Such is the quality of the Premier League’s top six that it would take some increased level of consistency for another team to break their dominance and nick a lucrative European spot from at least one of them.
Burnley surprisingly looked close to achieving just that last season despite a compact squad and Everton being tipped for that achievement beforehand only to fall well short after the Toffees’ season spectacularly imploded.
This time around, Burnley could still finish in the top half of the league with manager, Sean Dyche, adding a handful of useful signings to his team, including Joe Hart who’s come to soften the blow of goalkeepers Nick Pope and Tom Heaton suffering a discolated shoulder and still being some time away from returning to full fitness respectively.
Burnley’s Europa League campaign could hamper the club’s final league finish as previously seen with clubs embarking on a first ever continental campaign that stretches the squad bare – opening the door for the likes of Everton and few other teams to make an impression.
Everton finally got their man in former Watford manager, Marco Silva, and he has set to reshape the Merseyside club straight away and bringing in talented forwards, Richarlison and Bernard, as well as Barcelona trio, Lucas Digne, Yerry Mina, and Andre Gomes to bolster the squad.
Along with January signing, Cenk Tosun, who showed glimpses of his scoring prowess in the closing stages of last season, the Toffees could finally come to match the expectations of the investment pumped into the team.
Where Everton have been bold in spending this time, West Ham United have brought in a slew of talent including Jack Wilshere, Felipe Anderson, Łukasz Fabianski, and more to look a more promising side under experienced coach, Manuel Pellegrini, who won a league title before being replaced at Man. City with Guardiola.
Surprisingly though, it is two of the newly promoted teams that have showed serious ambition with their activity in the transfer market – Fulham signed Andre Schürrle and Calum Chambers on loan while Wolves took advantage of the situation at Sporting Lisbon to get experienced Portugal internationals, Joao Moutinho and Rui Patricio to join talented compatriot, Rubén Neves, along with the signings of Adama Traore and Sergio Rico.
Adapting to top flight football could turn out better for the two clubs as a result of strengthening their squad and based on the campaigns of Brighton especially and Huddersfield Town which faded at the end of last season but still made a big impression.
However, Huddersfield coach, David Wagner, would need to get more results to go with the eye-catching football his team plays or face another relegation fight and end up not surviving owing to the stronger potential of the other teams this year.
Southampton on their part could find themselves in that relegation fight as well having only just escaped it last season with two wins in its final eight games under Mark Hughes, who was brought in after a woeful season under Mauricio Pellegrino.
Hughes has Premier League experience but has his work at the Saints cut out this season even with the recruitment done. For one, two of his strikers, Charlie Austin and Danny Ings, may be fine strikers but the duo rack up more weeks on the recovery table than they do on the field of play, while Manolo Gabbiadini has not quite settled to Premier League life after two average seasons.
And Southampton would know about a team full of talented players which still got relegated after watching Stoke City suffer that just last season, which also saw a rare moment of the three promoted teams – Brighton, Huddersfield, and Newcastle United – all retain their top flight status.
Cardiff City returned to the top flight with Wolves and Fulham but this Premier League is much tougher. Coupled with a relatively quiet transfer window, the quality and consistency of the Cardiff’s displays over the course of the season would determine how well the Welsh club fares this time, though the outlook does not bode well for it.
Another club with similar outlook is Newcastle United, whose vastly experienced manager, Rafael Benítez, has lamented having to work with a tight-fisted budget and a poorly structured hierarchy in the quest to get the Toons back among the big boys as it used to be until a decade ago.
Still, Benítez has been able to get some shrewd business done, swapping Salomon Rondon on loan from West Brom with injury-prone striker, Dwight Gayle, heading the other way. Kenedy also remains on loan from Chelsea while Swiss defender, Fabian Schär has joined the ranks to strengthen Newcastle’s squad which began to show some promise towards the end of last season.
But a difficult run of opening games which sees Newcastle face the five of the league’s big six as well as tricky ties against Crystal Palace and Leicester in its opening eight games could make or mar the season for Newcastle.
In all, the competition outside the big six teams would be a keenly contested one and as a result, could see the gap between the big six and the rest of the league open up some more.