This is a guest contribution by Daniel Smyth of SunBets.co.uk. If you would like to submit a contribution please contact Bill Beatty for submission details. Thank you.
2016 has been a year to remember for English football fans. Back in the summer we witnessed the shock of all shocks when Leicester City came from absolutely nowhere to win the Premier League. Despite being 5,000/1 outsiders when the season kicked off, the Foxes, if you’ll excuse the pun, out-foxed everyone to achieve an historic victory.
Although Leicester have since faltered in the league (they’re still defying the odds in the Champions League), the entertainment hasn’t stopped since the summer. Indeed, as 2016 has welcomed the dawn of a new football season, some unexpected shenanigans have kept fans, pundits and odds makers on their toes.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic joined Manchester United on a free, Tottenham have gone unbeaten in 12 in the Premier League, and Crystal Palace have surprised everyone by being even more disappointing than they were last season. All-in-all, 2016 has been a great year for fans of the beautiful game, which means the pressure is on 2017.
Although we can expect much of the same from the usual players, the question on everyone’s lips is: which teams should we be looking out for in 2017? Spurs has shown they mean business this season, but is their current form enough to challenge the big boys? Similarly, Everton are hovering just outside the top five and a win or two could see the Merseyside club enter the fray in the post-Christmas rush.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at three teams we should be keeping our eyes on in 2017:
If you’re looking for a solid team to root for in the coming year then look no further than Tottenham. Mauricio Pochettino has put together a side that’s, so far, proven to be extremely tough to breakdown. Eight goals against in 12 games is by far the best record in the Premier League this season, and that’s been reflected in a six wins, six draws and no losses results card.
Of course, with Harry Kane being sidelined for much of the early part of the season, Spurs have struggled to score. Just as eight conceded is the best in the league, 18 goals in 12 is only marginally better than West Brom in ninth. However, with Kane now approaching something like his best, Spurs could easily make a run in 2017.
The current bookies odds have Pochettino’s men at 16/1 for the title and evens for a top four finish. Although the smart money would be on a top four finish at 1:1, a few quid on a win could pay dividends. It would only take an in-form Kane to link up with a strong backline for Spurs and the wins would come. Indeed, for a team that’s yet to taste Premier League defeat this season, 16/1 is a long price; especially when 2017 looks to be a promising year.
While much of the current focus is on Chelsea’s climb to the top of the league and Tottenham’s will-they-won’t-they form, canny spectators will have noticed Everton quietly making some moves. Although the Toffees are far from title challengers at this point in the season, solid results against lesser teams have helped push them to seventh in the league.
It’s certainly true that Ronald Koeman’s side has failed to impress against tough opposition (the 5-0 loss to Chelsea was particularly devastating), but things could very easily change in the New Year. In fact, the players themselves seem to know that they’re capable of more if they just put their minds to it. Recent signing Ashley Williams recently told the press that a crisis meeting between the players has taken place.
Looking to resolve some underlying confidence issues, Williams said that inconsistency is what’s currently holding back Everton. While there are certainly other reasons why the team isn’t performing against the bigger clubs, form is certainly a major factor. If Everton can kick themselves up the proverbial and pull off a few wins at the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool, a top four place isn’t a pipe dream.
Although 500/1 on a Premier League title is a bet too far, 33/1 on a top four finish looks attractive given the circumstances. A few mental tweaks and a couple of results and Everton could easily be the surprise package of 2017.
Down at the bottom of the table things are clearly looking bad for Swansea. Just one win in 12 and a disappointing 22 goals against has put the Welsh side in a tough position heading into 2017, but that doesn’t mean it’s all over. In fact, if you scroll through the latest odds, Sun Bets team don’t have City as the favourites for relegation. They haven’t even made them second favourites.
Given the side’s performance in 2015/2016 where they finished 12th, some people clearly have a sneaking suspicion they’ll be able to reverse their current downswing. Yes, if they lose again they’ll be facing the prospect of surviving the league with one of the worst records in Premier League history, but you should never say never.
Although the Swans’ skill level might not be the best in the league, it’s certainly not terrible. No, the main issue with the club in 2016 seems to be the players’ attitudes. Bob Bradley came in after four games and is clearly still finding his feet, but public arguments between the likes of Angel Rangel and Modou Barrow strike of a side in need of a break.
Christmas could provide that much needed time off. Although it might only be a few days, some festive cheer and a time to rest could be the best thing for Swansea at the moment. Providing they don’t go to pot before the close of the year, there’s a chance they can rally in 2017. Although at this stage it’s looking unlikely, they’re certainly the team to watch in the bottom half of the league over the coming months.
Wherever you look and however the cookie crumbles, there are plenty of interesting stories waiting to be written in 2017. Whether it’s Tottenham finding the back of the net or Swansea getting out of trouble, next year should be another time of plenty for football fans of all persuasions.
Daniel Smyth is a freelance writer with more than seven years’ experience in the betting industry. Today he produces regular betting previews across a range of sports, including football, MMA and boxing for SunBets.co.uk