They say that the English Premier League is one of the most competitive football leagues on the planet and never before has this statement had more merit than this season.
We are 12 games into the season and third spot is being occupied by Leicester City and sixth by West Ham United, certainly not a conventional league table.
Besides them, the likes of Southampton, Stoke City and Crystal Palace have also performed brilliantly this season. But, should we really be surprised with this insurgence of the ‘English middle class’ into the richer sections of the table?
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The signs were always there to suggest this would happen.
A key factor influencing the stellar rise of these ‘mediocre’ sides could involve their active participation in the transfer market during the most recent window.
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Clubs like Stoke and Crystal Palace are willing to break the bank in order to land world-class players to their stadiums.
The players who were on the radar for the traditional ‘Big Four’ of English football are now being nabbed by these mid-table sides. The likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Dimitri Payet, Yohan Cabaye and Bafetimbi Gomis are a testament to the fact these big names are now being attracted by lucrative offers and guaranteed first-team football.
Secondly, clubs like Swansea and the Eagles don’t shy away from playing a free-flowing, attacking brand of football, even at daunting away visits to the Etihad or Old Trafford.
Gone are the days when clubs used to visit the big teams with a defensive mentality, predetermined to grind out a draw. This season, these clubs are taking the game to the opposition, keeping an equal or sometimes, even larger share of the possession.
The minnows no longer shy away from shooting from distance or risk practicing an intricate training ground trickery in these matches.
Another important aspect to consider is that these mid-table sides have organised and disciplined defences.
Very seldom do you find the defenders of the Potters or Saints out of position or not marking the player designated to them. The teams are confident when protecting a lead and thrive on the counter.
A brilliant example of this was evident during Southampton's visit to Stamford Bridge last month when the away side stormed to a 3-1 victory.
Finally, the key to the success of the ‘middle-class’ insurgency is good financial management.
You cannot be successful in modern football without splashing the cash. In most of these cases, it is not as much a matter of good financial backings, but a state of good fund management and transfer decisions causing them to prosper.
These clubs have also lost various key players during this period, but they have managed to get the ideal replacements to maintain their success, with the Saints another shining light from this perspective.
The Premier League is certainly getting more competitive and exciting with this mid-table insurgency and it will be interesting to see if these teams can carry this early season steam into next May.
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