Aston Villa & 4 More Teams That Could Break Into The Top 6

If they can keep Benteke fit (or keep him at all) then Villa might just break into the Premier League's top four, but they're not the only ones...
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If they can keep Benteke fit (or keep him at all) then Villa might just break into the Premier League's top four, but they're not the only ones...

We used to talk about having a top 4 in the Premier League, then it was a top 6. But with even sides like Southampton and Cardiff making 10/15 million pound signings of proven international players, you have to wonder if even this is a reasonable distinction. Arsenal, Liverpool, Man U and Spurs are all in a mess over big transfers or, in Arsenal’s case, a lack of transfers, and with all the upheaval that’s gone on this summer already, who knows which teams might come out on top. As such, I thought I’d look at some of the less plausible candidates for success this year. Sure, none of them are exactly dead certainties, but this is football, and anything can happen right?

Aston Villa

Why?
Villa have arguably the best out and out striker in the league in Benteke, who’s already shown his worth by scoring three in the opening two games of the season. On top of that though, they have a very decent manager in Paul Lambert, and a young, positive team that are maturing game by game. After the relatively shaky start to last season, Villa seem to have found their feet, and if the momentum continues they could certainly be in the hunt for top 4 come Christmas. Whether they’ll stay there over 38 games however, is difficult to say.

It could happen if...
They continue their fine start to the season, in which they’ve already beaten Arsenal at the Emirates fair and square and were unlucky not to get a point against Mourinho’s Chelsea. They need to build on Benteke’s goals with a bit more squad depth to be consistent challengers, but if promising players like Delph and Weimann can step up, then why not?

It won’t happen if…
Benteke gets seriously injured, leaves in January, or loses his blistering form.

Everton

Why?
As the team that finished 7th last year, Everton are an obvious choice for the accolade of best for the rest. They are in a period of transition however, and Martinez needs time to settle before we can judge his Everton fairly. On paper, it’s a strong side, with Barca’s exciting youngster Deulofeu joining a team that already has the likes of Baines, Jagielka, Fellaini, Mirallas and Pienaar.

It could happen if…
Martinez finds a way to produce the kind of form that made his Wigan team world-beaters on their day, without the inconsistency that eventually got them relegated. Personally I rate him as a manager, but a solid start will be important, and the Goodison faithful will expect plenty after the apparent overachievements of David Moyes.

It won’t happen if…
They lose Fellaini and Baines on deadline day, and have no time to look for replacements.

West Ham

Why?
While Allardyce’s style of play isn’t really for me, it’s hard to deny he’s done a very good job at West Ham. Signing Andy Carroll for £15 million might seem a risky move, but on his day the Geordie is unplayable, and provides star quality that this otherwise solid, but workmanlike side lacks. Joe Cole should be another one to watch after his man of the match performance against Cardiff on opening day, and Stewart Downing also looked back to his old self at Liverpool towards the end of last season.

It could happen if…
The Hammers turn Upton Park into a fortress, and nick a few good points against the big teams. As always with Allardyce, the team will be hard to beat, but Andy Carroll’s goals will be crucial, as will the flair provided by Joe Cole.

It won’t happen if…
Carroll and Downing revive their appalling form at Liverpool

Swansea

Why?
Laudrup’s slick, attacking Swansea side won the League Cup on merit last year, and seem to have strengthened further over the summer. Swansea have been widely praised for the way they go about their transfer business, and in the likely event Wilfried Bony turns out to be another Michu, who’s to say they can’t trouble the big clubs?

It could happen if…
They don’t allow European or cup distractions to become an issue. A few upsets here and there won’t be enough for top 6, so consistency against the smaller teams is absolutely crucial. Laudrup’s fluid style of play should also lend itself to Europa League quite well, which could make this an interesting season for the Swans whatever happens in the league.

It won’t happen if…
They get to the knockout stages of the Europa League. Simply put, they don’t have the squad depth to deal with it.

Newcastle

Why?
It seems bizarre in retrospect, but Newcastle finished above Chelsea and Liverpool just two seasons ago, and the core of that strong team is still there. However, underperformers like Ben Arfa, Tiote and Cisse need to find their feet again, with all three enjoying a pretty torrid time in the league last season. Cabaye, their best player, may also be on his way out. Losing to an exceptional Man City side shouldn’t be seen as the end of the world for Pardew’s side however, and they’ve certainly got the quality to finish in the top 6 if things go their way.

It could happen if…
Cisse, Ben Arfa, Tiote, Sissoko and co show why the biggest clubs in Europe were looking at them not so long ago. The Magpies also have the relief of not having to split themselves between Europa and League fixtures this season, and so can concentrate on re-finding their 2011 form.

It won’t happen if…
The debacle at Man City - where Newcastle looked like a team of strangers – becomes a consistent thing.