World Football

6 Biggest Premier League Surprises so Far This Season

Laura GreeneFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2013

6 Biggest Premier League Surprises so Far This Season

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    So far, no one has punched a horse, bitten a Chelsea defender or kicked a teenage ball boy. 

    However, five games in, the Premier League has still managed to throw up its fair share of shocks.

    From Stoke City playing football (with their feet!) to a new, lethal-in-front-of-goal Aaron Ramsey, we look at six surprises in the top flight this season.

    Read on to find out more.

     

New and Improved: Stoke City

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    Mark Hughes: Bringing possession back to the Potters.
    Mark Hughes: Bringing possession back to the Potters.Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Oh, Stoke. For so long you have been the unwanted stepchild of the top flight, called upon only when we need a barometer to gauge whether foreign players could cut it in the Premier League on a wet and windy night.

    Famed for your long-ball tactics, a striker who has "good feet for a big man" and playing a generally unimaginative, let's say "agricultural" brand of football, swathes of supporters were secretly crossing their fingers and hoping you would be relegated last season.

    But you didn't—you stayed up, got rid of manager Tony Pulis and drafted in former Queens Park Rangers, Fulham, Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers boss Mark Hughes. And it's worked.

    This season, The Potters have surprised us all by playing good football. Possession statistics have improved, the team's attacking play looks brighter and, even in defeat, the side have looked markedly better.

    In FourFourTwo this week, Hughes said:

    We're passing it very well. We'll get better. We're creating chances and I'm convinced that we'll get more goals from the chances made.

    Our focus is to keep our performance levels consistent and if we do, we should win more than we lose.

    Stoke take on Norwich this Sunday at the Britannia Stadium, where they are unbeaten so far this term.

Season Ticket Prices

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    Less than £300 for a season ticket? No wonder they're happy.
    Less than £300 for a season ticket? No wonder they're happy.Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    You may be surprised to hear that Manchester City offer the Premier League's cheapest season tickets.

    Yes, they may go around hoovering up shiny new footballers for vast sums of cash, but they don't try to make that money back by charging a fortune for their tickets.

    In a report published earlier this month by BBC Sport, it was found that the most expensive matchday ticket in English football is at Arsenal, whose most pricey entry fee costs up to £126, while their cheapest is £26.

    The most wallet-friendly season ticket is at the Etihad, at £299—a sum cheaper than the price of a season ticket at three Conference Premier sides.

    Arsenal have the most expensive at £1,955 (includes seven cup matches), the Gunners' cheapest is £985, and Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are not far behind, charging more than £700.

    As reported in a further BBC study, Chelsea and Spurs' most expensive season tickets go for over £1,000 and Manchester United's range in price from £532 to £950, where members must opt in to buy European, FA and League Cup tickets.

    Incidentally—and these are the prices that really matter—Manchester United have the most expensive cup of tea in the top flight, charging £2.50 per cup. Not to be outdone, City reduced their price of a cuppa this season, taking them from the most expensive to the second cheapest at £1.80. 

A Prolific Aaron Ramsey

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    Aaron Ramsey, goal machine?
    Aaron Ramsey, goal machine?Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    Q. What does Aaron Ramsey have in common with Sergio Aguero and Robin van Persie

    A. All three of them have scored three goals in the top flight so far this season.

    However, unlike his counterparts, it was not expected of the Welshman.

    The 22-year-old has scored seven goals in seven games (in all competitions) so far this term, which is striking when you compare it to the total of five goals he scored over the past two seasons combined.

    Perhaps Ramsey was this player all along? The midfielder was forced out of the game for nine months three seasons ago, after suffering a double leg break after a challenge with Stoke's Ryan Shawcross.

    His rehabilitation looks to be complete, as displayed in his first and second goals against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light and last weekend's strike against Stoke City at the Emirates. 

    For the Gunners, who are in need of another striker to provide cover and competition to Olivier Giroud, Ramsey's purple patch is a welcome surprise.

Unbeaten Everton

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    Martinez: Has engineered a sweet start for the Toffees.
    Martinez: Has engineered a sweet start for the Toffees.Ian Walton/Getty Images

    Just one team in the Premier League remains unbeaten going into this weekend's sixth round of fixtures.

    That team is Everton

    Three draws and two wins have seen the Toffees enjoy a positive start to the season under new manager Roberto Martinez.

    Their most notable result so far came in a 1-0 win against Chelsea at Goodison Park, and Everton also registered a strong away victory at West Ham last weekend. 

    Martinez, formerly of Wigan Athletic, was not expected to have such a good start at his new club. But after spending wisely over the summer and bringing in Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku on loan deals from Manchester City and Chelsea, respectively, their good form could last for some time. 

     

    Everton's Next Five Fixtures

    Sept. 30, Everton vs. Newcastle

    Oct. 5, Man City vs. Everton

    Oct. 19, Everton vs. Hull

    Oct. 26, Aston Villa vs. Everton

    Nov. 3, Everton vs. Tottenham

Conspicuous Absences

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    Missing In Action: Kagawa (left) and Mata. Images from Getty.
    Missing In Action: Kagawa (left) and Mata. Images from Getty.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    The gaping, Juan Mata-shaped hole in Chelsea's lineup has got everyone talking—the Spaniard having only played 120 minutes of top-flight football this season.

    Mata, in case you have been living under a rock (or managing Real Madrid) for the past two years, has been one of the best players at Stamford Bridge in recent campaigns. So good, in fact, that he was voted the club's Player of the Year for the last two consecutive seasons, Chelsea's Player's Player of the Year last term and, to cap it all, was voted into the PFA Team of the Year in 2012/13.

    What more does a man have to do to get into the first team?

    As seen in the Guardian, Mourinho has told Mata to adapt his game if he wants to have a starting role in his Stamford Bridge side. Leaving many fans, Chelsea and otherwise, perplexed.

    Shinji Kagawa's absence from Manchester United's midfield, has left Red Devils fans scratching their heads in a similar fashion. 

    Kagawa's former manager at Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp, told Donald McRae of the Guardian last season:

    Shinji Kagawa is one of the best players in the world and he now plays 20 minutes at Manchester United - on the left wing!

    My heart breaks. Really, I have tears in my eyes.

    This term, under David Moyes, the Japan international has not featured in the Premier League at all. Kagawa has made appearances for United only in a Champions League tie against Bayer Leverkusen and in the 1-0 League Cup win against Liverpool.

    Moyes appeared to take a swipe at the attacking midfielder after the Liverpool game. He told reporters, via FIFA.com:

    He did OK. I thought he grew into the game a little bit more. There were bits which I was pleased with, and bits where we were looking for a little bit more. Overall, he's still getting back.

    A lot's been said (about his lack of playing time), but I think most people who watched would say he's still short of being really at full match fitness.

A Premier League Goal for John Obi Mikel

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    Chelsea's John Obi Mikel surprised everyone last weekend when he scored his first Premier League goal for the club.

    The Nigerian has been at Stamford Bridge since 2006, and it took him 185 league games, 258 games in all competitions and seven years to get off the mark for the Blues.

    Mikel told the club's official website:

    This game was all about winning and we got the three points, and my goal was just a bonus.

    But I am pretty happy about it. It has been a long time and the guys have been killing me about it. They say you go to the national team and score but you don't score for Chelsea so it was good for me to get my first Premier League goal.

    Better late than never. 

    Follow me on Twitter: @Greene_L.

     

     

     

     

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