SBN - Soccer Betting News - SA's Leading Soccer Betting Newspaper: Can Leicester, Wolves or Everton gatecrash the top four?

Can Leicester, Wolves or Everton gatecrash the top four?

Richarlison, Jamie Vardy and Raul Jimenez

With the traditional “Big Six” clubs significantly strengthening in the transfer window, we take a look at the other potential contenders that are determined to possibly close the gap and be awarded with European football.  
  
Leicester City - 9/1

The Foxes' Youri Tielemans, Ricardo Pereira, James Maddison and Jamie Vardy

If you would have offered Europa League football and a fifth-place finish to Brendan Rodgers this time last season, it surely would have been grabbed with both hands, however, the manager who hails from Northern Ireland will be rueing his team’s unfortunate dip in form which saw the Foxes pick up just nine points from the 30 on offer as the league resumed following the lockdown period.

Lack of depth in the squad while hit heavily by injuries to key members of the first team, as well as the congested fixtures, were telling factors that saw the Foxes slip out of Champions League qualification after looking certainties while spending 10 months in either third or fourth position.

For a major part of the campaign Leicester were nailed on for third spot with Chelsea and Manchester United left to battle it out for one Champions League slot whilst keeping a close eye on Manchester City’s UEFA ban. Ben Chilwell has switched to the blue of Chelsea and Ricardo Pereira needs time to recover from his cruciate ligament injury.

Both full-backs were superb and only bested by Liverpool’s dynamic pair of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu’s partnership was solid in the heart of defence, giving Kasper Schmeichel confidence along the backline. A proper defence is always vital to success.

Despite the slump in the latter stages, the number of goals conceded (17) at the King Power Stadium is something that needs to be admired and emulated for another season of growth to continue. Jamie Vardy picked up the Golden Boot award for a stellar season but it felt like a consolation prize without Champions League qualification.

Thursday night football will hinder Leicester’s chances and the squad needs serious improvement and reinforcements to crack the top four with the traditional top six clubs significantly strengthening in the transfer market.

Wolves – 6/1

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo with Willy Boly and Ruben Neves

Wolves finished the previous season in seventh position without achieving a European football berth for this campaign which could be viewed as a blessing in disguise for Nuno Espirito Santo’s team.

Raul Jimenez enjoyed a brilliant season for the club but missed a crucial penalty against Sevilla in the Europa League semi-final that could have seen the Wolfpack compete in a European final which deserves massive plaudits considering the club were competing in the third tier, six seasons ago.

The game plan and philosophy that has been implemented looks like a well-oiled machine that doesn’t need much tinkering but rather just to keep hold of the quality players at the club. The Portuguese manager has the full belief of his players and you can easily tell that everyone enjoys playing for the coach and their teammates.

Without the awkward Europa League fixtures on Thursday nights, it plays into Wolves’ favour as the manager prefers to work with a small squad that he rarely changes. Consistency is the key factor that could separate this team from the others who are hoping to crack the financially well-off clubs who are expected to occupy the top six slots.

Molineux Stadium is a tough place for Premier League teams to visit with only 19 goals conceded from 19 games. The West Midlands outfit did the double over Manchester City so the team firmly believe that on their day, they can defeat any opposition.

The team is well balanced in every department and reinforcements have started being signed with the club-record transfer fee broken last weekend by signing 18-year-old Porto striker Fabio Silva.

Matt Doherty has left to join Tottenham but Lyon defender Marcal will look to fill that specific void after impressive displays in the knockout stages of the Champions League earned the Brazilian a move to the Premier League.

Everton – 20/1

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti with Brazilian striker Richarlison

“This is a great club with a rich history and a very passionate fan base,”

“There is a clear vision from the owner and the board to deliver success and trophies. That is something that appeals to me as a manager and I am thrilled at the prospect of being able to work with everybody at the club to help make that vision a reality.”

These were the first words of serial winner Carlo Ancelotti as the Italian maestro returned to the Premier League, 10 years after guiding Chelsea to the league title. Few would have predicted that a world class manager of his stature would take charge at Goodison Park.

Everton have spent 510 million pounds in the past four seasons but it hasn’t worked well and actually backfired with the Toffees failing to finish higher than seventh in the same period.

Ancelotti looks to end the mismanagement and aims for Champions League football as his main objective. Quality needs to be added to this unbalanced squad in order to entertain the idea.

Midfield general Allan was signed from Napoli last week to bolster the ranks. Personally, I rate the Brazilian highly and feel he will adapt to the Premier League quickly and become an important component of the team.

Advanced talks are ongoing for the signatures of James Rodriguez and Abdoulaye Doucoure and with these two players added to the likes of Andre Gomes, Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, you could see a proper team that is worthy of gate-crashing the top four.

At the back, Lucas Digne is a quality left-back, but another established centre-back is still required to move the team to the next level.

The bookies price Everton as outsiders to make top four compared to Leicester City and Wolves, but if there was any team that could possibly upset the applecart, it would be Everton under the tutelage of “Carletto”.

Honourable mentions

Southampton have impressed under Austrian coach Ralph Hasenhuttl who has spent 18 months at the club and has taken the club from strength to strength with his exciting brand of football. Danny Ings scored 22 goals from open play (most in the division) from 26 starts and six appearances off the bench. The defence needs to be shored up in order for the team to move forward, but the addition of Kyle Walker-Peters from Tottenham was excellent business.

Leeds United are the team that most fans are eagerly waiting for in the Premier League. Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa is highly-rated by some of the best managers in the world for innovative tactics and his unorthodox methods. Also, rivalries will be renewed against Manchester United and Chelsea with the Peacocks returning to the top-flight following a 17-year-absence. Arsenal went ‘Invincible’ the last time Premier League action was witnessed at Elland Road.

Written by Bryan Naicker