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Which Premier League Clubs Are Punching Above Their Weight?

manchester city ricky hatton Which Premier League Clubs Are Punching Above Their Weight?

After watching last Sunday’s sensational win by Aston Villa against Everton, it made me start thinking about how Premier League teams punch above, at or below their weight. And how you can see how teams rely on certain individual players too much to the detriment of the team.

By the way, punching above your weight means to fight (literally or figuratively) at a level above what would be expected of you.

Here’s my analysis of all 20 teams in the Premier League, and where I believe they are based on their recent performances:

Punching above their weight

  • Hull City: Looking at the team sheet for Hull City before the league began, very few people anticipated Hull doing so well in the beginning half of the season. Other than Geovanni, the team has little star potential, but you can see in the way that Hull play that Phil Brown has ignited a spark in his team. They play like warriors going into battle, never giving up and very focused on the task at hand. To me, all eleven players are punching above their weight. Next season it’ll be almost impossible for the club to improve on what they’ve accomplished this year, so City fans should enjoy the ride while they can.
  • Stoke City: Love them or hate them, Stoke City are giving everything they’ve got to stay up in the Premier League. With their boisterous home fans, wonder throw-ins from Rory Delap and the resurgence that striker Ricardo Fuller is displaying, the team led by Tony Pulis are a difficult team to beat. Just like Hull, they’ll find themselves in a much tougher spot next season but right now they’re displaying quite a hunger to escape the drop.
  • Aston Villa: Sure Martin O’Neill has spent a lot of money in rebuilding this side, but the manager has created a well-balanced side that have strength in all positions. Just like Hull City, Villa has a tremendous team spirit and a wonderful relationship with their manager who really believes in his players. But I believe they’re punching above their weight. Reason being is that under practically any other manager, I feel the team would not perform as well as they do now.
  • Bolton Wanderers: Who would have predicted Gary Megson and his Bolton side to do so well? With an average of 2.75 goals scored in each away game, this isn’t no longer Sam Allardyce’s 1-0 to the Bolton side. Like Hull City and Stoke, Bolton plays a very focused game without compromising themselves and being caught on the counter attack.
  • Everton: Wrecked by injuries and hampered by the lack of cash available for transfer signings, Everton had a bottom half of the table season written all over them. Despite this, they’ve been able to punch above their weight and have done exceedingly well away from home. At Goodison Park, they’ve only won one home league match all season.
  • Wigan Athletic: One of the least respected teams in the Premier League continue to overperform. A lot of this has been the result of shrewd transfer signings. Two seasons ago, it was Antonio Valencia. Last season, it was Wilson Palacios, and this season it’s been Amir Zaki. Of course, those players are surrounded by talented players and a manager, Steve Bruce, who is very determined.

Punching below their weight

  • Sunderland: Last Saturday’s game against Manchester United was a perfect example. Keane had spent £80 million on his team, but they’ve been playing like Bolton instead of Barcelona. And even against Bolton, they lose 4-1 at home. This team, more than any in the Premier League, has the greatest opportunity to improve and are currently punching way below their weight.
  • West Bromwich Albion: For many people, myself included, West Brom have been disappointing to watch this season. They play an attractive brand of football but they seem to be missing that type of playmaker who can change the game. Someone like Geovanni. They’re staying true to their beliefs, which is to play football on the ground, but they’re sufficiently lacking that killer instinct, which is now made even worse by the loss of Ishmael Miller for the remainder of the season due to injury.
  • Newcastle United: To be a Newcastle supporter must be one of the most frustrating experiences. They have so much talent and did well against Manchester United earlier in the season, but they can’t seem to win at home against lesser opposition. Despite having a schizophrenic squad made up of world-class players, rising talent, aging players and a few players out of their depth, Newcastle should be performing a lot better than they currently are. But isn’t that always the case with them?
  • Manchester United: The Red Devils are definitely a team that are not yet firing on all cylinders. They’ve shown glimmers of brilliance this season, but they’ve also shown how vulnerable they can be. Man United has a long way to go before they can win the Premier League this season.
  • Manchester City: This is a perfect example of a team punching below their weight. Even Robinho claimed the team was not playing as winners. The way they’re playing is almost as if they know they’ll be transfer listed in January. Massive improvement is especially needed in the back for City.
  • Middlesbrough: Boro showed so much potential in the first few games of the season where they beat Spurs and almost defeated Liverpool. They were playing well together but then the wheels have come off the track. They’re currently punching below their weight. The challenge will be to see if they can punch at their actual weight class between now and the end of the season.
  • Arsenal: The Gunners have been the epitomy of inconsistency this season. Beating Chelsea and Manchester United, you would expect Arsenal to run away with the title but they stumble against unlikely opponents such as Hull and Stoke. The players need to raise their talent and play to the level that they’re capable of achieving.
  • Blackburn Rovers: The Lancashire team is playing quite unlike they did last season. Now clubs feel they can go to Ewood Park and get three points. Last season, that never would have happened under Mark Hughes. They show glimmers of hope now and again, but can definitely do better more consistently than they do right now.
  • Tottenham Hotspur: After Juande Ramos spent a ton of money in the summer, a lot of people – myself included – were talking about Spurs rising to the next level. In so many ways, they’ve disappointed but at least they have the fight back now that Harry Redknapp is in charge.
  • Portsmouth: For a small club such as Portsmouth, they’re doing quite well in the league. But based on the cash they’ve spent during the last couple of years, they should really be winning games more comfortably. Thankfully Harry Redknapp left them Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe, but with a new owner in charge, you have to wonder how long these players may remain at Fratton Park.

Punching at their weight:

  • West Ham United: The Hammers have spent a ton of money to buy a bunch of rejects who are well past their sell-by date. Zola has a ton of work to do, but right now given their transfer plight, I believe they’re punching at their weight class.
  • Liverpool: The Reds are another team that have spent a lot of money in the transfer market, but they’re finally in a position in the league where they should be based on the investment they’ve made and the players they have on the pitch. If anything, they may be punching a little above their weight right now.
  • Fulham: Many of you may believe that Fulham are punching above their weight based on their performances so far this season, but the reality is that they’re finally living up to expectations after a horrid last two years.
  • Chelsea: This is a team of talented players that are finally playing to their level of talent, playing attractive football that is appealing to the eye (finally).

What are your thoughts about the analysis of the above teams? Do you feel that some should be in a different weight class? If so, why? Click the comments link below and let us know.


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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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