When Leicester City shook the pillars of world football by winning the Premier League, the common reaction was “this is truly astonishing, but it will not happen for another twenty years."
There was a similar reaction when Nottingham Forest won the title in the late 1970’s, and when Blackburn Rovers won the league in 1995.
The bookmakers had Leicester at 5000-1 to win the league and Claudio Ranieri's men were seen as a relegation candidates following their narrow escape the season before.
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Yet, Leicester miraculously won the league, and did so in style. They won the title using the fewest players in the league, with the lowest wage budget of £57 million, and a unique counter attacking approach to matches. Their risky recipe is one that does not often lead to a Premier League trophy.
While many people feel that this type of underdog story will not happen for another decade or two, Leicester gave confidence to other ’small’ clubs that their dreams can too become reality.
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It is essential to understand that Leicester did not win the title with luck. Although the title win felt as if it has come from nowhere, Leicester approached each game on its own, worked tirelessly with manager Claudio Ranieri to perfect their tactical shape, and put together a squad that had the motivation to “prove” something to the football world.
Seeing how Leicester achieved greatness, is it possible for other Premier League teams to replicate their success?
As unlikely as it is may seem, there are a few teams that are in a position to achieve Premier League glory. Based on statistics, training methods, and overall club infrastructure the teams in the best position to “pull a Leicester” are: Crystal Palace, Southampton, and West Ham United.
Crystal Palace is known for its forward thinking and ambition. With new American ownership investment and Steve Parish remaining as the chairman, Palace have the potential for greatness.
With an already talented squad in place, the club also has a direct approach in regards to their first team. They spend money where they feel it is necessary and don’t think twice about it.
Last season, Palace paid Newcastle United a £3.5 million compensation package to release, then manager, Alan Pardew from his contract. When the suave midfielder Yohan Cabaye became available from Paris Saint-Germain, Palace did not hesitate to pay the £12m to strengthen their team.
However, the main factor that gives Crystal Palace title hopes is manager Alan Pardew, a motivated and experienced Premier League manager that had previous success at Newcastle.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Pardew talked about Palace's direct approach with the clubs infrastructure. Pardew is overseeing every aspect of design in the training ground. Unlike other teams, he also has full control over transfers – there is no “Sporting Director”.
Pardew finished 9th with Newcastle and got them into a Europa League quarter-final with limited control; it’s exciting to think what he can do when he is essentially designing his own football club.
This direct and transparent approach distinguishes Crystal Palace and puts them in a position for huge growth.
Don’t be surprised if Crystal Palace are top of the table by Christmas.
Southampton keeps on moving forward. It’s quite surreal. In the past couple of seasons, around £150 million worth of players, one head scout, and two managers, have all departed the club, yet the Saints keep marching on.
Ambition and determination has gotten Southampton out of the third division and into sixth place in the Premier League.
Southampton have rebuilt the first team the past two summers by investing the money raised in appropriate fashion. They've signed decent players, but have also put their trust in some of their youth products.
As frustrating the “If you don’t want to be here, then go” approach is for the fans, it is also the clubs X-factor. By creating an environment that promotes family and desire, the club can focus on overall growth.
The chief executive Les Reed has stuck to the club's values and has seen massive growth, so why change? That is it precisely, he won’t.
With a phenomenal training facility, forward thinking management, and values strongly in place, Southampton have the potential to win the Premier League with its own flare, with or without their current crop of players.
West Ham United
After flirting with European places and a 7th place finish, West Ham put themselves on the map ahead of their big stadium move.
It was not only the whopping score lines against top teams this season, but it was the manner in which they won those games. They won those games with a balanced attacking style, rather than the 'old football' style.
Over the past couple of years, West Ham have changed its club culture from an “average” club with a history, to a gritty club moving into a new stadium with a massively passionate fan base.
West Ham initiated their change of culture by returning to the Premier League, hiring Slaven Bilic, and by its incredible scouting network. The club's domain is now more positive, exciting, and confident.
Being a London club, West Ham’s ambition attracts players such as Dimitri Payet and Sofiane Feghouli. The differentiating factor that gives West Ham immense potential is the clubs gritty environment. Co-chairman David Gold expressed it best by saying: “We genuinely believe we can win now against these world renowned teams. The optimism is that we are not a team of the past but a team of the future.”
We have witnessed how unpredictable the Premier League can be. These clubs have the infrastructure and potential in place to have special seasons.
However, realistically the 'big clubs' will come back more heavily invested than ever. Anything is possible, and Leicester City proved that.
Who should we look out for in the Premier League next season? Have YOUR say in the comment section below!
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