If last season’s Premier League taught us anything, it’s that when the so-called ‘top teams’ have a slump, there’s always an underdog ready to take advantage.
In addition to Leicester City’s sensational 5000/1 title triumph, West Ham United qualified for the Europa League and relegation favourites Watford finished just five points behind the previous season’s Premier League winners.
While we might not quite see a four-figure outsider lift the title, there’s plenty of value in backing some surprise packages for a top-six finish.
West Ham United – 11/4
Having missed out on the top six by a single point last season, it’s a surprise to see the Hammers priced as dark horses to make the cut this time around – especially considering their summer transfer business.
Highly-rated boss Slaven Bilic has brought in Andre Ayew, who contributed 12 Premier League goals and five assists for Swansea City last season, as well as classy French left-back Arthur Maseru from Olympiacos.
The Croatian gaffer has also managed to hold onto the club’s top talents over the summer, with Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini and Cheikhou Kouyate all staying, with the only notable departure that of the workmanlike James Tomkins.
With the star men all now having experience of Premier League football under their belts, there’s every chance the Hammers will build on last season’s success at their new Olympic Stadium home.
Everton – 7/2
Despite two difficult years under now-departed boss Roberto Martinez, the Toffees have actually finished in the Premier League top six in five of the last 10 seasons. And with new boss Ronald Koeman having steered Southampton to successive top-seven finishes, the future looks bright for the blue half of Merseyside.
Koeman has already bought well this summer,with the likes of Maarten Stekelenburg and Senegal international Idrissa Gueye arriving at Goodison Park, and he has plenty more funds at his disposal thanks to the club trousering a mammoth sum from John Stones £47.5m sale to Manchester City – a fantastic bit of business for a player who had a difficult season last time out.
While last season’s lowly 11th-placed finish was a disappointment for Toffees fans, the absence of European football means their squad won’t be stretched thin during the coming campaign, making a top-six finish look not only plausible but probable.
Middlesbrough – 40/1
While West Ham and Everton are dark horses for a top-six spot, the bookies make Boro serious outsiders to join that elite group this season. But while it’s a big ask for Aitor Karanka’s men, they have the quality to put in a serious challenge.
The £12.75m signing of tricky midfielder Marten de Roon from Atalanta was just one sign of intent in a summer where ambition has paid off for the Teesside outfit.
The arrival of three-time Champions League winner Victor Valdes between the posts, Danish international Viktor Fischer and prolific hitman Alvaro Negredo – who boasts over 100 La Liga goals – signify that Boro’s aims will be very different to the modest hopes of the usual newly-promoted sides.
And the Riverside Stadium club are likely to provide stubborn opposition from a defensive standpoint, having conceded just 32 goals in last season’s Championship, including a run of nine consecutive clean sheets from November to January.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing