Every season, the opening period of the campaign throws up numerous surprise packages – with this time out being as just intriguing as any other.
Despite not being favoured much in the summer, a fair few outfits around Europe are currently surpassing expectations with flying colours in their respective leagues (with those aforementioned expectations varying massively between the clubs.)
Let us take a look at five surprise packages so far this season.
5. Deportivo Alavés
With the struggle both Madrid clubs are undergoing at this point, spaces near the summit of La Liga have been made available – as Alavés are currently taking advantage of. Since promotion just over two years ago, they have relished the challenge the top-flight as they currently sit in 4th place. Manager Abelardo Fernández had a distinguished career on the pitch (notably playing for Barcelona and making 54 appearances for Spain) and is making his name on the touchline too. Ibai Gómez has been at the heart of their early season success; being truly instrumental with three goals and two assists thus far. Happy to let the opposition control the ball, they like to operate on the counter attack and use their physicality well – against usual traditions of Spanish sides. Whether sustainable or not, their win at home to Real Madrid showed their quality but have had a relatively straightforward start up until now; as some tough fixtures loom until the winter break.
4. Norwich City
Due to the fact they are competing in a roller-coaster division, the Canaries may well not be flying as high soon enough – but right now they certainly are. A 97th-minute Teemu Pukki winner over Millwall last Saturday displayed their spirit and quality, with manager Daniel Farke proving that they club were right to stick by him as his philosophy shines through at the feel-good club. Narrowly sitting 1st in a quality-ridden Championship table, their squad is littered with names who have been struggling for form in recent years (making the side’s clear cohesion even more commendable.) Central playmaker Moritz Leitner has been superb along with the rest of the German core, and despite some shaky moments, they have sneaked to the summit.
3. Lille OSC
In recent years, Ligue 1 has been a battle between AS Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain; however, Lille have – so far – shifted the tide this season. Long near as strong as some other outfits on paper, but their industrious style has seen them gain a few brilliant results this campaign. The revitalised José Fonte has tightened things at the back but the star man is right winger Nicolas Pépé, linked with many elite clubs around the continent. The 23-year-old rejected a move to OM Lyon on the final day of the summer transfer window and will likely not be regretting it with 8 goals & five assists so far, with 21 shots on target (only second to Cristiano Ronaldo in Europe’s top five leagues.) Based in the Haunts-de-France, they will hope they can remain as close to their Paris adversaries as possible.
2. AFC Bournemouth
There is still the fair perspective from most Premier League followers that the Cherries are a survival-focussed side and are content floating above the relegation zone. While that may be true to a decent extent, Eddie Howe has gone above and beyond that asking this year – but keeping personally grounded to no one’s surprise. Operating in a 3-4-3 formation, their defence is solid as ever (other than a 4-0 hammering at Burnley two months ago) while striker Callum Wilson has earned a national team call-up following a strong start to the season, free of injury for now. Youngster David Brooks has been phenomenal since breaking into the team while Ryan Fraser leads the assist charts with six assists. Likely not to stay in 6th place all season, the South Coast side are almost certainly staying up yet again.
1. Borussia Dortmund
Sitting pretty atop of the Bundesliga, the past weekend victory against former juggernaut Bayern Munich proved how outrageously good the Black Yellows are under Lucien Favre right now. Statistically, they are a conundrum as they have put away 25 goals from open play in spite of an expected 16 – exemplifying their efficiency in front of goal. A new midfield pairing on Thomas Delaney and Axel Witsel has been key to their early success, with those two summer signings working perfectly in a double-pivot. Marco Reus is back to his talismanic self, helping young winger Christian Pulisic and Jadon Sancho develop even further. The most surprising aspect of this side, however, is Barcelona loanee Paco Alcácer; managing 8 goals in just 236 minutes (not to mention late match-winners against Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich and FC Augsburg, as he grabbed a stunning hat-trick from the bench.) There is still the feeling of uncertainty regarding BVB due to their star men consistently being taken in transfer windows; for now, though, it seems this could really be their year.
Which other teams deserve to be on this list? Let us know!