was using.
Surprisingly, the board decided to stick with Allardyce… under the condition that he introduced a more entertaining and attacking style of football. After giving him a plentiful war chest and a new attacking coach in ex-West Ham striker, Teddy Sheringham, their plan has begun with a bang.
Having signed nine players – including Ecuador’s World Cup star, Enner Valencia for £12 million – Allardyce’s new look team have shown little signs of needing time to gel, currently sitting in 7th place with 10 points after seven games.
Allardyce has got the most out of both his new and old players by introducing a narrow 4-4-2 diamond formation, with the likes of Stewart Downing and Cheikhou Kouyaté being particularly impressive. West Ham have shown far more attacking threat than their previous season, whilst maintaining their defensive solidarity and physicality.
The St. Mary’s Stadium outfit have truly had an incredible summer of transfer activity! An exodus that resulted in their manager (Mauricio Pochettino, now of Spurs) and five of their major stars seeking pastures new, threatened to undo all their previous work and send them spiralling back down the English football pyramid.
But, after what was perceived by the footballing world to be the beginning of the end for Southampton, the board hired Dutch manager Ronald Koeman, and he was given all the funds received from players’ sales to create his own team.
Koeman decided to sign exciting players from overseas instead of splashing out on extortionate fees for English players in order to replace their former stars with players of similar quality whilst saving money. As well as this, he has installed a philosophy with is similar to that of Pochettino, meaning the players needed little time to adjust.
Recruitments such as Sadio Mané, Dušan Tadić and Graziano Pellè (who has recently won the PFA Player of the Month award for September) have combined with talented players like James Ward-Prowse and Morgan Schneiderlin to forge a dynamic, thrilling team that is arguably even better than last season’s team.
They are currently in 3rd place with 13 points – ahead of the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool. This would have been unthinkable nearly two months ago.