In all sports competitions, the most basic objective is to win matches and trophies. In the Premier League, this idea takes on many variations. Clubs throughout the English top flight come into every season with different goals and expectations for the coming months.
In the moment of each and every match, teams and players take the pitch looking to be victorious. But the Premier League title is not necessarily the ultimate goal.
Leicester City and their incredible league championship in 2015-16 was one of the great stories in any sport and grabbed headlines around the world. What the Foxes accomplished was simply not supposed to happen and likely never will again.
Even during their title-winning campaign, manager Claudio Ranieri was quick to dismiss talks of a championship and celebrated reaching their goal of 40 points.
We look at the reasons why the English first division does not feature 20 clubs aiming for the Premier League title at the beginning of a season.
Quality teams are found throughout the Premier League, but some have a larger abundance of riches throughout their lineup than others.
The likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal come into a new campaign expecting to compete for the league title because of the players they have and the immense talent that they bring.
One side may be able to take a lead on a heavily favoured opponent and park the bus to see out a 1-0 victory, but these tactics simply can’t be stretched to a whole season.
Top clubs typically dominate the top four positions, bringing with them UEFA Champions League qualification.
Squads like West Bromwich Albion, Crystal Palace or Watford will certainly be competitive, but their players may not be able to match up with more resourceful sides for 38 games.
DOMESTIC CUP COMPETITIONS
While a league title may not always be the primary objective, clubs can capture silverware in the EFL Cup or FA Cup throughout the campaign.
Any team can defeat any other team on a given day. We see major upsets on various occasions throughout world football and the underdogs can be victorious.
What made Leicester City so remarkable last term was that they managed to do it for an entire season.
A cup competition offers a chance for a club to put together a strong run of form and win a prestigious trophy. Both the EFL Cup and FA Cup champions gain entry into the UEFA Europa League as well.
In order to be successful, first team players may miss all of a league match or be rested for fitness reasons ahead of these cup ties. Crystal Palace and Liverpool both made domestic cup finals in 2015-16 but saw their Premier League form suffer as a result.
Prioritising competitions is an important process for all Premier League sides heading into a new season and may see a domestic cup title targeted over the league championship.
ECONOMIC INCENTIVES BRING DIFFERENT GOALS
The English Premier League has unprecedented television coverage throughout the globe and the revenue from these deals can be absolutely astounding.
Heading into the 2016-17 season, each of the Premier League clubs are expected to receive 120 million pounds for being one of the 20 participants. This type of financial reward makes just staying up a top priority.
For clubs like Burnley, AFC Bournemouth and Hull City, staying in the top flight and finishing mid-table is both a realistic and achievable goal heading into a new season. While there is certainly a difference between expectation and effort, it is easy to see why these objectives are set.
Life in the Premier League can often be a battle of reality versus expectations for clubs, as different situations and perspectives play out for the different sides. In an ideal world, all teams are aiming for the league title and this can be an accurate take on what happens.
But just as in life outside of the Premier League, there are variables and shades of grey for what takes place as time goes on.