The last time a team outside of the traditional top six broke in, we all know what happened (hint: 2015/16 season). Before that was Everton in 13/14 who finished 5th in the first post-Fergie season as Manchester United finished 7th, as well as in 2012/13 when they finished 6th.
The reference to ‘top’ teams in the PL has gradually grown over the years, from top 2 (1996-2004) to top 4 (2005-2011) and now top 6. Are we set to see this number increase yet again? Or simply two teams replace each other? This question will be asked again this season – especially with United, Chelsea, and Arsenal vulnerable to being in periods of transition.
Wolves and Leicester City will once again scrap for 7th but how far are they from possibly making it into the top six? With revenues increasing in the Premier League due to TV deals, which included an £8.4bn deal agreed for 2016-2019 as well as a rise in sponsorship earnings, lower-ranked league clubs have been able to attract top European talents.
Leicester were able to break their transfer record by spending £40m on Youri Tielemans from AS Monaco to claim their stake on having perhaps one of the strongest midfield trio in the Premier League, alongside Wilfred Ndidi and James Maddison.
Ayoze Pérez (£30m) was also added to relieve some of the pressure off Jamie Vardy which could prove decisive in certain stages of the season, with Vardy turning 33 in January.
Brendan Rodgers recently stated: “Our notion is to make another step forward and be in there challenging with those teams that are trying to break through into that top six.”
In Rodgers, Leicester have a distinguished and ambitious Premier League coach who will aim to break the mould as he begins to build a complete team going into the season, with or without Harry Maguire.
Leicester have already entered into footballing folklore but are they about to do so again? With a talented squad that has a sound establishment behind it and ambitious owners, they look one step closer to seriously challenging the top 6 this season.
Wolverhampton, another side who showed great promise in 18/19 whilst also reaching an FA Cup semi-final, finished nine points behind United. This summer they have been scouring Europe for more top talent, once again.
A partnership with super-agent Jorge Mendes has allowed them to attract and persuade high calibre players. This summer looks no different – the target being Spanish youth prospect, Jesus Vallejo from Real Madrid. Vallejo joins on loan after captaining Spain’s U21s to a European title.
This would’ve been unprecedented in any other era but the revenue now being generated in the Premier League has allowed for these types of deals to take place. If Vallejo can step in and improve the defensive stability even slightly – it could result in crucial points come the end of the season.
Wolverhampton, like Leicester, have looked to reduce the burden on their main man, Raúl Jiménez, by capturing Patrick Cutrone (£16m) from AC Milan. This could also be driven by their Europa League expedition should they qualify through the rounds, but his instincts in the box will be more than welcomed.
The belief in these managers is also very clear. Wolves sporting director Kevin Thelwell recently said: “We have a strong philosophy under the leadership of Nuno (Wolves boss) of bringing in the right type of people and developing young talent while staying humble and grounded as individuals, and we feel Patrick perfectly fits into our philosophy.”
This type of trust and belief is pivotal in the modern era if any club is to move in the right direction and become successful – both on the pitch and off it.
In the last three seasons, the gap between 7th and 6th has been 9 points on average. This also usually tends to be one of the biggest gaps in the table but teams don’t seem to be frightened of the notion or the points gap to the top 6 but in fact encouraged and determined to join the pack – at least that’s what we think.
If Leicester and Wolves, or any others, are able to break the top six mould this season or not, it won’t be long before we see a change in the traditional landscape of the top six as we know it, since the gap in quality is beginning to close…