Eurosport Roundtable: Will a ‘mid-table club’ beat Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal into the
Outside of Everton (2005) and Tottenham (2010 and 2012), the Premier League's top four has pretty much been a closed shop for a long time.
Even the Toffees and Spurs are far from a true underdog story - but this season that could change.
Well, we decided to ask the writers what they thought, to see if our workplace was filled with crazy brave optimists or cynical pessimists.
Once you've checked out their views, you can add your own at the bottom.
Alex Chick (Twitter: @alex_eurosport):
NO - Southampton have been a great story, and deserve their plaudits for some excellent performances, but it won’t last. Ronald Koeman said on Monday: “I don’t see a lot of other teams that are better than Southampton.” Not now, he doesn’t - but we are still less than a third of the way into the season, and it’s inconceivable that Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool will continue to plumb the depths of comedic ineptitude until May. Southampton’s upcoming consecutive games against Manchester City, Arsenal and United will tell us more about their credentials – but there will still be a very long way to go. They and Koeman look like the ultimate ‘sell high’.
Marcus Foley (Twitter: @mmjfoley):
NO - Unfortunately not. Southampton’s success is part down to some exceptional transfer business and some astute management from Ronald Koeman, but more so down to the deficiencies of the 'traditional' top four. Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City to varying degrees have made dreadful starts to the season. However, the quality within their squads dictates that the rest of the season should be marked by dramatic improvements. Put simply, in all probability they won’t be this bad for the whole season. Southampton have a good squad; one that is easily good enough for a top eight finish. Anywhere from six up would be a great achievement.
Ben Snowball (Twitter: @BenSnowball):
NO - Nah, it’s not going to happen. We all want Southampton to muscle into the top four, but we can’t ignore their ridiculously kind fixture draw to this point. Their two tricky away outings – at Anfield and White Hart Lane – resulted in defeat and we can expect another to follow when they travel to the Emirates on Wednesday. Their seven-point advantage on fifth spot is bound to disintegrate over December – a month that will also stretch their slightly limited squad. It’s upsetting, but deep down we already know the top four will be Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal. Sorry Ronald.
YES - Ignore my spoilsport colleagues. And forgive them. They must never have read that little disclaimer at the bottom of finance adverts where it tells you that "past performance should not be seen as an indicator of future performance"; just because United and Arsenal have usually come good in the past doesn't mean they will this time. The facts boil down to this: with 26 games left in the season, Southampton have a seven-point headstart on Manchester United and a nine-point headstart on Arsenal, and they only need to hold off one of those two teams - and they are absolutely capable of doing so. Everyone at Arsenal is injured, and at the inevitable moment that Alexis Sanchez joins the gang in the treatment room, it'll be game over for the Gunners. As for United? They too have endless injuries – but even when everybody is fit again, they still won't have a defence. What's more, something is clearly very, very right at Southampton: a club that can lose its manager and all its best players and still thrive must have an incredible set-up and atmosphere that the squad are responding too. Forget top four – the Saints can finish third. And what's more, I fancy Everton's chances of trying to sneak in the Champions League places as well.
Liam Happe (Twitter: @liamhappe):
YES - Okay, so the likes of Southampton, West Ham, Swansea and (shudder) Alan Pardew’s Newcastle are currently displaying all the signs of upper mid-table sides who fly really high early on before the pressure gets to them at the business end. I feel that will definitely apply to the Hammers and the Swans, and Newcastle have already proven themselves to ride wildly from one extreme to another under Pards, which’ll likely remain the case. As for Southampton? Yeah, a dip is coming. But more importantly, this is the worst we’ve seen from the collective group of ‘big clubs’ in absolute donkeys. Not only have Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool been quite bad, there are serious signs that they may not necessarily pick things up just in the nick of time to snatch a top four spot. With so much disaster among the ‘big five’, it could well happen more due to them being poor than Southampton keeping up their immense start all the way until May. Chelsea will win the league, Man City have plenty of quality to cover their flaws for second place and third and fourth really are wide open.
Alex Netherton (Twitter: @ lxndrnthrtn ):
It's tied at three each - quite a vote of confidence in teams like Southampton (and the opposite for Louis van Gaal, Arsene Wenger and Brendan Rodgers) because such a topic in previous seasons would surely have been a clean sweep of NOs.