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Ten EFL Teams Surpassing Expectations This Season




Which EFL teams have been surpassing expectations?

Ten EFL Teams Surpassing Expectations This Season

There have been some great surprises in the EFL this season. While some teams have performed worse than expected – such as Manchester United and Sheffield United – there have been plenty of wonderfully performing teams this season. But which teams have went above and beyond? Who is in a position that nobody predicted? Let’s find out!



Arsenal had an atrocious start to this Premier League season. In their first three games, Arsenal claimed zero points, conceding nine goals and failing to score a single time. Ever since that 5-0 thrashing against Manchester City, Arsenal have significantly improved.

With no European football to focus on, the Gunners have been able to focus entirely on English football. I believe this to be important to their upturn in form because their squad has not been stretched so thin. In addition, many players in their squad have been sublime. English youngsters Bukayo Saka and Emile-Smith Rowe have been impressive with their work rate and ability in the final third of the pitch. Meanwhile new signing Takehiro Tomiyasu has proven to be an improvement at right back. Elsewhere Aaron Ramsdale is in red hot form currently. Some of the saves he has pulled off recently have been mesmerising as he has become their number one goalkeeper. There are other players who have impressed, notably Thomas Partey and Nuno Tavares.

Mikel Arteta’s side have shown they can play and have fought their way up the Premier League table. Many people expected Arsenal to finish mid table but thanks to the work of their exciting young talents, it could be a good season for the Gunners.


West Ham United

West Ham United were fantastic in the 2020/21 season.  David Moyes has turned his managerial career around and created a team capable of getting a result against anyone in the Premier League. Declan Rice, Michail Antonio, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell and many more, have impressed since the beginning of last season. They are defensively compact and very strong, as well as hard working and clinical with set pieces.

With their place in the Europa League, many fans thought their league form could dwindle. After all, West Ham do not have the greatest squad depth. A primary example of this is Antonio being their only senior striker. Regardless, West Ham have performed fantastically across all competitions this season. They recently defeated Liverpool and now find themselves in the top four of the Premier League. Their Europa League campaign is also going very smoothly as they are top of their group and unbeaten. Meanwhile in the Carabao Cup they have beaten Manchester City and Manchester United to find themselves in the quarter finals. If their key players remain fit, this will be a very exciting season for the Hammers.


Brighton and Hove Albion

Graham Potter is doing a fantastic job! For the past four seasons, Brighton have only ever really survived in the Premier League. This is still a fantastic achievement, especially for a club who had not been in the top flight between 1983-2017. Even so, winning nine Premier League games in each of the past four seasons and finishing no higher than 15th is not exciting. As of their first 13 games Brighton sit in 9th place. Scoring 12 goals is not the most exciting statistic but to only concede 14 as well shows they have a good defence. Brighton have not exactly leaked goals across their four Premier League seasons, but they look more stable at the back than ever.

Irish Centre-back Shane Duffy has had something of a resurgence in his  career. The 29-year-old made just 18 Scottish Premiership appearances for Celtic last season. However, he is now an important player in Potter’s side. Robert Sánchez has been a great goalkeeper to kick off the season also. The Spaniard has made over two saves per goal conceded and can provide a good long pass. Other notable players are Neal Maupay, Lewis Dunk and Alexis Mac Allister, who have also been integral to the positive form. However their form has been dwindling recently so it will be interesting to see where they finish.


Coventry City

Coventry City returned to the Championship in 2020 after an eight-year hiatus. The Sky Blues surpassed expectations in the 2020/21 season after finishing 16th, above the likes of Birmingham City and Bristol City. In their second season back, the Sky Blues are sky high! With impressive wins against the likes of Fulham, Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest, they have proven to be a match for anyone in the league.

Mark Robins continues to turn the recent fortunes of Coventry by taking them from League Two to sixth (at the time of writing) in the Championship. Coventry have two good goal scorers in their ranks. Swedish international Viktor Gyokeres was on fire at the beginning of the current season. Matt Godden then began finding the net just as Gyokeres’ hot from started to fade. Elsewhere young left back Ian Maatsen has performed very well so far and looks to make his place in the Chelsea set-up soon. Callum O’Hare has also been a massive boost for the side, thanks to his work rate and creativity. To finish in the top half would be an incredible achievement for Coventry, let alone in the play-off places.


Huddersfield Town

Many fans expected Huddersfield Town to be around the relegation zone for this season. The Terriers finished 20th in the Championship last season and it can be argued they only survived due having four worse teams in the league. This is obvious, but there was a real lack of quality or a plan for the season and in an average Championship season, they could have been relegated. However, they have changed their fortunes, performing wonderfully this campaign as they lurk around the play-off places.

Judging by the results and goals, scoring is evidently not their strength. However, the key to the Terriers’ success so far this season is a solid defence. Granted, they have been handed some big defeats by Bournemouth and Fulham but on many occasions, they have been boosted by quality at the back. In October, Huddersfield kept four clean sheets in five Championship games. Eight clean sheets in their first 18 games is very impressive. Matty Pearson, Jonathon Hogg and youngster Levi Colwill have all been important for keeping the ball out of the net.



Over the past three seasons, the newly promoted teams from League One to the Championship have generally looked weak. The Tangerines have had a tough time in recent years as they were relegated from the Championship in 2015 and faced six seasons away from the second division. Unlike fellow newly promoted sides Hull City and Peterborough United, Blackpool have begun this season in good fashion.

While they are not scoring a plethora of goals, they are not conceding many either. On several occasions Blackpool have been able to get a result through a strong defensive approach. They have kept clean sheets against all three teams relegated from the Premier League last season. Considering how Fulham and West Bromwich Albion are near the top of the table, it is even more impressive. To also win against Fulham and Sheffield United 1-0 shows discipline and concentration. Goalkeepers Daniel Grimshaw and Chris Maxwell have both been good when called upon. Additionally, the centre-back partnership of Marvin Ekpiteta and veteran Richard Keogh has also been massively important in the solid performances so far. Kenneth Dougal and Shayne Lavery among other have also performed well so far.


Plymouth Argyle

Out of every team here, Plymouth Argyle have been the most surprising. I believe the gap between League Two and League One is the smallest jump in the EFL. Regardless, Plymouth have been fantastic so far this season and look to be promoted for the second consecutive season! The Pilgrims have gone unbeaten in their first nine at home in League One. With six wins and three draws in those nine games, Home Park has become a fortress. They recently lost 0-3 to Wycombe Wanderers to end their unbeaten home record but it is nonetheless still impressive.

To concede just six goals in their first nine home games is delightful! The decision to use a back five throughout the season has clearly been the correct decision so far. It has made them stable and compact. However, a big sacrifice that usually comes with a 5-3-2 is goalscoring output, especially if the two wing backs cannot stretch the pitch and utilise wide space. Conor Grant has particularly been wonderful in both attack and defence. The left wing back has four assists, two goals and 42 chances created in his first 19 games this season. Strikers Ryan Hardie and Luke Jephcott have had no problem shooting and scoring, with a combined 16 goals between them so far in all competitions. Will they continue this spectacular form? Plymouth are likely to have a bad spell, but I can see them being promoted to the Championship.


Wigan Athletic

Most English football fans are aware of Wigan’s successes over the past 15 years. After promotion to the Premier League (and the top flight of English football) for the first time, Wigan maintained that status for eight seasons. They even won an FA Cup in the season they were relegated (2012-13), and played in the Europa League the subsequent season. Fast forward to 2020 and the Latics were relegated to League One. After scraping survival by one point in the 2020-21 season, they are a vastly improved side this campaign.

Conceding just 16 goals in their opening 18 League One games is an immense star. Manchester United academy graduate Ben Amos has a terrific save percentage so far. In addition, they have been able to find the net quite regularly, thanks to the efforts of Will Keane, Max Power, Charlie Wyke and more.


Forest Green Rovers

Forest Green Rovers look ready to make history once again this season! In recent years they have been moving up in the world of football. They have been quite impressive since their debut in League Two – in 2017 – and have often been a formidable side. It is especially evident based on their current league position. Forest Green sit at the head of League Two and look likely to earn their first ever promotion to League One. It will be massively impressive for what is a small side, in terms of budget, stadium and fanbase.

Strikers Matthew Stevens and Jamille Matt have been nothing less than superb so far. In their first 17 games, Stevens has scored 10 and assisted once whereas Matt has scored eight times while making six assists. When a duo is this deadly, anything is possible! It is especially impressive to see such goal tallies when the side plays a back five. This back five has only conceded 14 times in the 18 league games so far. Luke McGee has proven himself as a great goalkeeper which a wonderful save ratio. Plenty of other players have been wonderful for the Nailsworth-based club. Kane Wilson, Ben Stevenson, Jordan Moore-Taylor and Nicky Cadden have all also contributed massively to Forest Green’s form. Can they earn their first promotion to League One?


Sutton United

Naturally, most people would expect a team who debuts in the EFL to struggle. Sure, there have been a couple of disappointing results, but the positives by far outweigh the negatives for Sutton United this season. From the offset it is interesting how Sutton released several players before the seasons start, all of whom play lower than League Two. They were also able to acquire a number of talents who have become important to the current side. Notable names include Ritchie Bennett and Alistair Smith.

Often operating a 4-4-2 system, Sutton have a balance throughout the team. It means they are capable of defensive and attacking prowess. Having two strikers in this kind of formation allows for faster build up in attack and a constant threat in the final third. What I find particularly interesting in relation to this is the range of goal scorers in the side. Strikers Donovan Wilson, David Ajiboye, Isaac Olafe and Bennett have all played their part in goals and assists this season. As long as the pair of strikers are playing their part and working hard, Sutton will always have a chance. There is a plethora of other goal contributors too, showing that this is a team effort.

Just staying up would spell a fantastic season for the newest addition to the EFL. However, it seems that Sutton will not just survive but also thrive.


We hope you enjoyed the article ‘Ten EFL Teams Surpassing Expectations This Season’. Are there other EFL teams that are surpassing your expectations this season? Let us know!


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I am a recent English and Film graduate from the University of Birmingham. During my time at university, I played as part of a football team representing my course and also wrote for UoB's very own newspaper, Redbrick. Check out my Twitter @KyleMoffat0 for updates on my content and discussions!


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