CRAIGE: Low Level Clubs Surprise in EPL this Year
The Beautiful Game

As the semester winds down and we approach winter break, I cannot help but marvel at what a soccer season it has been so far. Granted, the usual suspects like F.C. Barcelona and Bayern Munich have continued to dominate their respective leagues without much fanfare, although Real Madrid has been surrounded by controversy lately.

I am talking specifically about the Premier League, where 2015 appears to be the year of the little teams. That’s not to say that the heavyweights aren’t doing well. In fact, with the exception of Chelsea — much to my delight — the big clubs like Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and even Tottenham are all currently in the top eight. But besides this expected success from historically dominant teams, this season has been absolutely wonderful for the smaller clubs.

Leicester City, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Watford: These are the teams that round out the top 10. It’s almost mind-boggling to see a newly promoted team like Watford doing well, let alone to see a team like Leicester City leading the league. Had you told me at the beginning of the season that Leicester City and West Ham would be better than Chelsea, I would have laughed. It is just crazy.

This season has been uncharacteristically unpredictable, and that is what I love most about the Premier League. The EPL is not like La Liga — where you can say with almost certainty every year that Barcelona or Madrid will win the league — or the Bundesliga, where it is no longer even a question whether Bayern Munich will win the title. In the Premier League, anything can happen. As we have seen this season, this chaos certainly holds true.

So far, West Ham United — a team that usually languishes in the mid-to-lower table range — has beaten Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea, not that beating Chelsea is terribly difficult this season. Just this past weekend, the Hammers held a rather boring Manchester United side to a draw. West Ham United is essentially the new Crystal Palace in terms of upsetting the big teams.

In fact, Crystal Palace has yet to live up to its reputation this season. The only big club it has beaten so far is Liverpool, when it handed Jürgen Klopp his first loss. Nevertheless, Palace is doing pretty well and it is quite feasible that the team will finish in the top 10 this year.

While I am very excited to see what Leicester City will continue to do, I am most excited to see what Watford will accomplish. Every year, I always pick a dark horse team I want to do well. Last year, it was Leicester City. This year, it is Watford. First of all, I love the Watford logo, although I am a little confused as to why it shows a moose when the team is referred to as the Hornets.

I also love the team’s energy. It is very clear that the players are extremely happy to be in the Premier League. While the Hornets have yet to beat a truly big team, I like to think that they will manage to stay up in the Premier League and defy all expectations.

By far though, the best thing to happen in this chaotic season has been the downfall of mighty Chelsea. After yet another loss — against Bournemouth, mind you — manager Jose Mourinho admitted that Chelsea is now targeting a top-six finish rather than a top-four finish. I offer my apologies to all Chelsea fans out there. It is nothing personal, but I am so glad your team is doing so poorly. It is really a great feeling to be able to bash another team, after years of having everyone make fun of me for supporting Liverpool. Who’s laughing now?

Here are some of the games that you should try to catch over the winter break:

On Dec. 14, Leicester City takes on Chelsea. I’m mainly just pointing this out because I fully expect the Foxes to hammer the Blues.

On Dec. 21, Arsenal plays Manchester City. This should be a good game, and hopefully the Gunners will win.

Liverpool takes on Leicester on Dec. 26. Just two days later, Manchester United faces off against Chelsea in what should be a heated game. Leicester plays Manchester City on Dec. 29 in the last important game of 2015.

Happy holidays, Hoyas. I can’t wait to see what the new year has in store for us all.



Vanessa Craige is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. This is the final appearance of The Beautiful Game this semester.

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