After the first day of Premier League football concluded, I touched upon whether or not the role of the traditional mid-table team is coming to an end in the Premier League (read the article here). Is there enough evidence to support this after week four? And why is this happening?
Upon initial inspection of results this season, it would appear that clubs are not satisfied with mid-table finishes anymore, and will give the big guns a run for their money.
We have already seen more than enough upsets this season, such as West Ham United's victories at the Emirates and at Anfield, Crystal Palace's away victory at Stamford Bridge, Swansea's rise as a serious threat and Leicester's impressive form continue.
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While upsets are somewhat commonplace in football, especially in the Premier League, this season we have already seen several high-profile favourites toppled by their smaller opponents. This trend may continue for some time yet. And here's why.
With more and more TV broadcasting money being pumped into the league, the lesser teams can afford to bring in talent that they would not be able to bring in before.
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We've seen Bournemouth attract Max Gradel, Aston Villa acquire Jordan Ayew, and Swansea his brother, as well as former Inter Milan and Bayern Munich winger Xherdan Shaqiri joining Stoke, who also boast a range of ex-Barcelona players amongst their ranks.
This naturally means that these teams pose far more of a threat to the powers at the top and Mourinho echoed this after his side's lame defeat to Crystal Palace, another team who have Yohan Cabaye amongst their starting eleven.
Meanwhile, as much as many would hate to admit it, the quality of defending in the Premier League is declining at alarming rates.
This especially applies to the teams at the top of the tree, who have seen their fortunes in Europe decline with time. It is likely that this will continue as financial power increases.
Using Real Madrid as an example, towards the second half of last season, they were often criticised for lacking defensive shape and simply relying on outscoring the opposition. This is the mentality that ever-increasing finances and thus heavy attacks can give a team, and we have seen Mourinho's previously unshakeable defence broken time after time.
However, because of the increased firepower of the lesser teams, it makes simply outscoring the opponent harder and harder, and so we are seeing less straight-forward victories than before.
Even Chelsea's game against West Brom was a 3-2, a game which should ideally be far more straight-forward for the champions.
On the other end of the scale, teams at the lower end of the mid-table category often find themselves losing their best players to teams above them. The prime example here being the sale of Christian Benteke to Liverpool, which has likely pushed the Midlands team closer to the relegation scrap they would have liked to avoid.
All of this means that teams in mid-table are either becoming stronger so as to match those at the top, or are being raided to fall closer to the bottom. We could see an ever-decreasing points gap between the champions and tenth place, whilst a huge points gap may appear somewhere near 13-14th place in the table, where the chasm in finances and allure becomes evident.
Obviously teams must finish mid-table in every league around the world, but we may see competition for the top increasing to the point that mid-table teams are disappointed at being mid-table.
Would a team like Stoke simply 'settle' for tenth place? Would Leicester be happy simply avoiding relegation? Probably not, but somebody has to finish in the middle of the pack, we just have to wait and see who.
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