Could There Be An “Against The Odds” Premier League Winner In 2020/21?
No fans, penalties in abundance, and muscle injuries leaving players dropping like flies — it’s safe to say the 2020/21 season is already a little bit strange, but could it look even stranger come May (or whenever this coronavirus-overcast season finishes)?
Every year, football fans across the world crave an exciting Premier League title race. While they’ve become increasingly rare in recent years, the early weeks of this campaign have thrown up enough surprise results for people to start wondering whether or not we could be looking at an unexpected underdog winner of England’s top flight this year.
Considering the canter at which Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool won the title last year, and the domination of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in recent seasons, the scope for an unexpected winner is actually quite large. If we take out the rest of last season’s top four (Manchester United and Chelsea) and multiple-time winners (Arsenal) are there a potential winner left among the bunch? Let’s analyze.
What are the odds saying?
If we’re looking for an “against the odds” winner of the Premier League, the first logical step is to look into the odds.
Going by Paddy Power’s current odds here is where outsiders sit in their quest for the title:
- Tottenham – 17/2
- Leicester City – 22/1
- Everton – 150/1
- Southampton – 150/1
- Aston Villa – 150/1
With the industry seeing new casinos every week, it can be hard to get a handle on what an ‘against the odds bet really is. Offers differ wildly and since Leicester City beat the 5000/1 odds, no bookies want to get caught out.
A new online casino could display totally different odds, challenging the basis of our theory, so it’s always worth checking what odds these sites are offering before making a bet.
Do the contenders have it in them?
Now that we know our potential outside contenders for the title, let’s take a look at whether or not they have it in them to go all the way.
Tottenham occupies a strange position in English football.
Technically a member of English football’s ruling class (the so-called ‘Big Six’), you’d be hard-pressed to find a non-Spurs supporting football fan who would ever consider them title favorites.
Even in their pomp under Mauricio Pochettino, there was always an air they would never go all the way. Unfortunately for Tottenham, that proved to be true.
However, their squad features world-class players in Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son, and Gareth Bale (not that they always guarantee glory), alongside a manager that, though past his prime, is perhaps the best man available to capitalize on the strange times we live and play football in. If anyone is built to play out a dull 1-0s that get you over the line, it’s Jose Mourinho.
Should nothing ‘Spursy’ happen, Tottenham could well build on the resolute and free-scoring momentum they’ve built in recent weeks and push the top two all the way.
They did it before, could they do it again?
A title win for Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City might seem out of the ordinary, but it would make a lot more sense than when the Foxes managed the ultimate upset in 2016.
That title-winning side was built around three magical players (Vardy, Kante, Mahrez) lifting professional, but ultimately mediocre teammates to their level and riding perhaps the largest wave of momentum the league has ever seen.
This time around, Leicester is a much more complete unit. Their excellent run of form in the first half of the 2019/20 season solidified a top-four spot, a position they only lost after injuries upset the balance of their squad.
Leicester are a young side, and an injury to Vardy would rob them of their primary goal outlet, but there’s something that makes sense about them securing a second league title. They’re adaptable, evidently growing as a team, and have the experience of doing it all before.
Ever since the Merseyside Derby, the swashbuckling Everton, with their new look midfield that dominated early back page headlines, has disappeared.
A string of bad results (most notably a loss away at Newcastle) has seen Carlo Ancelotti’s men return to what many people feel is their rightful place on the table.
Ask me whether Everton could win the title a couple of weeks ago and I would have been much more positive, but these poor results have shown that this side is just as fragile as it is impressive.
While there is a lot to love about this side from the blue half of Merseyside — Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s headers come to mind — there is that feeling of not quite there yet. Another season might see them become top four contenders, but the title is always going to be too far away.
Top of the first English division for the first time since 1988 (albeit only for 24 hours), Southampton are once again becoming everyone’s second team as they pick up steam and show the potential manager Ralph Hasenhuttl promised.
The ‘Alpine Klopp’ and his gang of willing runners will give anyone a game this season, and stand as perhaps the best example in the league of what happens when a plan does and doesn’t work.
If it works, you’ll probably sweep lesser teams away and climb the table. If it doesn’t, you’ll find yourself losing 5-2 to Spurs and clutching at the pulled up the ladder of a European spot.
Danny Ings is an imperious goal scorer, James Ward-Prowse offers something a lot of other teams don’t have in a free-kick specialist and the defense is finally starting to settle into a rhythm. Like many teams in the league, this is a work in progress. However, Southampton is perhaps the unknown quantity of this season that could further the point that above all, identity and strategy is the most important element of a modern winning team.
Believe it or not, Aston Villa might be the most exciting and interesting option on this list.
Towering figures like Jack Grealish, Tyrone Mings, and Ollie Watkins, which act as the spine of a truly exciting side, actually bear the most resemblance to the previously mentioned title-winning Leicester side.
Could talismanic talent make Dean Smith the first Englishman to win the title?
The 7-2 demolition of champions Liverpool definitely raised some eyebrows, but results have been mixed since then. Villa had the air of a team that was aware of the situation they were in last season, and built intelligently on it. They didn’t splash out on star players, but created a cohesive unit that might lose 1-0 at home to Burnley, but could well win away at multiple top-six sides.
Unfortunately, they rarely make for a title winner. If Villa becomes more consistent they might be able to do something special, but it all feels too early for them.
Early tables can be deceiving.
At this point last season Crystal Palace was two points off 2nd, they finished 14th. In the 2016/16 season, West Ham found themselves just a point behind eventual winners Leicester, by May they were 19 points behind.
Things can change very quickly in the Premier League, and while the strangeness of early results and the atmosphere suggests the potential for an “against the odds” winner, we’re not getting carried away.