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The Rise of the Mid-Table: Why the Premier League Has Become as Unpredictable as Ever

30/09/2015 17:36 BST | Updated 30/09/2016 10:12 BST

Down the years, it's affectionately been referred to as "the best league in the world".

That moniker is still worth something, though perhaps the definition has changed. No longer does the Barclays Premier League boast European football's strongest clubs. Nor do they possess the bulldozing power of yesteryear in continental competitions.

But domestically, the entertainment value remains. And the playing field is as level as it's ever been.

It's pretty simple to work out why that's the case. You only have to read a report about the television money being pumped into the league and do the maths - the substantial, mind-boggling, financial maths - to realise that the Premier League is by some distance the richest football league in the world.

Considering the Champions League revenue the country's elite earn on an annual basis on top of their domestic pot, there's a big case to be made that English clubs should really be using their muscle to dominate European competition. To buy the best players, play the best football and sweep all before them.

Though for some reason, it's not working out that way. We've seen some of the greatest players in the world rock up on English shores in every summer for as long as most of us can remember now, but it's still not proving to be enough.

Whether it's tactical naivety on the behalf of the managers and players concerned, or the fact that the players most of us consider to be top tier actually aren't as good as we think, something's not right.

Though for the shortcomings of the English game in Europe - one more poor season from the Premier League's top quartet could quite possibly mean the highly valued 'top four' place dwindles to a 'top three' - the division is as unpredictable as it's ever been. And it may be down to the money, but it's a great thing to witness the rise of the Premier League's mid-card.

West Ham United are a curious case in point. Slaven Bilic returned to the club he once represented for a season as their manager in the summer and upon his arrival he was blessed with a host of signings at the peak of their powers, with many perfectly capable of playing in the Champions League.

The likes of Dimitri Payet and Angelo Ogbonna are players who could certainly hold their own in Europe's premier club competition. They already have; since Ogbonna was a member of the Juventus squad to reach last season's final (emphasis on squad), and Payet has a history of playing in the competition himself.

But both have made a big difference, with Payet particularly key in three huge away wins over Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City this term. But even Bilic's side have been susceptible to the odd surprising home defeat this season - most recently to Norwich City - and it just goes to show that on any given day in this division, anything can happen.

And the former Croatia national coach knows that as well as anybody, recently reflecting on the defeat by saying: "After beating Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City away, people are expecting us to beat Norwich 6-0. It doesn't happen like that.

"(Chelsea boss Jose) Mourinho said it best - it is not a new world order, but this kind of money, the financial injection to smaller clubs in the Premier League has raised the quality of the teams. Every team has it now."

The likes of Everton - now unburdened by Europa League competition - and the professionally-run Swansea City are among the toughest places to go in the country. Swansea have a recent history of turning over a number of the country's big six and while it may just be out of their reach you'd not put it past either side at least challenging for a place inside the league's top tier at some point in the future.

Chelsea's slumping champions, the uninspiring Manchester United, the recently-faltering Manchester City and perennial fourth-placers Arsenal are no longer the forces they once were - and while that may be partially down to their lack of improvements, the teams usually beneath them are bridging the gap to the top at an increasing rate of knots.

Throw the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham - who have tended to fall short of the top four in recent years - into the conversation, and it's nigh on impossible to spot clear daylight between the cream of the crop and the best of the rest anymore.

The Premier League quadropoly is disintegrating. And lord, how exciting is it to see?

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