Which team have been the biggest surprise packages in the Premier League this season?
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With the first-ever PL winter break kicking in, now seemed like a good time to reflect on the first two thirds of the season and discuss which teams have surprised us so far, in a positive way.
Here’s a look at four teams who have exceeded expectations, so far.
Sheffield United: 6th place, 36 points
Chris Wilder‘s Blades are the biggest surprise of the season in the Premier League. Period. Nobody expected this from the newly promoted side as they are in with a serious chance of qualifying for Europe. Their 3-5-2 formation with overlapping center backs and deep central midfielders bamboozles opponents and the Blades fans are in dreamland. With Wilder a lifelong fan, there is an incredible connection as he’s lead them from League One to the top six in the Premier League playing pretty much the same way and plenty of the players have been around for their journey back to the top-flight. Some of the signings they’ve made before and during the season have been masterstrokes and if European nights arrive in the Steel City next season. Bramall Lane will be rocking. Plenty of new boys are high in confidence early in the season then drop off but Sheffield United have been consistently excellent. They have only lost twice away from home all season long and those defeats came at Man City and Liverpool, the top two.
Leicester City: 3rd, 49 points
The Foxes have struggled a little in recent weeks but Brendan Rodgers has built a superb young team which took the league by storm in the opening half of the campaign. They are out of the Premier League title race but for large spells of the season they looked like the only challengers to Liverpool. Still, with Jamie Vardy rolling back the years up top and the likes of Wilfried Ndidi, James Maddison and Youri Tielemans consistently brilliant in midfield, plus Ricardo Pereira and Caglar Soyuncu superb in defense, they are worthy of a top four finish. With 13 games to go they have a 12-point lead over fifth place. It would take a monumental collapse for Leicester to not be in the Champions League next season. This is all as a result of smart decision making at all levels at the club. Rodgers is a brilliant manager, they have a great recruitment team and youngsters are choosing to sign for Leicester because there is a clear vision, playing style and philosophy.
Newcastle United: 12th, 31 points
Hands up who had Newcastle going down at the start of the season? Most of you will have your hands raised. With Rafael Benitez out and Steve Bruce in, Newcastle’s fans were furious and even the fact that Mike Ashley spent a bit of money on Joelinton and Allan Saint-Maximin didn’t calm things down. Bruce’s Newcastle have been awful to watch all season long and in terms of expected goals they would be rock bottom of the Premier League table. They’re aren’t and that is because this isn’t Bruce’s first rodeo and he has his team playing to its strengths as they’ve beaten Tottenham, Chelsea and Man United, plus drawn with Man City. They aren’t fun to watch but Newcastle sitting pretty in midtable at this point of the season, especially given all of the injuries they’ve had is a huge surprise.
Liverpool: 1st, 73 points
Not so much a surprise but just utterly unbelievable. With 24 wins from their first 25 games, Jurgen Klopp‘s side are unbeaten and are on course to shatter every single Premier League record for title winners. They have Arsenal’s unbeaten record of an entire campaign without a defeat in sight, and they are 42 league games unbeaten, which is closing in on Arsenal’s 49-game unbeaten run. The reigning European champions were supposed to gain confidence from winning the UEFA Champions League last season and missing out on the title by just one point but this has been ridiculous. Yes, we shouldn’t be surprised Liverpool will win the Premier League title but we should be surprised, and amazed, with how they are doing it.
Wolves: Have taken the next step with Traore and Jimenez superb in attack and they are in the Europa League last 32 and in the top four battle.
Chelsea: Frank Lampard‘s youngsters started strongly but like Leicester they’ve hit a few speed bumps. In the UCL last 16 and in the top four. Very decent.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Graham Potter‘s side play wonderful soccer and even though they’ve been dragged into a relegation battle, the way they play under Potter is a joy to watch.