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Wanna get into soccer but need a team? No problem – Barstool’s Guide to Picking an EPL Club

Sam’s Safe Space For Soccer Stoolies

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Hi haters™,

WELCOME BACK, BEAUTIFUL BABIES! It feels like just yesterday that City fans were half-heartedly celebrating winning the league (slash treble) and Liverpool were feigning exhilaration about winning the Champions League – while sets of fans were secretly wishing their dearly beloveds had lifted the other trophy… but in the end all was right in the world while because Tottenham eschewed all the usual heteronormative measures of success and instead raised yet another banner.

And when I say that “it feels like just yesterday” that all that was going down I mean it. Every year I forget how ridiculously short the “offseason” is for European soccer (and EPL in particular), and every year I get mushroom stamped by the sudden realization that it’s time to strap my blogging gloves on and get back to work… so here we go!

Before we really get going, through, a couple of housekeeping matters need addressing:

1) Is the PODCAST coming back? Yes, I certainly hope so. I got blindsided when Jimmy bounced last year and god bless Mikey for stepping in to keep things rolling for a while… I have taken some time to rethink and retool things, and am in the final stages of getting everything lined up for a glooooorious relaunch. The plan is to get an initial episode out there for all the world to see (and hate on) on Tuesday morning – fingers crossed!

2) What about a PREVIEW/PREDICTIONS blog? That is on the way as well, and should be ready for publishing sometime in the next day or so.

So keep those in mind even as you stare at the clock waiting for it to be Friday afternoon when Liverpool and Norwich officially pop the cherry on the 2019-20 season.

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Unfortunately, that is the good news for all you long-time jogo bonito fans. The bad news is that you will have to wait another few days for me to begin truly fluffing your soccerboner because this blog is, alas, not really for you – though you are more than welcome to read it to start getting your mind right for the campaign ahead.

Instead, this blog is intended primarily for people who have yet come out to their friends and family as being loud and proud soccer fans, and are just about ready to do so – but would feel more comfortable doing so if they had the love and support of an English Premier League team to call their very own.

Do you or anybody you know fit this description? Here’s a handy checklist of the criteria:

- Do you like sports?

- Do you like drama?

- Do you like money?

- Do you like an excuse to drink before noon?

If you and/or they would say yes to any ONE of these questions then congrats! You are ripe for becoming an EPL fan… now comes the fun part: picking a team – and not just any team, but YOUR team that you can get balls deep into, root for, and care about because – unlike American sports where you are typically born (or accepted, in the case of college) into your various athletic affiliations – picking a European soccer “club” to “support” (as a soccer eurosnob would say) is a little more challenging. You are in luck, though, because as your Sissy Sport Spirit Guide Samuel is here to lend you a helping hand in this endeavor.

Safe harbor statement #1: Yes, I ran something similar the last few years but this one has been updated accordingly…

Safe harbor statement #2: Yes, I also encourage you to follow MLS, as the quality is improving every year, but you don’t need my help picking a team as you have plenty of geographic and or matri/patrilineal landmarks to guide you.

Safe harbor statement #3: No, you can’t go wrong going with a club in Spain or Italy or Germany or PSG or PSV instead (or better yet as well)… but, alas, I am only one man so for the purposes of keeping this to a reasonable length we are going to stick with…

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PICKING AN EPL CLUB

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First things first, taking the initial step and admitting you like soccer is by far the hardest part, so congratulations to you! Thankfully you picked a great time to hop on board the bandwagon. This is mostly because there is no such thing as a bad time to start getting into soccer – it is, after all, the best sport ever invented – but also because the likes of NBC, FOX and ESPN+ have made following the beautiful game easier than it has ever been.

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So now that the hard part is done, how should you actually go about falling in love with a club?

The MOST IMPORTANT piece of advice I can give you is to NOT pick a team today… or even tomorrow… or perhaps even next week. Take some time. Talk to some people. Watch some games. Read some stuff. Let a team win you over. Maybe it was an exciting game you witnessed. Maybe it is a specific player that you fall in love with. Maybe you find out that several of friends (or classmates/coworkers) are fans of Team X, so you can either become a fan of Team X or Team’s X’s arch-nemesis – depending on whether you would prefer to root with or against them.

Implied in that is the message that this “guide” is not meant to be the first and last word on picking a team. It is rather meant to be just one of many resources available to help you in your journey to fandom.

One factor some people forget about (albeit only important if you plan on actually visiting the UK and going to a game) is geography. Keep in mind that England is a lot different from the US in that even clubs/cities that appear to be a longgggg way away from London, let’s say Newcastle, are not all that far in reality – at least relative to what we mean by “far” here in America. Here is a handy dandy little map to keep in mind of where all 20 clubs in the Premier League are located:

map

Another key question you should ask yourself is how important are little niceties like “scoring goals” and “winning games”, not to mention “lifting trophies”. This is important because – despite what some people may think given high-profile Cinderella stories like Lester City a few seasons back – the Premier League is NOT a level playing field. Salary caps? Nope. Luxury taxes? Hell no. Money makes the world go round and nowhere is that more true than in English soccer.

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Point being, there is a reason why a large majority of fans in the US end up settling on one of the Big Six clubs (eg, Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Man United) – and there is nothing wrong with that. People generally like winning and dislike losing. That’s just human nature. And like it or not, it is tough for a new fan to get into a sport where you wake up at the crack of dawn every Saturday or Sunday morning just to watch your team get its dick kicked in over and over. So you will never ever EVER hear me shame anyone about what team they have decided to support. If it is Man City – who have won the league twice running and are the betting favorite to three-peat – so be it. If that’s what it takes to get more people into soccer then I am all for it.

Not everybody prefers taking the path of least resistance, of course. For example, I have a friend who recently became a massive Sunderland fan… only to see them get relegated from the Premier League into the Championship one season, and from the Championship into League One the very next season. Life doesn’t come at you any faster than that. It takes a special kind of masochist to pick a team that you know going in has only an outside shot of lifting a trophy anytime soon… but more power to anybody with the balls and pain tolerance to go this route.

But those are the two extremes. In between the Man City’s and Sunderland’s of the world there are plenty of teams somewhere in the middle where their odds of making an exciting run to an FA Cup final (see Watford last season) are roughly the same as those that some transfers fall through and the club ends up fighting for their life to avoid relegation. That unpredictable “danger factor” of not knowing how your season is going to go might be intriguing to some people.

[[DEEP BREATH]]

Okay. Now on to the meat & potatoes of the blog.

Every time I write this blog I always struggle with how to break the 20 clubs down into categories. This year was no exception. In the end I settled on three groups: starting with the smallest clubs and those most likely to struggle… followed by teams that (for better and worse) have carved out a modestly more comfortable niche somewhere in the middle… and finally the biggest swinging dicks of the EPL cracker factory (plus Arsenal).

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Legends. Gone but not forgotten.

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POT 3: BASEMENT BATTLERS

Let’s be honest, there are some clubs are going to take a lot of L’s this season. Their primary “goal” is simply to avoid relegation and live to fight another year in the financially plentiful environs of the Premier League. As someone who is new to the sport, if you pick one of these to be your lawfully wedded club that suggests a couple things: you are extremely ballsy and/or a cutter (aka self-harmer) who is crying for help and in need of medical attention… or at least a hug.

There is no worse feeling in sports than watching your club get relegated. Perhaps it is something that we will get to see in MLS at some point in my lifetime, but at the moment it is a foreign concept to fans of US sports. It sucks. Just ask Daniel.

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Just know going in that if you choose a club in this group you need to be okay with draws feeling like wins and wins feeling a little like trophies, and accept that come next season there is a chance you won’t be able to watch your boys play on NBC family of networks anymore (though to be fair ESPN+ does a pretty good job covering the Championship).

[Note: clubs will be listed in alphabetical order within each group and be followed by their odds of winning the league this season.]

BRIGHTON (1,000/1)
Location: South coast (south of London)
Biggest rivals: Crystal Palace (and Portsmouth)
The Seagulls have avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth in each of the two seasons since they made the jump from the Championship, which is not a big surprise for a club that has spent much of its existence in the lower divisions. The club doesn’t spend a ton of money but have a track record of doing more with less. If you like blue and white teams that don’t necessarily score a lot but will work their asses off… then perhaps Brighton is for you.

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The club is located on the south coast of England just across the channel from France, so that’s pretty cool I guess.

Fun fact: Brighton’s full name is Brighton & Hove Albion FC, and the actual city they play in is “Brighton and Hove”. Unfortunately, as everybody knows, if you have two names you really have none… also, their name reminds me of Trinidad & Tobago and I am an easily triggered USMNT fanboy so, yes, I will admit to having an entirely undeserved and unfair distaste for the Seagulls.

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BURNLEY (2,000/1)
Location: Lancashire (just north of Manchester and west of Leeds)
Biggest rivals: Backburn and Bolton
The Clarets were like a bargain brand Lester two seasons ago, drawing games they should have lost and winning games they should have drawn on their way to a quietly incredible 7th place finish. Unfortunately last season represented a big time regression to the mean, with the rigors of playing in Europa League proving way too much for a small club with limited resources and a thin bench. If you appreciate dogged defense, pitchers’ duels and/or Big Ten football, then Burnley might just be the club for you. They have few if any stars but make up for it with a ginger coach.

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Fun fact: Burnley’s color scheme and jerseys are often confused by n00bs for those of West Ham… but in actuality they were contrived of in 1910 as homage to Aston Villa, which at the time was the most dominant club in all the land… ahhhhhh, memories (more on this later).

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CRYSTAL PALACE (1,000/1)
Location: South London
Biggest rivals: Brighton (and Millwall)
The Eagles had been a club on the rise for several seasons but their star has faded recently as they have been hugely dependent upon the mercurial genius of Wilfried Zaha. Rooting for Palace is a little like being a fan of a Lebron-led Cleveland Cavs (ripip) or a Ronny-led Portugal – except that instead of lifting championship trophies/Euro Cups, your ultimate goal is sipping that sweet, sweet taste of avoiding relegation. The big question is, as it has been for several seasons in a row, whether a bigger club like Everton or even Arsenal will swoop in and buy Zaha… which would raise all sorts of questions about whether Palace can stick around the Premier League. The best/worst thing about being a fan of the club is getting to play one of the world’s most fun (and dangerous) drinking games, which involves taking a shot every time Christian Benteke fucks up. On the plus side, Palace is located in the (greater) London area so traveling to see them is convenient – plus they are one of the few clubs in the league with cheerleaders and the Selhurst Park game day experience is supposed to be one of the best in the league (assuming a planned redevelopment doesn’t ruin it). Oh, and not for nothing, the Eagles are Rebecca Lowe’s childhood team.

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Fun fact: Roy Hodgson, who took over as manager partway through last season and successfully steadied the ship, plays a starring role in one of my all-time favorite gifs:

**

NORWICH (5,000/1)
Location: Norfolk (east coast)
Biggest rivals: Ipswich Town
One of the three n00bs to have made the jump from the Championship this season, the Canaries have been a yo-yo club that has bounced back and forth between the two leagues for the last decade. If you have a track record of dating crazy people then perhaps Norwich is the club for you because the only sure thing is that it will be an emotional roller coaster filled with high highs (dominating Championship opposition and winning promotion) and low lows (getting pounded in the Premiership and relegation) – and plenty of both.

Fun fact: They have some of the most unique jerseys in the league, which could be a good draw if yellow makes your eyes pop or you are a Green Bay Packers fan and want to be able to re-use your existing sports paraphernalia.

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**

SHEFFIELD (5,000/1)
Location: South Yorkshire (middle north)
Biggest rivals: Sheffield Wednesday
The Blades have one of the coolest nicknames in the league and are riding a recent wave of success driven by a group of Saudi owners that bought a majority stake in the club in 2013, whose (relatively) sizable investment helped push them from League One to the Championship and now Premier League. Unfortunately that’s where the “feel good” portion of this story is likely going to end. Newly promoted clubs typically pursue one of two strategies. One is to spend their balls off and hope it goes well. Sometimes it does (Wolves) and sometimes it really, reeeeeally does not (Fulham). Either way it is high risk, high reward approach. Sheffield is going the other route, not spending much money changing/improving the squad and instead hoping that continuity will be enough to keep them up. Bold strategy, Cotton. It’s a tough road to hoe… but then again the club won’t have to worry about losing buttloads of money and finding themselves in financial distress. Pluses and minuses!

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Fun fact: Sheffield won the league once and finished runners-up twice… in 1898, 1897 and 1900, respectively. They also won the FA Cup in 1899, 1902, 1915 and 1925. Not a bad run. Unfortunately they haven’t won a single trophy since. (No word on banners.) Blue balls like you read about. But just imagine the party when [if] it finally happens!

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SOUTHAMPTON (2,000/1)
Location: South coast (SW of London)
Biggest rivals: Portsmouth
The Saints were for many years considered the gold standard for upper mid-table mediocrity, which believe it or not is a pretty big compliment. However, years and years (and years) of watching their most talented players (and coaches – eg, Ronald Koeman and Mauricio Pochettino) poached by the likes of Liverpool, Spurs and United finally came home to roost recently as Southampton’s summer signings and coaching decisions have not gone to plan, and the club’s vaunted youth system has not been able to make up for the shortfall. Despite looking all but dead for most of the past two seasons, though, Southampton seems to have made a smart move in snagging manager Ralph Hasenhuttl away from RB Leipzig. What comes around goes around, after all! It remains to be seen whether he can legitimately turn things around and pull the club back towards the soothing safety of mid-table or if the possibility of relegation begins to look more like an inevitability. Geographically, the club are an attractive side being located on the south coast of England not far from London and aesthetically they have some of the more pleasing jerseys in the league – assuming they stop dropping the ball with ugly ass alternate shirts.

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Fun fact: Southampton have precisely one trophy to their name – the 1976 FA Cup – so nobody will accuse you of being a glory-hunter if you become a Saints fan.

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Pot 2: MID-TABLE MUDDLERS

These clubs will at time show bursts of class, and could potentially threaten to do something crazy like sneak into the final of the Make-Belieague (or even FA) Cup, and a couple of them could potentially threaten to break into the top six if one of the big boys seriously shit the bed, but unless lightning strikes thrice they will not be in the mix to win the league anytime soon. [Reminder: clubs listed in alphabetical order.]

ASTON VILLA (2,000/1)
Location: Birmingham
Biggest rivals: Birmingham City (and West Brom)
The club was a founding member of the Premier League back in 1992 and has one of the country’s more impressive trophy cases but fell on hard times right around the time Randy Lerner – owner of the world-beating Cleveland Browns (irony!) – bought them in 2006. After years of barely staving off relegation the Grim Soccer Reaper finally came calling in 2015 when the once-proud club endured one of the most pitiful season’s in league history.

However, that was then and this is now, baby, because the Villans are back in a big way! The club (now part-owned by the governor of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks) has spent BIGLY over the past few seasons, and this summer it has been more of the same – making it the antithesis of clubs like Sheffield – as the club is tripling down on expensive new signings in the hopes of being the next Wolves… albeit at the risk of becoming the next Fulham (aka extremely expensive flameout). As of this week Villa had spent the second most of any club in England behind only Man United, and was believed to be among the top five spenders in all of Europe. All this glitz and glamor stands in stark contrast to a club from Birmingham, which is basically the British equivalent of Pittsburgh (if Pittsburgh was a lot bigger). If star power is your thing Villa has something to offer in Jack Grealish, a local kid who came up through their youth system and may be poised to make the leap from potential star to legitimate star depending on how he and the club handle life in the Premier League this season – hopefully a little better than he took this punch from an opposing fan last season.

Fun fact: this summer Villa signed a guy from Club Brugge named Marvelous Nakamba, who has a first-ballot hall of fame soccer name.

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BOURNEMOUTH (1000/1)
Location: South coast (SW of London)
Biggest rivals: Portsmouth
“Never boring, always scoring… or getting scored on” has been a way of life for the Cherries lately, which was one of the most entertaining clubs in the league last year given their ability to score and/or concede double digits in any game against any opponent – and this season may be more of the same. The club was promoted to the Premier League to cap of an extraordinarily fast rise from League Two a few seasons ago thanks to a sizable influx of cash from a reclusive Russian owner involved in “petrochemicals” – definitely not shady! Regardless, they have done a fairly good job of retaining talent, not just on the field but also manager Eddie Howe who has been consistently linked to bigger clubs. To their credit, Bournemouth have largely avoided being sucked into relegation battles for most of their time in the big boy league. However, the line between mid-table muddler and relegation battler is exceedingly thin, meaning that Bournemouth must always hit on its big summer signings in order to stay on the right side of the thin red line.

Fun fact: their nickname – the Cherries – is so bad it is actually good.

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EVERTON (250/1)
Location: Liverpool
Biggest rivals: Liverpool
The Toffees’ motto is “Usually good. Sometimes very good. Never great.” (If it isn’t, it should be.) The Toffees have been caught in what feels like a perpetual state of limbo lately, having established themselves as clearly better than most of the league, yet also clearly not good enough to make a Tottenham-like jump into the ranks of the true movers and shakers (aka “The Big Six”). They have been knocking on the door for years and have not been shy about spending a fair bit of cash, but unfortunately many of the personnel decisions just haven’t worked out. That said they have a very solid fan base, and a connection with the US thanks largely to Tim Howard’s 10-year run (2006 to 2016). If you are looking for a club outside of the usual suspects that has a chance to win silverware and – should things seriously break their way – could even break through into the big time… you could do worse than Everton. After all, they have once again made some big-time statements of intent in the transfer market this summer, most notably buying exciting striker Moise Kean from Juventus.

However, an important word of warning: keep your head on a swivel with this team. They are notorious for taking what feels like a big step forward but, before having time to celebrate the achievement, they have already taken another step back. There is beauty in the frustration though – or so Everton fans (have no choice but to) believe.

Bonus fact: Their (“friendly”) arch-nemesis is cross-town rival Liverpool, so if you know and/or dislike some fans of the Reds then the Toffees might be the ideal club to glom onto.

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**

LESTER (200/1)
Location: Leicester (East Midlands)
Biggest rivals: Nottingham Forest and Derby County
Three years removed from one of the most preposterous yet miraculous seasons in the history of sports, it’d be tough to characterize the Foxes as a club “on the rise” at this point, but they seem to have done an admirable job of translating that success into a solid foundation among the upper middle class of EPL clubs. Most of the key pieces from that Cinderella squad have moved on. Claudio Ranieri was fired less than a year after lifting the damn trophy – modern sports in a nutshell – while N’Golo Kante (Chelsea), Danny Drinkwater (Chelsea) and Riyad Mahrez (City) were poached by bigger swinging dicks, and a handful of others have retired or moved on. They still have Jamie Vardy running amok up top and 173-year-old Wes Morgan and Kasper Schmeichel holding it down in back, but for the most part this is a new squad that is focused on cementing the club’s “well to do” status and, if possible, snagging a Europe League spot. The loss of Harry Maguire (just bought by United) leaves a massive hole in defense but on the plus side they now have about a billion dollars burning a hole in their pocket.

Fun fact: a lot of people inevitably jumped on the Foxes’ bandwagon during (or soon after) the championship season, but the good news (for anyone concerned about being labelled a “frontrunner”) is that the glory from that has faded enough that you can safely climb aboard without catching any grief at this point..

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Much like sex, I have no idea what this feels like

**

NEWCASTLE (500/1)
Location: Southeastern Scotland (basically)
Biggest rivals: Sunderland

The Magpies have an incredibly rich history of success and more trophies than most clubs but more recently has made a habit of enjoying a resplendent season or two before immediately collapsing into a spectacular pile of relegated feces – in large part because of their waste-of-space owner Mike Ashley. In fact, if you are looking to buy low on a club with a lot of potential, the only thing standing – or waddling – in the way of Newcastle knocking on the door of the Big Six (like Everton) is Ashley, who has spent years bleeding the club dry of money and investing the bare minimum in the squad. Things looked like they might be turning around big time just a couple months ago when Ashley was rumored (not for the first time) to be on the verge of selling the club and manager Rafa Benitez was contemplating signing another deal… then the sale fell apart and Benitez walked out the door, and Newcastle is back at square one. His replacement at the helm, Steve Bruce, has already tried and failed at a handful of EPL clubs, so safe to say fans are not too psyched about that move.

Liverpool v Sunderland - Premier League
Going to bed with a 9. Waking up with a 4.

That said, they at least splashed some cash on exciting Brazilian striker Joelinton from Hoffenheim, who should be a lot of fun to watch running alongside ex-Atlanta United winger Miggy Almiron. Long story short: if you are willing to take a bit of a gamble that a new owner is eventually installed, Newcastle is an iconic club with a dedicated fan base that – when not getting relegated – is easy to root for (don’t tell Sunderland fans I said that) and the gameday experience of attending a match at St. James is about as good as it gets.

Fun fact: the club has one of the most straightforward and iconic jerseys around and, unlike Juventus, found a way not to get confused with referees by silly Americans while also not totally ruining their look.

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**

WATFORD (2,000/1)
Location: Northwest London
Biggest rivals: Luton Town
Another of the kinda sorta London-based clubs (a little like Palace). The haters might say that is a little like calling the Red Bulls an NYC-based team, but the Hornets can accurately claim to be closer to Heathrow than any “local” rival. The club have benefited from a recent influx of cash from a wealthy Italian family that also owns Udinese in Serie A (and used to own Granada in Spain), which in the past has been a useful way of calling on talent if/when needed and is a nice little fall-back in case one of them was facing relegation. Watford are a bit of an enigma in terms of hopes versus expectations. Management is understandably hell-bent on keeping the club in the top flight, and is willing to spend enough money – or move players around from sister clubs – to ensure survival… however, for better or worse, the club has never been willing to throw around ungodly sums of money the way clubs like Everton and Wolves (and more recently Aston Villa) have to try and keep up with the Joneses.

Lately, the team has developed a bit of a reputation for starting seasons hot then fading down the stretch, which has yet to really get them into trouble as far as the R-word is concerned… but it could be playing with fire given how tiny the margins are in the Premier League. This season Watford once again returns a strong midfield led by Abdoulaye Doucoure, Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra, but there are question marks about where the goals will come from given Andre Gray’s inconsistency and Troy Deeney’s advancing age. [LAST SECOND UPDATE: Watford just acquired striker Danny Welbeck from Arsenal, which may be just what they needed and could prove to be an astute bit of business.] On the plus side, they will hope to feed off the momentum and positive sentiment engendered by making a surprise run to the FA Cup final last season, and I’ll be damned if they didn’t show me a helluva good time in flying me over and giving me a taste for what the club is all about.

Fun fact: there are plenty of auxiliary reasons why Watford could be an ideal choice aside from their recent solid mid-table status and geographical proximity to London as other big selling points include Elton John, a lifelong fan and honorary president, along with “Jay Jay Jay from the U-S-A” Jay DeMerit, a club legend and long-time USMNT standout.

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**

WEST HAM (500/1)
Location: East London
Biggest rivals: Millwall and Tottenham
The club represents the traditionally hardscrabble East End of London full of blue collar fans who don’t need beautiful play but won’t tolerate a lack of hustle, desire and grit. For any American football fans in the house, Hammers’ long-time captain Mark Noble and Danny Woodhead are essentially sports brothers from different mothers. That said, things are changing – at least a little bit. The club recently moved from the historic (but small) Upton Park to the massive (but sterile) environs of London Stadium. This will bring an influx of cash that to their credit management has not never been shy about spending, though it does come at the cost of losing a little of West Ham’s identity. Some long-time fans may disagree with me about that, which is fine, but it is what it is.

There is an imperfect but sufficiently appropriate parallel to be drawn between West Ham and a team like the New York Mets in that they are big city teams that are perpetually overshadowed by cross-town rivals and often seem allergic to success. The club looks to be in a solid place heading into this season, though, led by a solid manager in Manuel Pellegrini with a winning pedigree (helped guide City to the league title a few years ago) and an extremely deep core of midfielders led by Felipe Anderson… who may be tough to hang on to if he plays as well as he did last year.

Bonus fact: rooting for West Ham means you are (tangentially) associating with the Green Street Hooligans of Elijah Wood movie lore, which is in fact a fictional group based on the machinations of the Inter City Firm, one of the more infamous groups of European soccer hooligans.

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WOLVERHAMPTON (200/1)
Location: West Midlands (just NW of Birmingham)
Biggest rivals: West Brom and Walsall (and Aston Villa)
Wolves (aka the Wanderers) have bounced between divisions a lot over the last few decades but things may have changed in 2016 when got bought by Fosun International, a Chinese conglomerate that has been – depending on who you talk to – innovative or sneaky with how they have built the club. Basically, Fosun partnered with Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes in an arrangement that some suggest involves skirting rules governing how players can be bought and sold. Love it or hate it, there is no denying there is a faint waft of controversy surrounding the club… just like there is no denying that whatever special sauce they are using is working and working pretty damn well since they were the “best of the rest” of the league last year (aka 7th place). If you like risk, if you like danger, if you like pushing the rules a bit then perhaps Wolves is the club for you.

Fun fact: if you are Portuguese or like Portugal, they might also be your club since the roster is littered with players from the peninsula, including MF Joao Moutinho and GK Rui Patricio, as well as manager Nuno Espirito Santo.

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Pot 1: THE BIG SIX

Money talks and (most of) the Big Six – especially the two Manchester clubs – are not afraid to do a lot of talking to protect what they see as their rightful Champions League slots.

[Note: Tottenham is a bit of exception to this rule as chairman Daniel Levy has spent more than non-Big Six clubs but markedly less than the other five… but has done so very successfully – not in terms of trophies (hahahahaha what are those??) – but rather in the sense that he has helped the club climb into the rarefied air of the other large dongs of the Premier League.]

The good news is that picking one of these clubs means you can count on plenty of winning this season, next season and pretty much every season. The bad news is that picking one of these teams – particularly City or Liverpool (at the moment) – means you will inevitably be on the receiving end of some ribbing for being a frontrunner… much like somebody who comes to America and decides to be a Cowboys or Lakers fan (orrrrrrrrrrrrrrr the exact opposite, but you know what I mean).

Incidentally, my advice to anyone wanting to pick one of these teams: ignore tf out of anyone trying to give you shit about it. I have a ton of respect for anyone picking a lesser club and sticking with it, but let’s be serious: losing sucks. Especially for any total n00bs in the house, if picking a team that wins more than they lose is going keep you more connected to the sport, then just do it and tell anyone to go eff themself.

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ARSENAL (30/1)
Location: North London
Biggest rivals: Tottenham; Samuel Army; Chelsea
Notable fans: Justin Bieber; Queen Elizabeth and Prince Harry; Demi Moore; Keanu Reeves; Jay-Z; Puff Daddy; Mick Jagger; Piers Morgan; Kevin Costner; Lindsey Horan

The Gunners were known for playing an aesthetically pleasing brand of soccer under long-time manager Arsene Wenger that was easy on the eyes, and for many years was the closest thing that the EPL had to the tiki-taka play of Barrrrrrrrrthelona. That was then and this is now, however, as the club has struggled to compete for several years in a row now – including the last couple under Wenger and more recently under new manager Unai Emery. Arsenal finished above their hated local rival Tottenham for like 30 years in a row but this dip in form plus Spurs’ recent ascendency and has resulted in a shift in the balance of power in North London… for the moment anyway.

Arsenal are nevertheless a club with a decent history of success (especially in the FA Cup), with deep pockets (on the rare occasion their American-led owner Stan Kroenke opens the purse strings) and a TON of attacking talent in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette supported by n00b Nicolas Pepe, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and the ghost of Mesut Ozil. If you like goals, this is the club for you. They could score a million this season and might give up just as many because instead of shoring up a weak defence they have continued to acquire exciting attacking players. Recipe for excitement? Oh hell yes. Recipe for winning? TBD.

Fun fact: the club has won the 2nd most Community Shields in history! Impressive!

**

CHELSEA (30/1)
Location: West London
Biggest rival: Arsenal; Tottenham
Notable fans: Justin Bieber; Michael Caine; Simon Pegg; Sienna Miller; Will Ferrell; Billy Idol; Martin Tyler; Gordon Ramsey; Bill Clinton; Kevin Garnett; Larry Nance Jr.

Textbook example of a club that has been transformed by a new owner with incredibly deep pockets who is not shy about spending ridiculous sums of money to win… which has been absolutely fantastic for fans – as long as they are willing to not ask questions about where all that money came from. The “new” owner in question is Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch with uncomfortably close ties to Vladimir Putin who (magically) amassed a fortune through questionable means and, after purchasing the West London club in 2003, immediately transformed it from also-ran to big-spending contender. Unfortunately some of the shadiness may have caught up to him in 2018 as the UK authorities did not renew his visa meaning he is no longer a welcome visitor to watch his beloved Chelsea play at Stamford Bridge.

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Nice little place to hide out in case, oh idk, the authorities kick you out of the country for being a shady ass shadeball

Annnnnnnnyway, the thing about “new money” people is that they sometimes don’t really know how to handle success, and this has been the case with Chelsea. The club has been on a serious rollercoaster in recent seasons, winning the title one season then finishing in the middle of the pack the next, with the one constant being that fans should not get too attached to whoever the manager is because he isn’t going to be there for long. Jozay Mourinho (second stint) was fired midseason and was replaced for a minute by Guus Hiddink, who was replaced by Antonio Conte, who won the league in 2016-17 but was promptly replaced by Maurizio Sarri, who won the Europa League but was just replaced by Chelsea legend Frank Lampard.

Long story short, the club runs extremely hot and cold. If you are the type of person who loves a feisty relationship – lots of drama, plenty of yelling, hot make-up sex – then Chelsea may just be your true soulmate.

Last but opposite of least, we have yet to discuss BY FAR most attractive feature about becoming a fan of the club: they just signed Christian Pulisic – aka The Babyjesus – meaning that love them or hate them, every single Chelsea game is going to be must-watch television as long as our beautiful baby boy is playing for them.

Bonus fact: the team was once one of the most easily hateable in the league thanks to guys like John Terry and Diego Costa, but even I find it hard to dislike guys like N’Golo Kante, Willian, Mateo Kovacic and Callum Hudson-Odoi… and now of course The Babyjesus.

**

LIVERPOOL (9/4)
Location: Liverpool
Biggest rival: Everton and United
Notable fans: Samuel L. Jackson; Brad Pitt; Elvis Costello; Dr. Dre; Mike Myers; Liam Neeson; Daniel Craig; Caroline Wozniacki; Lebron James (part-owner)

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, Liverpool. A lot of the fans used to be convinced that I hate the club. The reason they thought that is because I had the audacity to speak the truth about how good their team was – which, prior to last season, was not nearly good enough to compete for the league title. Then came last season when Klopp and Co. finally put it all together, and I said going into the season that they would be very good… and wouldn’t you know it they were! So perhaps Liverpool fans and I can bury the hatchet and move on. Success has a funny way healing old wounds, after all.

As for the club itself, Liverpool was a serious force throughout the 1980s when they were in the mix year in and year out. I’m sure there are some good parallels American sports teams – the Dallas Cowboys is one that comes to mind – but the club had taken several steps back in the decades since (aside from a miraculous Champions League run in 2005 and Luis Suarez-powered second place finish in the EPL in 2013-14). More recently though the club has spent big – and wisely – bringing in Herr Klopp to run things and adding world class attackers (eg, Mo Salah) and defenders (eg, Virgil Van Dijk), which has been complemented by some breakout youth to create the Liverpool of today, which can play with anybody in the world.

Fun fact: Liverpool has a strong connection to the Boston area and are owned by Fenway Sports Group, so if you like the Red Sox or perhaps Messr. John Feitelberg – who bleeds red – then perhaps Liverpool is the club for you.

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**

[MANCHESTER] CITY (1/2)
Location: Manchester (NW England)
Biggest rival: United, OPEC
Notable fans: Aaron Rodgers; Gallagher brothers (Oasis); Ricky Hatton; Timothy Dalton (bad Bond)

The Sky Blues spent many years serving as the dedicated whipping boy for crosstown rival United. The club has been the “other” Manchester team for so long that most Americans probably still think of them as that even after they’ve now won the EPL three in the last seven seasons. In fact, deep down in their soul, lifelong City fans still probably think of themselves as the scrappy underdogs. Here’s the thing though: they ain’t no mo’. Things changes and changed quickly for City when they were bought by a Middle Eastern sheikh in 2009, who immediately injected untold sums of oil money into the team. That – especially when paired with Pep Guardiola, who was poached from Bayern a few years back – has established them firmly among the league favorites year in and year out… and, oh right, the current defending back-to-back champions after they held off Liverpool last season.

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Calling a spade a spade, the club (even more so than Chelsea) is now thought of as being the league’s biggest “new money” team, which is somewhat ironic given how long City toiled as the unloved, underfunded little brother of United. Year in and year out the club has splurged on big-money signings but to their credit – and rather unlike their hated crosstown rival – they have consistently spent wisely, and Pep has managed to massage all (or most) of the big egos, such that they can rightly claim to be the cream of the EPL crop at the moment. The biggest remaining question, aside from if they are too stacked to suffer a post-championships (multiple) hangover season, is whether they can finally make some noise in the Champions League where the club have consistently shit the bed.

Bonus fact: City owns New York City FC, a semi-recent addition to MLS, so any newly minted soccer fans in the metro region could easily pull a twofer by becoming a fans of City and NYCFC – though that means you must be prepared to explain why playing soccer on a ridiculously skinny field at Yankee Stadium is not as dumb as everybody else in the world seems to think it is.


Recap of City’s last few transfer windows

**

[MANCHESTER] UNITED (30/1)
Location: Manchester (northwest England)
Biggest rivals: City; Liverpool
Notable fans: Russell Crowe; Roger Moore (meh Bond); Sean Connery (best Bond); Usain Bolt; Harry Styles; Rory McIlroy; Megan Fox; Than Shwe (ex-Commander of Burmese Military Junta)

Even after several “down seasons” the Red Devils are still the bluest of blue bloods of the Premier League. Credit to the club’s management, in a brilliant marketing move they were the first team to tickle America’s balls (and bathe in the glorious monetary fruits of said labor) by entering into a cross-licensing arrangement with an American team – the New York Yankees, of course – way back when, which makes a lot of sense given that both teams have glorious histories (and aren’t afraid to tell you about them – whether you ask or not). A better sports analogy, though, is that United were essentially the New England Patriots of the EPL until their Scottish Bill Belichik (aka Alex Ferguson) retired in 2013, after which the soccer club has been in a bit of a tailspin finishing outside the top four on several occasions and winning the title precisely ZERO times. Like any entity with more money than god, the club has responded by trying to spend its way back to respectability, but suffice to say that several managers (David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and even Jozay Mourinho) largely shat the bed and got canned, and the latest heir to the throne – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – welllllllll, let’s just say the jury is definitely still out on whether he has what it takes to return United to glory after an extremely hot start that got him promoted from caretaker to permanent manager in March.

Note: winter came… and came hard

Point being, United always have and always will have a lot of talent are never ever afraid to splash the cash to improve the squad. Case in point: they just broke the transfer record by spending a billion dollars on Lester CB Harry Maguire.

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Compared to City, however, United’s spending habits have often been compared to that of a drunken sailor and have often not led directly to great soccer, let alone titles… not yet anyway. Case in point: they just broke the transfer record by spending a billion dollars on Lester CB Harry Maguire.

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Regardless, picking United as your team means there will always usually be in the mix for wins and trophies, though with all that spending (and history) comes high expectations that have proven particularly difficult to live up to lately.

Bonus fact: there are TONS of United fans in the U.S., both because they have been so good for so long and have thus received more TV exposure here than any other club. As such, finding a local watering hole that is full of fellow United fans come game time is never very difficult.

**

TOTTENHAM (16/1)
Location: North London
Biggest rival: Arsenal; Chelsea; legitimate success
Notable fans: Billy Beane; Pierce Brosnan (bad Bond); Phil Collins; JK Rowling; Steve Nash; Jude Law; John Cena; Wayne Gretzky (maybe); Steve Nash; Samuel Army

Not a club for the faint of heart. Spurs have contended for the league title – or “put the pressure on” – several times in recent seasons and came a controversial handball away from potentially winning the Champions League just this spring.

Yet despite being one of the better and most entertaining clubs to watch over the last decade, they have precisely ZERO trophies to show for it. In other words, the club finds a way to ruin things even after enjoying one their best runs of form in a long, longgggggggg time. That, as they say, is Spursy. The last trophy they won was really a “trinket” (aka the Make-Beleague Cup) in 2008. The last actual legitimate trophy the club won was back in…………. ait for it………….. 1991.

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Prepare to see this graphic A LOT if you pick Tottenham

That said, the club slowly but surely continues to get better and further solidify itself among the true giants of the game, and – assuming they don’t get poached by Real Madrid anytime too soon – has tons of young talent like Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Heung-min Son along with one of the best managers in the world in Mauricio Pochettino (just don’t bring your gf around him if you want her to stay your gf).

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Also, it should be noted that Tottenham’s dangly bits have been resting comfortably on Arsenal’s forehead for so long at this point that they have probably left indentations, so we’ve got that going for us – which is nice. Not a trophy, but the next best thing.

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The team is just opened (after several years of delays) a brand new, state of the art stadium that doesn’t have any of the history of the old White Hart Lane but should make up for it with all the bells and whistles (and REVENUES) that comes with a new stadium.

Fun fact: fans are collectively known as the Yid Army (long story but, yes, it does relate to Judaism – or Jewishness?) so I guess you could decide to support them for the “jokes” (per Seinfeld anyway)… unfortunately the joke would be on you, however, because as mentioned the team always – ALWAYS – finds a way to come up short.

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Spelling it without a Z = quintessential Spurs

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And there we have it. Hopefully this helps give your heart a little push in the right direction. Preview/prediction blog coming soon. Podcast (hopefully) soon to follow. Get pumped for the season and stay tuned for more content, blud fam!


Holler,
Samuel Army