Many have tried, and some have succeeded, at breaking into the monopoly that the Premier League’s ‘big six’ clubs have enjoyed for a decade or more.
Leicester City’s title triumph in 2015/16 was one of the most extraordinary football betting stories in history – the Foxes a princely 5000/1 with the bookies to achieve the scarcely thinkable.
West Ham look to be the next contenders for the top six accolade, but a run of just two wins in their last six games has rather derailed the Hammers’ hopes of sneaking in this season.
If David Moyes’ men do fall short in their bid to break into the top six, who could be the next club to have a good go at upsetting the status quo in the Premier League? Any one of these three teams might be ready to stake their claim:
The Villains were all the rage when Steven Gerrard took charge of the club in November 2021, but early optimism has given way to faded dreams.
The Midlanders have lost more Premier League games than they have won in 2022, at the time of writing at least, and now solidifying a top-ten finish is a higher priority than breaking the big six.
But the most interesting thing about Villa is that they may not yet have hit their ceiling. The likes of Matty Cash, Emi Buendía, Jacob Ramsey, Douglas Luiz and Ezri Konsa are aged 25 or younger, while Ollie Watkins (26) and John McGinn (27) are hardly destined for football’s retirement home.
That gives them plenty of upside, so how high can they go?
Football statisticians will recall during the 2020/21 season how Brighton ranked fifth in the Premier League for Expected Goals (xG) difference.
Without getting bogged down in the jargon, the Seagulls were excellent at creating quality goalscoring chances and excellent at preventing them defensively even if their final league position didn’t reflect the fact.
But now Brighton are cashing in on their quality, and comfortably above the relegation zone, they have their sights on a top-10 finish.
Their upward trajectory suggests further improvement is possible, although keeping hold of exciting talents like Tariq Lamptey – and highly-rated manager Graham Potter – will be vital.
Patrick Vieira has worked a minor miracle at Crystal Palace since taking over as head coach in the summer of 2021.
Roy Hodgson left the Eagles in a good place, but Vieira has rebranded them as a progressive, dynamic and attacking outfit that has got the Selhurst Road faithful back on side.
Ranking in fifth place as the best defensive outfit in the Premier League – using the ‘non-penalty xG conceded’ stat as our guide, Palace are working well in all facets of the game and, like Villa, their potential upside is untold.
Marc Guehi, Conor Gallagher, Tyrick Mitchell and Michael Olise are all 22 or younger, while Wilfried Zaha – something of a mentor at 29 – has found a new lease of life and is on course for the best goalscoring season of his Palace career.
The Eagles are flying high, but can they find a place to roost in the Premier League’s top six next season?