Wolves and Everton’s 2-2 draw encompassed what might be an intriguing sub-plot to this year’s Premier League.
In attempting to navigate through the heavily cash laden division in search of a purpose other than meaningless mid-table existence, the fight for Europa League and the acclaimed 7th place is the peak most teams can dream of. Since Leicester’s unannounced gate-crashing of the English throne, there has been an unadulterated cementing of the top six sides in the country.
Whilst Burnley vaguely encroached on the elite last season, they did so in incredibly unceremonious fashion, managing to maintain their league position despite not winning a game for almost two months – underlining the uneventfulness of mid-table football.
However, new hope for an entertaining middle of the table battle arises in 2018/19. The narrative surrounding Wolves and Fulham has been different to almost every other newly promoted team entering the league. Wolves in particular, have had their squad unanimously deemed Premier League quality before any signings were made over summer.
The additions they went on to make, including two experienced Portuguese internationals, have the feel of an already established Premier League force. Whilst in Fulham’s case, we have been continually reminded that they are the first promoted team to spend over £100 million.
Yet spending is not always the answer as we have witnessed first-hand in many cases over the years. It is yet to be seen whether the spending of these two sides will be as frivolous as when Liverpool spent their Suarez money on some magic beans & a used toothbrush, but the early signs are positive for both.
Everton also fit this mould despite having duped fans in the same manner just 12 months ago. The blue half of Merseyside had high expectations entering last season with large sums of money spent on promising signings that many pundits were convinced would give Everton a real chance at testing the resolve of the top 6.
Having the ship righted halfway through the season by Sam Allardyce was not the outcome fans had hoped for – the ship never sunk but also barely moved for the rest of their voyage. Perhaps finally some progress can be made under the enigma that is Marco Silva.
Questions marks hang over the Portuguese’s head after Watford’s sudden stalling and his eventual dismissal, all amidst flirtatious glances from his current employer. Their valiant 10 man effort against Wolves was certainly compelling and fans will take encouragement from this performance.
Stoic Burnley under the watchful eye of Sean Dyche will surely find a way to bravely and, inevitably in a dull manner, juggle the pressures of a Europa League campaign whilst competing for the sought after 7th place. Perhaps Leicester’s talented young English duo of Gray and Maddison can inspire a campaign of excitement in the absence of Mahrez.
The field is wide open for new teams to prove they are slightly better than mediocre and invade the dull selection of mid-table teams that currently unenthusiastically occupy the 7th-11th spots.
The gap between teams with a chance at a Champions League spot and potentially the title itself, however minimal that chance may be (we’re looking at you Arsenal), and the teams simply striving to remain in the league is ever increasing. It is part of a more widely developing trend across Europe, yet the slightly arrogant stance of Premier League fans is that it is more competitive, entertaining and unpredictable than it’s European counterparts.
For this to continue to be the case, the teams falling just below the seemingly impenetrable top 6 must make a more concerted effort to challenge the status quo and create an entertaining battle amongst the mid-table sides. Will this season provide a noteworthy fight for those teams hoping to claim stake to the hotly coveted title of 7th place and announce themselves as the best of the rest? We can only hope that Fulham & Wolves inject some life into the middle ground of the best league in the world.