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Nic Ladds 6th Aug 2009 - 8:39

Flying Fulham can fight all the way to fifth

Anyone would think the without the big four market has become a one horse race as Manchester City have backed all the way in to odds of 5/6 after their array of summer signings.

While on paper they are building up a squad of stars there is little value in taking odds on about a team that has never played together before to produce the goods from the off and throughout the season.

They have signed some players who can win matches single handedly but that is could also be a problem as Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Robinho, Craig Bellamy and Roque Santa Cruz are all great players but none are known for their great team play and all have kicked up a stink about not getting what they want in the past.

The question begs, how will Mark Hughes accommodate all these mavericks? There will always be someone not playing you would think and that means there is always the chance of unrest and public criticisms of the management and lack of harmony can affect on-pitch performances regardless of the calibre of players - just look out countless underachieving Real Madrid teams over recent years.

As usual Tottenham are on the premises currently trading as 7/2 second favourites in the betting and Spurs fans all over the world can again be heard saying 'this is our season, you watch', and to be fair, were it not for their woeful start last season, they would have finished a lot higher.

However, with their only signing so far being Harry Redknapp's favourite player ever Peter Crouch it is uncertain how much they will kick on from where they left off, but they look to be in better nick than others coming in to the new season.

The potential Tottenham have though may explain why they are shorter than both 5/1 Everton and 13/2 chances Aston Villa when the pair have finished in fifth and sixth positions above Spurs for the last two seasons.

Everton have some serious talent in their squad with Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta capable of causing devastation to any defence in the Premier League from midfield and in Jo, Louis Saha and Yakubu, they have three strikers who are not shy of scoring goals.

Their main problem lies in how small their squad is as if a key man gets injured there is very little in back up to step in to the line up as an admirable replacement.

Arteta got injured last season and the Toffees suffered, as they did with no fit strikers and Cahill operating largely alone up front and they did brilliantly to finish where they did despite all these problems.

David Moyes has the ability to get his players playing as a team and with limited resources continues to defy the naysayers season after season but if Joleon Lescott joins Man City and with Phil Jagielka out until November they may struggle to continue their consistent high finishes.

Villa are looking like the team more likely to struggle this season as the loss of Gareth Barry is a big blow and they are yet to sign anyone to give them a boost.

In Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor they do have two of the most exciting young players in England but they both finished poorly last season after a blistering start, and they could do with signing a big name striker to ensure that goals will always be on the menu.

Martin O'Neill certainly has the nous to get the best out of the team he has but other teams look set to improve past them.

The bet at a big price of 33/1 is one of the more unfashionable teams in the Premier League in the shape of Fulham, who have improved no end under Roy Hodgson and showed this by finishing seventh last season.

Their home record was sensational as they turned Craven Cottage in to a fortress where teams were lucky to get away with a point. It was their away record that let them down but an improvement on this could see them improving on last season's final position.

If they hold on to Brede Hangeland which it looks like they will, they have one of the best defenders around while Mark Schwarzer showed he is one of the best goalkeepers in the league last season, then up front Andrew Johnson, Bobby Zamora and Diomansy Kamara are all quick and able to cause any defence a lot of trouble.

It remains to be seen just how Man City's team of overpaid "stars" and one season-wonders (yes Adebayor we're talking about you) perform together, and on paper they have the ability to break in to the top four, let alone be the best of the rest but it is hard to see a team of such individuals playing as one and 5/6 is a restrictive price and 7/2 Tottenham could be the alternative answer.

While the likes of Man City and Tottenham undoubtedly have stronger squads, it is the mammoth price of 33/1 for Fulham in this market that makes them worth a bet.

William Hill's each way terms pay 1/5 odds for the first three and if they avoid regressing and keep up that phenomenal home record then the Cottagers have an outstanding each way chance of rewarding punters at big odds.

Fulham - 33/1

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