Part Two of Two
You want to watch the Premier League but don’t know who to follow? Here’s a guide to why each team is worth rooting for (or against) this season! (Part One)
The defending champs. The most recent addition to the “big 6” clubs with Sheikh Mansour purchasing the club in 2008 and investing BIG money to turn the facilities, training grounds and club into a world-class organization. Boasting one of the most talented rosters and possibly the best coach in the world, Pep Guardiola, Man City is a favorite every year to both win the league and splash a ton of cash in the transfer market. While not a traditional big club, they’ve marketed well and hold a large contingent of US fans. Kevin DeBruyne, Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Raheem Sterling and the many other top level players at the club also make for some exciting play week in and week out.
Reasons to Root for Manchester City – You will likely be watching a team win a lot of titles and compete year in and year out. Somehow years spent in the shadow of “The Biggest Club in the World”, city rival Manchester United, has made their rapid ascent somehow more tolerable and you won’t find too many fans of opposing teams that outright HATE City. They also spent the massive influx of funds correctly; purchasing talent at the right time, making smart sales and most importantly developing the youth systems and training facilities. Under Guardiola, the team plays a high energy, full out possession attacking style that can lead to a ton of goals and some classic back and forth matches versus teams with similar talent levels.
Reasons to Root against Manchester City – They feel a lot like the Patriots in the NFL; they came out of nowhere to become a dynastic force and have not only top of the line talent, but the best coach in the league. They win a lot so their fans can feel a little entitled to winning, since many of their fans in the US weren’t watching the Premier League when City was bouncing between leagues. Many traditional British fans are not thrilled with the “oil money” presence in the league, specifically with this club, as the traditionally strong squads have had mixed results since foreign investment became the norm. Seem to have more money than any other team, even with supposed “regulations” put in place by FIFA.
The Yankees of the Premier League. No team has won more titles than Manchester United. Have won titles in nearly every decade and when legendary coach Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge, they rarely DIDN’T win the title. Most United States fans first contact with the Premier League was likely through United. Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham – some of the most recognized names in football played for United. While the squad isn’t currently in title winning form, the Red Devils do boast an impressive collection of high-priced (if not always high producing) talent. Most notable of this current crop of United players is French midfielder Paul Pogba, one of the most entertaining players to watch in the world with his unique blend of size, strength, speed and skill.
Reasons to Root for Manchester United – They are the biggest and most traditionally popular club in the Premier League worldwide. You can get United gear in most stores and they are always ranked #1 in club value, year after year. If you were a fan during the Ferguson era, you got to see a lot of great players, goals and silverware. Becoming a fan now might be more difficult, as the constant coaching turnover has lead to questions in style and direction for the club; but when they get it right again, the Red Devils will be a fierce title contender. If you like to talk smack, United is a good team to go for, as most other fans consider them a direct rival (even if Manchester United doesn’t).
Reasons to Root against Manchester United – They had their fill of trophies. Since becoming the Premier League in 1992 United has won 13 titles, nobody else has more than 5. The team can also be easy to hate with the astronomical prices they pay to poach talent from other teams in the league. Nearly every team fanbase can tell you about a player that was “stolen” away by the deep pocketbooks of United. Personally as a uniform fan, the big Chevrolet logo in the middle of the chest is the worst in the league and I personally know United fans who won’t get the kit because of that.
The Magpies are top-flight veterans with 87 seasons in the highest level of English football. Playing in St. James’ park since 1892 there is a lot of tradition and pride amongst fans of Newcastle United. While they haven’t won a top-flight trophy since 1927 or an FA Cup since 1955, the team has largely remained competitive. While their latest Premier League run just began in 2017, they are already in a period of transition with promotion sealing coach Rafa Benitez leaving the club this summer. It will be interesting to see what happens with Newcastle over the next few seasons.
Reasons to Root for Newcastle United – Passion and tradition. For a 100+ year old ground, St. James’ Park gets rocking on match day and their fans bleed the black and white stripes through and through. With American Deandre Yedlin patrolling the flank and former MLS star Miguel Almiron pulling the strings in attack, Newcastle has some recognizable players for US fans. The Magpies also sport a strong traditional uniform look, sporting vertical white and black alternating stripes on their home kit each year.
Reasons to Root against Newcastle United – Owner Mike Ashley has been a point of contention for loyal Magpie fans. With his proclivity to end up in the tabloids and recent admission that buying the team was a regret, fans of the team have tried to get him to sell his stake in the club. The fact that the club went down to the second division in recent years hasn’t helped his reputation with the club. However, new ownership is a giant question mark, so while there are strong upsides to becoming a Newcastle United fan, there could be some dark periods waiting.
Back in the Prem again, Norwich City has spent the past few seasons stuck in a “too good for the Championship, not good enough for the Premier League” limbo. After just one season in the Championship after their latest relegation, the Canaries fought back to the top-flight by winning the second division last season. Norwich City scored a ton of goals in their Championship winning season, with Teemu Pukki winning the Golden Boot for the league (top scorer). They may have trouble scoring goals so easily in the Premier League but should entertain.
Reasons to Root for Norwich City – Young attacking players make up the excitement around the Canaries. With Pukki , fullback Max Aarons and loan player Patrick Roberts there are some real talents in the lineup. If you want to see a team full of young players with a few vets, Norwich City might be building something special. You’ll also never miss the team on the television, with bright yellow and green kits that stand out.
Reasons to Root against Norwich City – Feels like we’ve been down this road before. The Canaries have been up and down between the top two leagues multiple times in the last decade and might have another one and done shot in the Premier League this go around. There is also the worry that their attacking style that led to their promotion is unsustainable and some truly one-sided beatings are headed their way against the likes of the Manchester and London based squads.
First time back in the Premier League since 1994, new ownership and lifelong Blades fan/former player Chris Wilder assuming the management role keyed the return. With Premier League veterans like Ravel Morrison and Phil Jagielka mixed with younger signings like Lys Mousset, Luke Freeman and Oli McBurnie; Sheffield United has an intriguing mix of players that will fight to stay in the top-flight. It will be a tough road for the Blades, with most outlets picking them to return to the Championship at season’s end.
Reasons to Root for Sheffield United – Lifelong Blade Chris Wilder is one of the most exciting coaches to come through the ranks in Britain since Eddie Howe at Bournemouth. Sheffield United has rapidly risen through the divisions and splashed over 40 million pounds to stay in the league. While it’s an uphill battle, the ownership of Sheffield United has no intent on letting the team stay in the lower leagues, so you may get a longer run in the Prem than expected. That and Blades is a pretty cool team nickname.
Reasons to Root against Sheffield United – With the house of Saud (the Saudi ruling family) purchasing the club in 2013 there is a lot of the “foreign money” negativity surrounding the rapid ascent. This sort of investment in clubs hasn’t always paid off in the past and there are multiple stories of foreign investors getting bored and taking the club down with their dwindling interest. This season will be telling for this ownership group if the team gets relegated back to the Championship as most predict.
The Saints are a recent fixture in the league tables and play in a beautiful coastal city with a modern stadium in St. Mary’s Stadium. Southampton has become a sort of farm system for the big clubs, with the management excelling in identifying and developing young talent and then selling them for massive profits. While the side has had mixed results in the league, facing a relegation fight last season and battling in Europa League three years prior. Club mainstays midfielders Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, James Ward-Prowse and goalkeeper Fraser Forster ensure a recognizable core for the Saints, the most talented players each year seem to end up at Chelsea, Arsenal, and the Manchester clubs more often that not. Premier League mainstays Virgil Van Dijk, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all made their starts on the South Coast.
Reasons to Root for Southampton – This club really pays attention to their youth prospects and does a stellar job turning their young players into skilled, professional footballers. To maintain this development system while staying competitive in the Premier League since 2012 is an impressive feat, as Southampton doesn’t have the financial resources of the “big 6”. With the huge Premier League television deals pumping money into the league, it will be interesting to see if this influx of money will improve the chances of Southampton with their focus on youth development.
Reasons to Root against Southampton – Don’t get attached to any player, as once they become a star, they are likely out the door. Losing key players and managing to stay in the top-flight is impressive but can be hard to deal with as a fan. You really must root for the name on the front of the jersey to be a loyal Saint. You end up playing a lot of “what if” looking at past players thrive in other uniforms.
A long time up and coming club, the time is now for Tottenham Hotspur to officially win some trophies. With excellent coaching from Mauricio Pochettino and a true star in Harry Kane; the Spurs have all the pieces to contend for a title and win some hardware (as evidenced by last year’s appearance in the Champions League final). However, with teams circling their top talent and a move from the old White Hart Lane to the new version, it’s put up or shut up time for the Spurs. The team hasn’t won the league since 1961 or an FA Cup since 1991, the teams’ fans are eager to change that.
Reasons to Root for Tottenham Hotspur – Pochettino is a star in the coaching ranks and have his Spurs playing a high intensity pressing game that frustrated opponents and has the club in one of their most successful runs of all time. Built largely on English talent like Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Danny Rose, the Spurs are a favorite amongst many for their youth development and loyalty to English players. The Spurs are also one half of the legendary North London Derby versus North London rivals Arsenal. The battle for North London produces highlight matches each season.
Reasons to Root against Tottenham Hotspur – You are an Arsenal fan. Like with the Gunners, Spurs fans public enemy number one is their in-town rival. Tottenham also has a historical tendency to muck up their biggest chances at silverware, leading to the current decades’ long trophy drought. Spurs teams tend to match up long runs of dominant play with stretches of play that leaves you scratching your head. There may not be another fan base that needs some trophy validation more than this one.
Watford has become a solid mid-table fixture since getting promoted to the Prem in 2015-16. Coming off their highest ever points total in the league and an appearance in the FA Cup final, optimism is high amongst Hornets fans that even more success is on the horizon. The face of the club is long time striker Troy Deeney; a hard-nosed player who scores goals and provides a vocal and physical leadership to the club. With coach Javi Gracia leading the team to these new heights, he has raised his profile in the coaching ranks and may not be long for Vicarage Road, the home of the Hornets since 1922.
Reasons to Root for Watford – A team on the rise, Watford’s ownership has been smartly investing in both the youth and first team teams and the results are starting to show. Signing former Manchester United and Arsenal player Danny Welbeck brings a talented player that is popular among fans despite his long injury record. Under manager Gracia the Hornets play aggressive, physical football while still showing skill and flair; a rare combination.
Reasons to Root against Watford – Any squad captained by Troy Deeney will run right up to the line of legal and occasionally over that line. They lead the league in yellow cards and finished second in red cards; the Watford team suffers from a lack of discipline some weeks that leaves them down players and chasing victories. Outside of the rare cup run, there won’t be much hope of Watford winning the league any time soon.
The East London based Hammers have been in the top-flight since 2012-13 and have had mixed results since returning. With a move from original home of 112 years, the Boleyn Ground to the London Stadium, West Ham now has some financial might to improve on their mid-table status. With former title winner Manuel Pellegrini in the manager’s box and players like Felipe Anderson, Chicharito, Jack Wilshere, Issa Diop and long-time captain Mark Noble the pieces are in place for West Ham United to build themselves into a team capable of getting into the top 6.
Reasons to Root for West Ham United – Outside of a cool nickname (the Hammers), West Ham gives you the feel of rooting for an underdog while the improved financial situation gives the hope of more. With the big venue out of the way, West Ham has been opening their purse strings more each season with hopes of joining the top half of the league with regularity. Anderson, Chicharito and Michail Antonio give the Hammers a good mix between skill and physicality up front. If one of the traditional top 6 have a rough season, look for the Hammers to jump into that vacancy. If you get in now and they do progress into a contender you’d be able to claim you liked them before they were good, always a fun statement to break out in conversation.
Reasons to Root against West Ham United – Getting rid of Marko Arnautovic makes it harder to find reasons to hate on the Hammers. One prominent reason to root against the team is their perpetual also-ran status. There’s rarely a gripping relegation battle or outside shot at European football to make seasons exciting so you’re relying a lot on transfer splashes and incremental growth for your high points as a fan. West Ham does seem to tend to play below the sum of their parts, Anderson, Wilshire and Chicharito all have been world-beaters on their best days, but those days aren’t frequent enough to propel West Ham into the upper echelon.
Wolverhampton came back to the Premier League with a vengeance last season, taking their first season back in the top-flight seriously with big investments into players and were rewarded with a 7th place finish. With financial backing from a Chinese investment group and strong ties to Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes, the Wolves look to be the best bet to break the top 6 grid lock. Featuring a large Portugal contingent in their starting 11 and high-profile acquisitions like Leander Dendoncker and Patrick Cutrone the Wolves should once again scare any team visiting their long-time home, Molineaux Stadium. Ruben Neves, Diogo Jota and goalkeeper Rui Patricio are just a few of the Portuguese imports that have thrived in the Premier League and coach Nuno Santo is a rising star. If last season was any indication, Wolverhampton is here to stay in the Premier League.
Reasons to Root for Wolverhampton Wanderers – If you’re Portuguese! It’s a running joke amongst pundits, but the starting lineup for Wolves looks a lot like the Portugal National squad. This isn’t a bad thing as the style of the team meshes well with the National squad and the players have good chemistry on the pitch. Neves is a star and highly entertaining to watch, possessing one of the most lethal long-distance shots in the league. Nuno has this team well drilled and disciplined, playing like squads with much bigger budgets. They are also the only current team that rocks orange as a primary color if you’re into the aesthetics of the game.
Reasons to Root against Wolverhampton Wanderers – The influence of Mendes, the Scott Boras of the football world, is a big negative for many people with anti-agent bias. There have been rumblings of some shady dealings with some of their transfer work with Liga NOS (the Portuguese national league) but have been dismissed to this point as just rumors. Another team with the negative “foreign investment” tag leveled against them due to their Chinese ownership.
That’s gonna do it for the Premier League preview. Let me know what you think or what team you are going to support in the comments! I’ll be back again tomorrow with week 2 of my Adult Beginner Hockey journey. Premier League season starts this weekend (August 9th -11th, 2019), check your local TV listings or hit up your favorite watering hole and enjoy the beautiful game!
Just a guy who loves sports.