The new Premier League season is inching closer as pre-season begins. Every year, underdogs have hopes of a fairytale run. Everyone starts at zero points, and the dream to do the impossible is alive. Last year, Brighton and Hove Albion became the neutral’s favourite with their thrilling playing style and their ability to punch above their weight.
This year too, some teams have had a brilliant transfer window, some have made an astute managerial appointment, and some have kept a good thing going by managing to improve upon it.
Here are the three teams who are best placed to do a “Brighton” next year:
Last season, Unai Emery took over a Villa team fighting against relegation. He revitalised the place and Villa ended up finishing in European places.
It is tempting to think where Aston Villa could have finished had Emery gotten a full season at the helm. This year, that will be the case, and adding to that is a brilliant transfer window. World-class quality has been added to the squad in the form of Youri Tielemans and Pau Torres, two players who were targeted by Champions League regulars as recently as last season.
Emery had Villa punching above their weight last season, and now their weight has increased.
If things break right for them, a Europa League place can be expected. If things fall apart around them, even a Champions League place is no longer an unrealistic scenario.
They were predicted to go back straight down when they were promoted but they almost finished in the top half in the 2021/22 season. Then it was predicted they would come back to earth like Sheffield United but they improved their standing, finishing 9th in the 2022/23 season.
Owner Matthew Benham and manager Thomas Frank have shown a remarkable ability to play smartly and extract the maximum from their team.
With some astute additions in the transfer market so far, another jump further ahead in the table can’t be ruled out. Frank is becoming a man in demand but fans can rest easy knowing that Benham will probably already have a shortlist of prospective candidates.
Brentford are one of the few clubs where no single individual is irreplaceable. It has enabled them to survive and thrive in the Premier League.
That trend doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon.
This is a bold prediction with a capital ‘B’. AFC Bournemouth instantly became the hipster’s favourites when they appointed Andoni Iraola as the Head Coach. The Bielsa disciple is one of the most exciting young coaches in world football today and the decisiveness with which the Cherries appointed the Basque managerial wunderkind shows a lot of due diligence has been done.
Iraola has become somewhat of a “Miracle Man” in his short managerial career so far but Premier League will be different gravy.
However, Gary O’Neill showed last summer that his Bournemouth squad is more than good enough to survive in the Premier League. Since then, they’ve made some exciting signings, headlined by the arrival of Justin Kluivert.
Jefferson Lerma will be hard to replace but links to Milos Kerkez are yet another example of Bournemouth’s scouting team finding hidden gems.
Some early growing pains can be expected as the manager and the squad get to grips with each other. However, if this appointment clicks, their glory days under Eddie Howe might be superseded.