It’s opening day!! I can tell by the look on your face and your silence, that you’re confused. The Barclays Premier League kicks off its season today with a match between Leicester City and Arsenal. That’s right. We’re talking English from here on out. Matches, managers, football, training, howler,… mate, and… um… meat pies.
“But Rhys,” I hear you say, “soccer is stupid.” To that, I say: Is it? Is it, really?
“Oh yeah, well what about all that flopping?” you say. You’re right. That doesn’t happen in any other sports.
By the way, when you Google “flopping gif” like 40 images show up before a single soccer flop. Also, the first 6 images are of Lebron James.
“But I think soccer is boring.” First of all, it’s sports. Anything with competition, drama and storylines is exciting. I watched professional cornhole on ESPN2 and was fucking riveted. Second, maybe YOU’RE boring. Ever think about that. Third, golf.
“But there’s ties!! I hate ties! It’s un-American!” Wanna know who liked ties? Thomas Jefferson. It’s true. The greatest American in the history of our country enjoyed ties. Historic fact. I guess you’ll think twice now about hating ties, huh?
Also, what else are you doing? Premier League comes on at 7am on Saturday and 8am on Sunday. Football doesn’t start till noon on either day. Why not wake up, grab a cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich (and a beer) and watch a little soccer first thing in the morning?
But the issue remains, who do you root for? These easiest way to get into a game is to have a favorite team and then you’ll have a rooting interest. Well, the real easiest way to have rooting interest is gambling, but I’m not here to talk about that. If you want to have a favorite team in the Premier League, the best thing to do is to just pick one. I made the mistake of trying to just watch a ton of games and have my favorite team develop organically. But that never happened. What ended up happening was I met Boom Boom, she liked soccer, there was a Liverpool bar down the street from her old apartment, and that’s where we chose to watch soccer in the morning (because I stayed the night, if you know what I mean!!). So, just pick a team and jump in.
Do you need some help picking a team? Well, I’m here to help. Here is a all 20 teams Power Ranked by whether you should root for them.
You don’t want to be an Arsenal fan. Being an Arsenal fan is like being a Cowboys fan. Arsenal fans think their team is way more important than it is, and think it is way better than it is. I mean you don’t wanna be like this guy do you?
Awwww poor baby!!
Last year was the first time in 20 years they didn’t finish in the top-4, while that’s impressive, they didn’t win a single Premier League or Champions League title for 15 years. Their coach, Arsène Wenger, is basically Marvin Lewis. He’s pretty good at his job and every year will give you a team that could possibly win it all, but of course, he never does and fans call for him to be fired because he can’t win it all.
However, Arsenal’s best player is this guy:
“Sexy Lexi” Alexis Sanchez. A couple things you need to know about him. He scored 24 goals and 10 assists last year, good for 3rd best in the league. He likes to roll up his shorts and expose his legs. I have no idea why he does this. Does this help him stay cool to expose 3 more inches of skin? Does this help him run faster or kick harder? Does he think this is cool? I must know! Lastly, his Instagram is an amazing follow. It’s basically filled with two types of photos: 1. Like the one above, exposing his legs or 2. Him with dogs:
Also, Mesut Ozil is probably one of the best passers in the world. But still, fuck Arsenal.
Watford finished just 4 points clear of relegation. They had the 3rd worst goal differential in the league last year. They lost their last 6 games to close out the season and 7 of their last 10. Don’t root for this team, they’re not going to be around for long*.
*Quick note: The 3 teams to finish in the bottom of the league (Last, Laster & Lastest Place), get kicked down to a lower division. They then get replaced by 3 new teams from that lower division. This is the best way to fight tanking. You’d think twice about trusting the Process if it meant having to play in the G-League, wouldn’t you?
18. Manchester United
Cheering for Manchester United is like never watching a baseball game in your life and choosing to root for the Yankees. They’re the most valuable soccer club in the world. They’ve won the Premier League a record 20 times. They had a coach from 1986-2006, who was so good, the queen fucking KNIGHTED him! Last year they went out and signed one of the best players in all of Europe, Paul Pogba, for a then-record $123 million. This year, they went out and got maybe the best striker (or “goal scorer”) in the Premier League, Romelu Lokaku, for $88 million. Rooting for this team is like rooting for the dealer in blackjack.
Also, their current coach, Jose Mourinho, is a gigantic prick.
17. Burnley FC
Burnley lost 20 games last year and gave up the 4th-most goals in the league. I can’t name one player on their team, even after Googling “Who plays for Burnley FC?” The only cool thing about them is that their stadium is called Turf Moor. It sounds like a place in Game of Thrones.
16. Stoke City
Ah yes. Sexy, sexy Stoke. This team has got some lookers:
Here’s Charlie Adam who reminds me of every guy in a pick-up game who’s 10 years too old, so he just fouls the shit out of you the whole time. He also looks like he goes down to the pub IMMEDIATELY after the game, downs like 13 pints and then gets into a fight, all while still wearing his uniform. Then there’s this guy:
Peter Crouch, who looks to be roughly 13 feet tall and 62 pounds. Don’t forget about Joe Allen, also known as Welsh Messi:
Look at those flowing locks! He is… okay at soccer.
15. West Bromwich-Albion
The only thing I know about West Brom is they have a little bird on their Badge. They’re the type of soccer team that is somewhere between okay and not very good, but will always manage to beat your team when you think you’re supposed to win. They finished last year 12-17-9, and lost 4 of their last 5. Micho, meet your Premier League Bills.
Albion is apparently the oldest word for the island of Britain, itself. That fact, like everything about this team, is “meh.”
14. Manchester City
Rooting for Manchester City is like rooting for the Empire in Star Wars. Sure, it’s super cool in Rebel One when Darth Vader starts chopping dudes in half and using the force to throw them into the ceiling. But, you don’t want to, like, actively root for evil. So you can watch Man City, and even appreciate how goddamn good they are, but you shouldn’t to like it. Historically, Manchester City has gone up and down between the Premier League and the Championship. But in 2008, the team was bought by a Sheikh from Abu Dhabi. Fresh with that oil money, they proceeded to buy a bunch of really, really good players and have been good ever since, winning the Premier League twice within that period. They’ve made their already-good team even better by buying some key defensemen, and are favored to win the whole thing this year (+180).
Plus one of their best players is a ginger!
Brighton is right on the ocean, so it’s basically the South Beach of the Premier League. Except the water is always 50 degrees and the sun never comes out. So, not at all like that. Sorry, you get no Lebron nor naked ladies. Just Fish & Chips and bad teeth.
12. Huddersfield Town
How can you not enjoy rooting for a team named “Huddersfield”? How silly and English does a town called Huddersfield sound? I hope their team nickname is the Huddersfield Udders. And their mascot is a big cow. That’d be amazing. Apparently, they’re the Terriers. And I tell you what, as a fellow Terrier, nothing puts fear in the hearts of the other team than playing the Terriers.
Huddersfield won the Championship League last year (their celebration is pictured above) in order to get promoted. There’s a chance they’ll be good enough to stick around, buuuuuut they also have the highest odds to get relegated this season. Don’t waste your time investing in a team that is probably gonna be gone next year.
11. Leicester City
Leicester City was so much more fun during their title run 2 years ago. They played incredible defense and scored exciting fast break goals. Plus, they were 5000-1 odds to win. They had no right winning all the games they won. Then last year, they lost who turned out to be their best player, N’golo Kante, a tiny French-Africa midfielder who lead the league in tackles and was in the top-10 for passes and touches. Kante went to Chelsea last year, and again was in the top-5 in tackles and passes, and helped them win the league. Leicester looks like they’re about to also lose another of their best players, Riayd Mahrez, to somewhere in Italy. He’ll take anyplace at this point. So, soon, it’ll just be this guy:
Jamie Vardy, scored 24 goals in their championship season, including a goal in a record-setting 8 games in a row, but only managed to score 13 last year. When Vardy was 20, he got in a fight at a pub and got arrested. He then was forced to wear an ankle bracelet for the entire season, even during games!
10. Swansea City
Swansea City is the only team that is from Wales. Which means saying EPL (English Premier League), is technically wrong. I thought that they ended up changing it to the BPL for British Premier League, but in fact the “B” stands for Barclays. Just another big corporation ruining everything.
Anyway, since they’re from Wales and so is my dad, I thought maybe this was a team I should root for. Turns out they stink. This would be like deciding to be an NFL fan and choosing Jacksonville as your new favorite team.
Everton is stuck in the higher end of the middle of the pack. They aren’t quite good enough (or rich enough) to compete with the Top 6 teams and make a run at finishing in the top 4, but they’re much better than many of the teams in the Premier League. They’re kinda like one of those NBA teams that always makes the playoffs but you know is never gonna go anywhere, like Atlanta or Portland.
They also sold they’re best player, Romelu Lokaku to Manchester United. They replaced him with Manchester United’s once-best player, Wayne Rooney. Rooney was considered one of the better players in the world, at one point, but that was a long, long, long time ago. This is like the Thunder replacing Russel Westbrook with Vince Carter. You’ve probably heard of Wayne Rooney, like 8 years ago when you happened to be watching a World Cup game on a random Saturday. Besides being the best player on a just-okay England team for the last, like, 10 years, Rooney is also famous for getting 2 hair transplants, and is STILL going bald.
8. Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace is a team in South London that is not that great. Think of them as the Premier League version of the Mets. But the reason you may want to care about them, is their coach:
Sam Allardyce’s American equivalent might be Rex Ryan. He’s jolly, funny, gregarious, likes feet. Okay, not that last part.
Big Sam is really good at taking a bad team and turning it around. He’s not quite good enough to then take that team to the top. But if your team sucks, and you just sacked your manager (or “fired your coach”), then bring in Big Sam to right the ship. That’s exactly what Palace did and managed to avoid relegation.
This team has a great story. In 2008, they were $6 million in debt and were relegated to League Two, which is equivalent to Single A Baseball. The hero of our story is current coach, Eddie Howe. Howe is basically the Brad Stevens of the Premier League. Howe took over the team at age 31 and managed the team to a second place finish and promotion to League One. We can “yadda yadda” the part where Howe leaves and comes back, but upon coming back in 2012, he pulled the team out of the basement and got them promoted into the Championship League (the League below the Premier League). They then spent most of the 2014-2015 season at the top of the Championship table and got promoted to the Premier League in 2016.
They’ve finished about mid-table the last two years. Sadly, they don’t really have the money to go and get any superstars, so they’re not great. But they’re always competitive. Fun Fact: Their team nickname is the Cherries.
6. Newcastle United
This team has a built in beer of choice. So if you want to get up at 7:30 in the morning and just start pounding Newcastle Brown Ales and watch your team lose, that’s already what actual Newcastle United fans are doing, so you’ll fit right in.
I hate to say it, but Chelsea are basically the Patriots. They’ve won 3 of the last 8 Championships. They won the League last year by 7 points. They ended their season on a 6-game winning streak, and at one point during the season they won 13 straight. They’re absolutely loaded. They have the type of team where if one of their All Star players isn’t getting it done, they can take him off and replace him with a different All Star player. And like the Patriots, they have a great offense, and a much better than you think defense, especially when it counts.
Their coach, however, is pretty much the polar opposite of Bill Belichick:
Antonio Conte is not exactly pulling off the cut-off hoodie look. He’s the ultimate caricature of an Italian soccer coach. He couldn’t look more Italian if he was drinking chianti, smoking a cigarette and hitting on your girlfriend.
You can root for Chelsea if you like. But you have to promise me you will still hate Diego Costa. Costa is Chelsea’s center forward, and is very good. He’s also very good at being the biggest dickhead on the field.
Costa will flop, punch you in the face, yell racist things, and will somehow get YOU kicked out for all of it. Soccer folks call him an “Instigator.” I call him a “Little Bitch.”
4. West Ham United
West Ham plays in East London, which isn’t a particularly nice part of London. West Ham and their fans has a reputation for being tough and gritty. Their team name is the “Hammers” for God’s sake. They have a whole section in their Wikipedia page dedicated to hooliganism. There’ve been movies made about West Ham hooligans. Now many teams have a history of hooliganism, but West Ham feels like they kinda relish in it. Think Philly.
Before West Ham games, they play a song and the fans sing along. Many teams do this (Liverpool famously does “You’ll Never Walk Alone”). But the song West Ham sings is called “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” and then they shoot bubbles all over the stadium. It’s weird and a bit silly. It feels like the complete opposite of the tough guy persona they give off. But I’m not going to be the one who tells them that.
West Ham has moved from their old stadium, Upton Park, to London Stadium, the 2012 Olympic Stadium. Their games are a little weird to watch because there’s like 30 feet of space surrounding the pitch (or “field”) where the track used to be. It also means the fans can’t get right up in opposing players faces and scream racial epithets as easily. Such a bummer.
If you get really excited by watching a team filled with young, homegrown talent over-perform, year after year, only to see those young talented players be sold to bigger clubs and be replaced by other young, homegrown talent, than this is the team for you! I present to you the Premier League Tampa Bay Rays. Southampton has one of the best Academy programs, maybe in the world. Academies are like a farm system, except they sign the kids so young, that they actually go to school there too. It’s like soccer school. I think. That’s what I imagine it to be, maybe there’s not much math happening though.
You could actually field a pretty good team with the players who have left Southampton to go to other teams, including ex-managers.
Do you love goals? I bet you do! Liverpool was 4th in the league last year in goals scored. They also gave up more goals than any other team in the Top 4. If you love seeing your team score 3 quick goals in the first 20 minutes of a game, then sweating through your shirt as you watch them give up 2 goals in the last 10 minutes, you will LOVE this team. This team is essentially the New Orleans Saints or Houston Rockets of the Premier League. The best defense is a great offense. Right? Kinda?
This team is super fun to watch. Their coach, Jürgen Klopp, employs a strategy called gegenpressing, which translates loosely to, “pressure the fuck out of the ball with all of your players, all of the time, even when their hearts are about to explode from running so much, keep pressuring the ball because then you will steal it it’s easier to score because you’re really close to their goal.” Again, loose translation. He calls it “Heavy Metal Football.” Potato-Potahdoe.
He also gets SUPER excited during games. And then after games, he goes around a hugs every single one of his players. It’s awesome. He’s a big ridiculous Teddy Bear. He’s like Pete Carroll without the exaggerated gum chewing and Trutherism.
1. Tottenham Hotspur
Now if you love goals from JUST your team, this is the team for you. No one scored more goals than Tottenham last year. But they also gave up the fewest to their opposition. They made a run at the end of the season last year, but came up short (also Chelsea just didn’t lose last year) and finished in second place. They basically brought everybody back and are gonna try and make another run at the whole thing.
This team is really fun. They’re super young and super good. They have an awesome cast of characters: The coach, Mauricio Pochettino, is like a more intense, less cuddly version of Jürgen Klopp, meaning he runs his team into the ground, gets good results but never smiles. They have, arguably, the best player who is under-23 in the world, in Dele Alli (psst, know who else is on that list??). Defender Eric Dier has one of the best nicknames in the Premier League, the Dierwolf. Harry Kane is great at scoring goals, but is also the most English-looking person in all of England. Midfielder Erik Lemela has a faux-hawk and you get to spend the whole game wondering if he’s actually wearing eyeliner or just looks like it. And last but very, very much not least, they have a Korean guy who dabs after he scores goals!
The thing you need to know in order to be a true Tottenham fan is that the team’s nickname is “Spurs.” There is never a “the” associated with “Spurs” however. If you were talking about the San Antonio Spurs, for example, you’d say, “The Spurs played the Warriors last night and Draymond Green punched Kawai Lenard in the dick.” But not with Tottenham. For them, you have to say, “Last night, Spurs played Chelsea, and Diego Costa punched Eric Dier in the dick.” Get it?
There you have it. Call out of work early, because kickoff is at 2:30pm and then we got a whole weekend’s worth of football, yeah I said it, football to watch.
Thanks for the digression, back to the NFL/Fantasy next week.