As we all know, the English Premier League is easily the most intense and competitive league when compared to the likes of La Liga, Bundesliga and the Serie A. However, quality-wise, the Premier League is no more the top dog as the German Bundesliga has remarkably evolved, especially last season, alongside the perennial Spanish heavyweights. Nevertheless, when it comes to entertainment and nerve-wrecking finishes at both the ends of the table, the Premier League is head and shoulders above the rest. “It is always the underdogs who bring out the best in the favourites”. Tired of seeing the favourites sweep away all the trophies, the crowd loves the occasional upsets. Be it Wigan winning the FA Cup against Manchester City, or Sabine Lisicki defeating Serena Williams in the recently concluded Wimbledon, or Uruguay knocking out Spain in the U-20 Football World Cup, the crowd always roots for the underdogs.
It is common that we hate it when it happens to our team, but we love it when it happens to our rivals. The minnows not only win matches, but also win hearts. It is, perhaps, in the English Premier League that one can witness remarkable turnarounds which can disrupt a team’s quest for the title. With the upcoming season looking like a even contest, the remarkable upsets guarantee a nail-biting finish. As we have always focussed on the top five/six teams that are capable of winning the title, let us now look at the three dark horses or the teams that can spring a few surprises this season.
You were right. When it comes to dark horses, Southampton should obviously strike your mind. The Saints have had quite an eventful window. Another big-money signing has been completed with Osvaldo joining as well as bringing in more stability to the back four by signing 24-year-old Lyon centre back Dejan Lovren alongside Celtic enforcer Victor Wanyama. Though Southampton finished 14th in the previous season, they look like a formidable unit ready to take any of the top teams in the Premier League. What does Southampton boast? A solid English core with Lallana, Lambert (joint top English scorer with 15 goals), Shaw, Clyne to join forces with new signing Victor Wanyama (who was linked with Manchester United) under an efficient and astute manager in Pochettini. They definitely seem to have all the goods that can help them break into top 10 this season. Not to forget, when on song last season, they beat teams like Chelsea and Liverpool and played two solid games against Manchester United. So, I strongly believe the Saints can surprise many this season.
2. Norwich City
Norwich City have made a few very good signings this transfer window that can definitely push them for a top ten spot this season. Signings like Dutch U-23 midfielder Leroy Fer can definitely help improve their midfield. Despite the sale of ex-Captain Grant Holt to Wigan Athletic, they seem to have the firing power with the arrival of former Sporting Lisbon forward Ricky Van Wolfswinkel and Celtic striker Gary Hooper. The Canaries, having survived a couple of seasons in the top flight, will definitely look to solidify their position with a top 10 finish and boy, it looks like they can punch above their weight this campaign. They will definitely look to improve their away form and pick up more number of points this time around in order to achieve what they want to. And Chris Hughton will make sure of that.
3. Swansea City
Swansea is a team that always looks to spring surprises. Kicking off their Premier League campaign just two years ago, the first Welsh team in the league already looks a threat to the top-tier teams. In their second year, Swansea already have the League Cup in their cabinet going past Liverpool in the fourth round and Chelsea in the semis and culminated in earning a place in the UEFA Europa League qualification round. Along with Michu, who was one of the best buys of the season, others like Pablo Hernandez, De Guzman, Nathan Dyer and Routledge have also been noteworthy additions to the squad. New signings Jonjo Shelvey and Wilfried Bony will add more depth to their attacking options, making the Swans one of the toughest teams to beat. Swans look strong enough to pull off many upsets. It is certain that Michael Laudrup and his boys are set to do the impossible.