Leicester City have by far been the biggest surprise of the season, topping the Barclays Premier League, their success has come at some would say the demise of other of the league’s giants for example, Liverpool and Manchester United, the most decorated clubs in the league, currently sitting outside the Champions League places.
However, in my opinion, these clubs including Chelsea, United, Arsenal, Liverpool and City need to be wary of new teams placing a bid to become ‘Giants”. The 2 teams that I would like to focus on are Stoke City and West Ham United.
Mark Hughes’ men have been somewhat of a force to be reckoned with this season. Formally branded as ‘a long ball team’, they are now being hailed as ‘Stokealona’ after some incredible performances and signings. After reaching the semi-final of the Capital One Cup and losing on penalties to Liverpool, Stoke would have felt hard done by after beating City 2-0 at home and would have gone into the game confident as definite underdogs.
A lot of praise has to go to manager Mark Hughes, who came to a club who where on the verge of a solid mid table club and has now bought in some fantastic talent and made this club into a European hopeful. The signings of Xherdan Shaqiri, Bojan Krkic and Marko Arnautovic have allowed the Potters to play a more free flowing and attractive style of football. In January, they signed French midfielder Giannelli Imbula, who’s career hadn’t been on the best of paths, getting nowhere near regular football. However, he has come into his own and settled in very well to the league.
With the close of the season drawing near, Stoke need a good finish to the season to give them a chance of making Europe, and with Europe in mind, Stoke City could really become a giant in our league. The signings they have made have proven them to be a strong force and, going into the next window, offering players European football may entice some more players to join the Potters on their quest to become a driving force in the biggest competition.
WEST HAM UNITED
When Big Sam Allardyce left West Ham, I didn’t think the future looked bright for the Hammers, however they look rejuvenated under new manager Slaven Bilic. The former Besiktas manager has again brought in numerous signings that have impacted on the Hammers season. The main one being Dimitri Payet signing a new contract to keep him at the club. The Frenchman’s performances have been nothing short of exceptional and if you asked any Hammers fan they would argue he is the best in the league right now, and they may even be right. Contributing 8 goals and 7 assists this season, most would argue its not just what his stats say, it’s what he does on the pitch that everyone admires him for.
A huge step in the right direction for ‘The Irons’ is the move from Upton Park to The Olympic Stadium. After fending off Tottenham for the stadium, West Ham have sold their full allocation of season tickets. Every big club has a huge stadium, e.g. The Nou Camp and Old Trafford, and with their bid for the last Champions League place still firmly on, a strong end to the season will most definitely end on a positive note for West Ham.
West Ham also, as of Saturday the 12th of March, are still in the FA Cup and face a Manchester United side who aren’t what they used to be, and on a rare occasion the Hammers go in as favourites to win the game. I believe they have what it takes to get to the final, showing that great character against Liverpool to score in the 120th minute. My prediction for the FA is as follows:
Arsenal vs West Ham in the Final: 2-1 West Ham