There have been many shocks in the Premier League this season with Chelsea and Liverpool greatly underperforming while established top-flight sides are in the relegation zone, but there are many sides exceeding expectations.
And while there are still three months of the campaign remaining, with the title race, European spots and bottom three yet to be decided, but here are five surprise packages that weren’t expected to pull up trees in 2022/23.
Manchester United finished sixth in the Premier League table last season with 58 points from 38 matches (1.53 per game), winning 16 times (39.5%) and suffering 12 defeats (31.6%). The Red Devils were 35 points off top spot and conceded a staggering 57 goals (1.5 per game). Ralf Rangnick replaced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but didn’t have a great temporary stint.
Manchester United are third in the league this season with 49 points from 24 matches (2 per game), winning 15 times (57%) and suffering only five defeats (20%). They’re five points off top spot and have conceded 28 goals (1.2 per game), so they’re considerably better by nearly every comparable metric. Eric ten Hag replaced Rangnick last summer and few people predicted United would be in a title race so soon.
Brighton & Hove Albion
The Seagulls finished 9th in the league last season and are only two places better off in the table this campaign, but they have more than exceeded expectations considering their transfer activity over the summer.
Securing a top-half finish in 2021/22 was outstanding by Brighton, but they look set to surpass their wins (12 then, 10 now) and points tally (51 then, 35 now) after making £70m profit from player sales, as per Transfermarkt.
Brighton are sitting higher in the table than Chelsea and Liverpool despite losing their manager Graham Potter (to Chelsea), Marc Cucurella (to Chelsea), Yves Bissouma (to Tottenham), Leandro Trossard (to Arsenal) and Neal Maupay (to Everton) among others.
Few expected them to improve upon their 2022 finish after selling key players for £120m while spending only £50m on replacements, so Roberto De Zerbi deserves a lot of credit.
The Cottagers weren’t even in the Premier League this season, securing promotion from the Championship in 2021/22, so few would have thought Fulham could be challenging for a Europa League spot in their first year back in the top-flight.
Marco Silva’s men finished top of the Championship last season with 90 points, scoring 106 goals. They currently sit sixth in the Premier League this campaign, four points adrift of the top-four after 24 games.
Fulham’s highest-ever finish in the top-flight is seventh in 2008/09 and they’ve spent six of the last eight seasons in the second tier, so their performance in 2022/23 is nothing short of remarkable.
After finishing 11th in the league last season, it’s incredible Newcastle United find themselves in Champions League contention this campaign. Eddie Howe has only been in charge for 15 months but could be taking the Magpies back to Europe while leading them to the League Cup final.
Newcastle have spent £250m on new players in the last two transfer windows, but few tipped them to be fifth in the table after 23 games with the best defensive record (15 goals conceded) and fewest amount of defeats (2) this season.
United have finished in the top half of the league only once since 2014, so Howe could be pulling off an outstanding achievement.
No surprises here. After Arsenal finished fifth last season, seeing them as league leaders this campaign has shocked many. The Gunners have 15 more games to play and are only five wins away from matching their 2021/22 total (22).
Arsenal are 15 points off from matching last season’s points total (69) too, with 45 points available, so Mikel Arteta has steered them in the right direction. The North Londoners have spent £316m since the summer of 2021, but being in the title race so soon into Arteta’s reign wasn’t one of their objectives.