For a large part of the past decade, the Premier League mid-table has been occupied by mostly the same stalwarts that thrived in the limelight of being just below the limelight – names such as Newcastle United, Everton, Tottenham, and Aston Villa come to the fore.
Over the past two or three years however, the trend appears to be shifting. Newly promoted clubs circumvent the dreaded second season syndrome with heartening nonchalance, and indeed the rise of “Club Businesses” has seen some shrewd business decisions bring up some new faces into contention for the European spots, and those just below. Here’s a look at some of those aiming to become fresh fixtures in the top 10 of the PL.
1. Stoke City
Ever since their promotion in 2008, the Potters have scarcely, if ever, flirted with relegation. They have, however, mostly languished in the lower reaches of the standings. Long-serving manager Tony Pulis made them a side to be physically feared, with some remnants of the imposing specimen favoured by him still first team regulars, such as captain Ryan Shawcross.
Under the management of Mark Hughes, who insists on rebranding the team into one that plays a more attractive and less direct way of football, Stoke have made some remarkable signings including Champions’ League winners such as Xerdan Shaqiri and Bojan Krcic. Going into the 2015/16 season, Stoke have raised expectations with both the signings and perhaps the beginnings of the promised flair, with a 6-1 demolition of Liverpool in the final match-day of last season still fresh in the memory.
They now look, over the course of the season, to make the Britannia Stadium an even stronger fortress and cement their position in the top half of the league table. But can they do it on a cold, windy night at Stoke?