Expect a Premier League groundswell in 2018/19
Gloom surrounded Swansea, West Brom and Stoke at season's end in 2017/18 while jubilation reigned at Cardiff, Fulham and Wolverhampton. Three clubs desperately hanging on went down while another trio playing exciting football won tickets to the promised land.
Premier League fans focused on the top six following the World Cup. Manchester City was expected to strengthen in at least two areas. Fans and media waited to see how the other five would react to City’s title defence and strengthen their squads.
Little did anyone expect the newly promoted and lower table teams would dominate the market. Of the clubs ranked 13-17th last season, Brighton, Watford and West Ham brought in a total of 23 new players. Brighton leads the pack with 13 new signings. It’s not only the quantitative aspect that astounds me, but the fact they brought in players from teams like Arsenal, RB Leipzig, Mainz and AZ Alkmaar. Alireza Jahanbaksh will have huge expectations after racking up 22 goals and 12 assists in only 37 appearances for the Dutch Cheeseheads last term.
Similarly, West Ham has been making all the right moves under new manager Manuel Pellegrini. The Hammers picked up quality talents like Jack Wilshere, Andriy Yarmalenko and Felipe Anderson from top clubs like Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund and Lazio. The club is ambitious to resurrect their Premier League fortunes. Pellegrini is exactly the manager to do that. His pedigree in English football is undoubted, yet before that he worked wonders with Malaga and gave Pep Guardiola a run for his money in one season with Real Madrid.
Attracting top talent will surely go a long way for all five clubs. Huddersfield, Watford and Southampton have all been strengthening their squad, too.
But if you think it’s only the survivors plotting incursions higher up the table, you're wrong. Newly promoted sides have been taking steps to increase squad depth. A glance at Wolverhampton Wanderers roster will make you think you're in the Portuguese Primeira Liga rather than the English top flight.
Portuguese international Joao Moutinho and Rui Patricio signed for the club. New Atletico Madrid signing Johnny Otto arrives on loan. Nuno Espirito Santo brought in nine new players. He literally means business.
Fellow Championship graduates, Fulham, pulled off the steal of the season by signing Jean-Micheal Seri from Nice and former Chelsea winger Andre Schurrle joined on loan from Dortmund. Another key piece of business was the permanent signing of Aleksander Mitrovic.
The new television revenues are allowing previously underfunded teams to experienced campaigners and budding youth prospects to their squads with tangible intent to compete for a top-10 finish if not a Europa League spot. Fulham and Wolverhampton have already wowed fans after their impressive season while West Ham and Brighton are targeting better finishes than last year.
With a bevvy of talent from across the world, the Premier League looks set to entice and excite fans. But it will not only be the top six. The mid-table will be a hive of activity as new and old teams look to battle it out for best of the rest honours. It may sound clichéd, but the Premier League is finally living up to its 'most competitive league in the world' moniker. Broadcasting money is doing wonders for the smaller clubs.