Despite neither team winning a match, nor even scoring a goal in the opening weekend of the 2019/20 Premier League campaign. Wolves, Everton, Leicester and West Ham are all pushing for a European spot and the unofficial title of ‘Best of the Rest’.
Each team has strengthened their squad with the addition of some very exciting attacking players. Proving they mean business about progressing up the league table and putting pressure on the top six clubs.
Let’s take a look at the clubs in question:
What Nuno Espirito Santo has achieved at Wolves in their return to the Premier League last season has been nothing short of excellent. He has built a squad of technically sharp players that have adapted well to the physicality of the Premier League. After a respectable top table finish It was only by fine margins that Wolves were knocked out of the FA Cup Semi-Final last season by Watford.
Their attacking force of Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota managed to score 22 league goals between them last year.
On the other side of the pitch, Wolves also managed to keep nine clean sheets. More than the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United.
The signing of Patrick Cutrone from AC Milan only increases the intensity of Wolves’ attack. Showing their intent on improving their already impressive attacking prowess.
After a mixed season for Everton last year, their summer signings have been very positive for the blue half of Merseyside. The failure to secure Wilf Zaha from Crystal Palace is a kick in the teeth for Everton. However, the signing of 19-year-old Moise Kean from Juventus is a very exciting piece of business. If he can settle in England and adapt to the Premier League, he could be a cracking transfer.
The worries for Everton in my mind lie in the defence. Club legend Phil Jagielka has moved back to Sheffield United. Despite Jagielka not making many appearances for the club last year, his presence will certainly be missed.
Kurt Zouma, on the other hand, did make many appearances for the club last year. He has moved back to his parent club Chelsea. But based off Zouma’s performance at Old Trafford, Everton fans might not be wishing him a speedy return.
Yerry Mina’s transfer from Barcelona should have been a successful bit of business. But for one reason or another, he has not performed to the best of his abilities yet. Maybe this year will be an improvement for the Colombian.
The departure of Claude Puel felt like it was necessary and overdue. His replacement Brendan Rogers settled in very quick and got Leicester back playing some very good football. Making them a joy to watch again.
Losing Riyad Mahrez has not seemed to have damaged Leicester at all. The summer signing of Ayoze Perez from Newcastle could be seen as a replacement for Mahrez. Whether he will become as important to Leicester as Mahrez was is something we will find out over time.
The big question now is how will Leicester cope with the loss of defensive kingpin Harry Maguire? Being such an imposing figure in their defensive line will surely be a big loss.
As always, their star man Jamie Vardy will be an important figure for them this season. Scoring 18 league goals last year, he will be hoping to match that figure if not beat it.
This summer saw West Ham break their transfer record with the £45 million signing of striker Sebastian Haller from Eintracht Frankfurt. Despite not having the easiest of debuts against Manchester City, his performance was promising.
Pablo Fornals also joined the ranks at the London club. Another exciting attacking option for Manuel Pellegrini’s ambitious side.
At a time during the summer, it looked like the Hammers were set to lose their highly-rated centre back Issa Diop to Manchester United. Thankfully for them though, the deal went nowhere and Diop stayed in London.
The return of long-serving Manuel Lanzini from injury is another boost to their squad. In the opening game against City, Lanzini looked fresh and dangerous. Against easier opposition, Lanzini will surely get back to his best form and create a lot of issues for defences.
A Close Call
There is very little to split these four teams. Each with impressive squads and ambitions of greatness, led by four fantastic managers. The race outside the top six will add another dimension of excitement to the new Premier League season.