Instability at the top opens door for chasing pack

Everton
Manuel Pellegrini has fond memories of the Asia Trophy and feels featuring in this year's event will benefit his West Ham players.

The big six aren't as solid as in years gone by and that has opened the door for the chasing pack to challenge for silverware.

Manchester City and Liverpool are the only clubs to boast real stability at the top of the Premier League and most expect them to run away from their rivals once again this season.

But the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal all seem to have problems either in the dugout or on the field and in some cases both.

United and Tottenham fall into the latter category of both as their managers, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mauricio Pochettino respectively, have already come under the spotlight.

Reports emerged last week suggesting Pochettino was ready to leave Spurs after the north London derby last weekend but after dinner with chairman Daniel Levy he was convinced to stick around.

But if he needed wining and dining to agree to stay on, it may not be too long until he starts edging towards the exit.

It’s understood the uncertainty over Christian Eriksen’s future is key to Pochettino’s wantaway thoughts, while the links with Real Madrid and PSG in terms of his own future are likely to have played a part.

At United, Solskjaer is yet to convince in the Old Trafford hot seat and a lack of leadership in all areas at the club seems to be setting him up to fail.

Chelsea’s issues lie mainly on the field due to the fact that they lost star player Eden Hazard over the summer while their two-window transfer ban has prevented new boss Frank Lampard from finding a replacement.

Lampard has found some joy in youngsters such as Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham but it’s a big ask to expect them to carry the club for the entire season as they look to compete across multiple fronts.

Arsenal also have major on-field problems and Unai Emery hasn’t yet been able to resolve their long-standing defensive issues and it could be argued that situation has worsened.

Laurent Koscielny’s demand to leave over the summer left Arsenal scrambling around for a replacement and they landed on the often erratic David Luiz.

He has already been involved in some calamitous incidents, notably in the heavy defeat to Liverpool, and certainly hasn’t brought any sense of calm or composure to the Gunners defence.

With all that in mind, teams like West Ham, Everton and Leicester must be optimistic about their chances of breaking into the top six or potentially even winning some silverware.

West Ham made a statement of intent by bringing in Manuel Pellegrini as manager in the summer of 2018 and the board were quick to offer plenty of financial backing.

Indeed, Pellegrini has spent in the region of £160million since joining the Hammers and he will be expected to deliver some serious results.

They finished 10th last term and anything less than a challenge for the top-six will be regarded as a failure, although winning silverware may get him off the hook.

The Hammers haven’t lifted a major title since winning the FA Cup in 1980 and with the big-two, City and Liverpool, focussed primarily on the Premier League and Champions League, West Ham should see the FA Cup and League Cup as something to challenge for.

Everton will have a similar view of the domestic trophies, while also looking to push for a spot in the top-six after Marco Silva was also handed big money to enhance his squad.

CEO Denise Barrett-Baxendale announced lofty ambitions when her appointment was confirmed in January, claiming they want to win the league title within 10 years.

That has piled plenty of pressure on the shoulders of Silva and he will need to start putting those building blocks in place to drive them in the right direction.

Even during the David Moyes era, when Everton seem to be at their most stable for some time, they failed to reach the final of a domestic competition.

But the likes of United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool were consistent during that period and it left little in terms of silverware to challenge for.

Leicester, similarly to West Ham, have shown incredible ambition in getting Brendan Rodgers on board and they could be the serious dark horses this season.

Of course, the memory of winning the Premier League title will never fade but fans are keen to see them build on that legacy over the next few years.

Another piece of silverware would be gratefully welcomed by those at the King Power Stadium and the early signs suggest this could be a positive season for the Foxes.

If not now, then when?

The FA Cup and League Cup have often been won by sides placed in the top six, however, Wigan’s victory over Manchester City in 2011-12 should allow others to dream.

 

Chelsea are only likely to come out fighting next summer when they can finally reinforce their squad to catch up on their rivals, while it’s surely only a matter of time until someone stops the rot at Manchester United.

West Ham, Everton and Leicester have to regard this as their best opportunity to crash the party and anything less than a run deep into the domestic cup competitions will be regarded as a failure.

The gulf between the top six and the rest of the division has been a huge talking point over the past few years and for the first time in a while, it looks like that gap is capable of being bridged.

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