As Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger said a few seasons ago, making the Premier League top four and Champions League qualification was like winning silverware. For the ‘big teams’ Champions League qualification is the least they would expect, while some see anything other than the title as a failure.
The bookmakers seem to think the top four will be made up of Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, with Tottenham and Liverpool fifth and sixth respectively. Only then comes champions Leicester City in seventh and 5-1 to make the top four according to bet365 and Sports Winner.
It could be argued that each of these seven teams will enter the season with Champions League qualification as the least they expect for different reasons.
The two Manchester teams have new high profile managers and have already splashed the cash to take them back to the top, likewise with Chelsea. Arsenal, the perennial bridesmaid with constant Champions League qualification and no league trophy in sight will hope to go one better this season than last year’s second, following third and fourth the previous seasons.
Tottenham were many people’s favourites for much of last season and if not for a disappointing finish, they could have pipped Leicester. Mauricio Pochettino has strengthened a side which wants to return to the top tier of English football by showing they have what it takes to lift a championship trophy for the first time in over half a century.
Similarly, Liverpool didn’t have the greatest season, part in thanks to the distraction of a Europa League run which ultimately ended in final failure. However, there has been definite improvement under Jurgen Klopp and with new signings and key injured players like Jordan Henderson back, they will be a threat to the top four.
Finally, Claudio Ranieri will be out to demonstrate that their title win was not a fluke and that even though they have significantly fewer resources than the big teams, they are a force to be reckoned with on a consistent basis. However, they also have the distraction and potentially energy-sapping prospect of European football, as opposed to the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool.
Other teams expecting to be on the cusp are the likes of Everton, Southampton and West Ham who looked like they might sneak in last year. Then there is a big drop to Stoke City who are as much as 50-1 to finish in the top four positions at totesport and Sporting Bet.