Welcome, friends, to the 2018-19 English Premier League season. If you’re thinking last season just ended, it did– soccer offseasons last about three weeks, particularly in World Cup years. Oh, yeah, the World Cup happened this year, didn’t it? I bet you watched it, didn’t you? Yes, you, the one reading this right now. You got so hooked on futbol that you’re looking to latch on to a Premier League team, aren’t you? After all, not only is the Premier League the richest and deepest league in the world, it’s also the most easily consumable for American audiences. Thus, following the Premier League is fun. Waking up Saturdays and Sundays and having sports before the sports you already watched is a true joy. I’m glad you’re on board. No offense to all those other rinky-dink leagues like the Bundesliga or La Liga or Serie A or Ligue 1, but you’ll find no Messi or Ronaldo talk in this space. This is all about helping you, the neophyte, find your new club to support every time they take the pitch (learn the lingo, plz. That’s step one). This is an important decision in a person’s life, and one that shouldn’t be made willy-nilly. Watch a few games. Find out which players or playing styles you like or dislike. Look inside yourself and determine how much you care about other people’s opinions and how much you hate yourself (spoiler alert: I rank highly on both scales). And, most importantly, read this guide again and again. These are all the reasons you should root (or not root) for all twenty Premier League teams. Choose wisely.
Arsenal– 2017/18 finish: 6th
Why Pick Arsenal? Do you like theoretical greatness? Do you like teams that play aesthetically pleasing, attacking styles that always seem to fall apart at the worst times? Do you prefer your players small and injury prone? Do you like funny fan reaction videos? Then Arsenal is the team for you! Arsenal can be low-hanging fruit in recent years, but this is still a stacked roster and there’s only so bad they can be. There’s also no telling how good they can be if everyone has their heads on straight (far from a guarantee).
Best Player: Kind of a hard choice on this team but I’ll say Mesut Özil, who is mercurial as they come, or so the press would have you believe. He’s also one of the most talented playmakers in the world and can make passes few players can. Even with all the attacking talent on this team, Arsenal goes as he goes.
What Will Other People Think of You? That you wanted to pick a Big Six team but wanted to do it ironically. Also, you’ll be called a bandwagon jumper if you don’t have at least fifteen “Wenger out” tweets in your history.
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? A lot. Arsenal is in the unenviable position of facing huge expectations every year despite a lack of recent results. Call it Cowboys Syndrome. It’s a no-win situation barring a league title, and, spoiler alert, they’re not winning the league this year.
How Good Will They Be? If everyone was just sick of erstwhile manager Arsène Wenger and his old school approach and will play harder and be more focused now, they’ve got the quality to land a Champions League spot. But what if Wenger was the only stabilizing force keeping the whole thing from falling completely apart?
Bournemouth– 2017/18 finish: 12th
Why Pick Bournemouth? If cherry is your favorite flavor, have I got some news for you! Also always wind up playing a bunch of randomly exciting games and usually give the big boys a hard time.
Best Player: Don’t necessarily have one guy so let’s say Simon Francis since he’s the captain and their most important defender.
What Will Other People Think of You? That you picked the most random team you could find.
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? Not much. Bournemouth has settled nicely into a nice mid-table niche, free from any and all pressure. As long as you’re okay with not winning.
How Good Will They Be? Probably exactly the same as last year.
Brighton & Hove Albion– 2017/18 finish: 15th
Why Brighton? Because Lewis Dunk tied the record for most own goals in a season, which is a perfect metaphor for willingly choosing a team like Brighton.
Best Player: Lewis Dunk for the aforementioned record.
What Will Other People Think of You? That irony is a large part of your personality.
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? As much as someone who supports the whimsically named Seagulls can.
How Good Will They Be? Not particularly.
Burnley– 2017/18 finish: 7th
Why Pick Burnley? You know how every year there’s an NFL team that uses a weak schedule to build a falsely-impressive record, and then everyone picks them the next year as a dark-horse contender, only now they have a tougher schedule and the weight of expectations so they struggle? This is Burnley.
Best Player: James Tarkowski. Picking a defender as a team’s best player isn’t quite as abstract as saying an offensive lineman is an NFL team’s best player, but still, I dare you to tell me Tarkowski isn’t good. What do you know about good defending? You’re just a n00b. Probably think it’s called soccer, or something.
What Will Other People Think of You? That you’re preposterously self-conscious. You clearly wanted a winner but didn’t want the stigma of picking a Big Six team. It’s okay to admit you like watching the best teams, man. Just pick United.
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? Probably a lot. Jumping on board in the post-surprise season is always risky, especially now that they have to play Europa League games, too.
How Good Will They Be? Won’t get relegated or anything, but to expect another top-7 performance is lunacy.
Cardiff City– 2017/18 finish: 2nd (in Championship)
Why Pick Cardiff City? Why indeed.
Best Player: I could literally say any name here and you’d believe me. I could make up a name and you wouldn’t know. If I said Cardiff City’s best player was Junior Hoilett, you’d just accept it as fact.
What Will Other People Think of You? That you were literally born and raised in Cardiff.
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? Clearly not much if you can afford to invest so little in sports that you’re picking Cardiff City as your EPL team.
How Good Will They Be? Next year we’ll look back in surprise and ask “Cardiff City was in the Premier League?!?”
Chelsea– 2017/18 finish: 5th
Why Pick Chelsea? You love emotional roller coasters, you love seeing young players succeed on other teams after you give up on them, you like shady Russian businessmen, you think defense wins championships and stats are for losers, blue is your favorite color, you’re only happy when the players on your team are unhappy and in open rebellion against the coach.
Best Player: N’Golo Kanté. Imagine Lionel Messi, but instead of scoring goals he took the ball from the other team.
Other Best Player:
What Will Other People Think of You? That you think you’re smarter than everyone because you picked the least aesthetically pleasing Big Six team, or that you think you’re smarter than everyone because you watched Napoli when they were flying high (their new manager comes from Napoli, where they scored at will), when in reality you just remember Didier Drogba was good in FIFA.
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? Even with all the drama, they’ve still won two of the last four titles, so clearly not that much.
How Good Will They Be? Legit don’t know where the scoring comes from if/when Eden Hazard leaves, so a spot in the Champions League might be in jeopardy this year.
Crystal Palace– 2017/18 finish: 11th
Why Pick Crystal Palace? Because you consider http://www.briansden69.com your favorite website! Join me in supporting Crystal Palace if you dare (just kidding, don’t. I like it better when I’m the only one that likes something). Why did I pick Palace? Because when I got back into soccer I needed a team, and I thought Crystal Palace was the coolest team name I’d ever heard. Since all my American teams were among the best teams in their respective leagues (and still are), I knew I couldn’t pick a Big Six team, lest I be accused of front-running, a deep fear of mine. As such, I committed to Crystal Palace. As an added bonus, they’re in London and have a good amount of money, so they won’t ever really be that bad!
Best Player: Wilfred Zaha. Walmart Neymar is the end-all, be-all for the Palace attack. If he gets hurt/regresses in any way, they’re gonna have some ugly, ugly games.
What Will Other People Think of You? That you’re smart, funny, handsome, strong, have good taste, is really fun to be around, have a ton of friends, have a ton of confidence, have a rich and fulfilling personal life, definitely aren’t kind of a loser who plays too many video games and feels like they’ve wasted large portions of their life, and that you kind of picked a team at random.
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? A lot. Think of Crystal Palace as an NBA team that’s always the 7th seed. They should be better than the teams that are treading water and staying in the league, aren’t even in the same zip code as the Big Six, and have no real way to get better. But we have the GOAT studio host Rebecca Lowe, though.
How Good Will They Be? Anything above 9th is a great season, so expect a nice 12th place finish.
Everton– 2017/18 finish: 8th
Why Pick Everton? You’re addicted to rooting for teams who are on the verge of taking “the leap” every year but never really do.
Best Player: They’d better hope it’s new addition Richarlison because they spent a lotttttttt of money on him. They spent a lot of money, in general, actually.
What Will Other People Think of You? That you have a closet full of Landon Donovan and Tim Howard jerseys.
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? You are a danger to yourself. Everton has disappointed on expectations roughly 1,000,000,000 seasons in a row and is usually depressing when they do it. Last season was particularly bleak, so much so that I was stunned they still finished 8th. Don’t bother learning the names of the managers, they tend not to last long. They’re also sponsored by Umbro, which is a bad sign.
How Good Will They Be? They’re likely to be the best non-Big Six team, and made a few legitimately interesting moves during the summer. A Europa League spot should be attainable, barring a typical Everton malaise.
Fulham-2017/18 finish: 3rd (in Championship)
Why Pick Fulham? You’re a big Jags fan, you remember Clint Dempsey (USA had a soccer team, once), you want to root in a team from a posh area, you like boring jerseys.
Best Player: Young winger Ryan Sessegnon. He’s the apple of many huge teams’ eye, but he’s still in West London (for now).
What Will Other People Think of You? That you’re either a Jags fan or remember Clint Dempsey.
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? Choosing a newly promoted team likely to stay up shows a healthy level of self-love, because it shows you’re easy to please and don’t care too much.
How Good Will They Be? Okay.
Huddersfield Town– 2017/18 finish: 16th
Why Pick Huddersfield? I honestly don’t know why you would.
Best Player: Aaron Mooy, who answers the age old question, “what if Jonjo Shelvey wasn’t raised by meth dealers?” (soccer guys will get that)
What Will Other People Think of You? That you only brought up the fact that you like Huddersfield to trigger a “oh, I’m sorry,” response.
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? Willingly attaching yourself to a dead-team walking is an interesting strategy, to be sure. I guess you just want to feel any emotion at all, even if it’s the stinging loss of a relegation season.
How Will They Be? How do I put this? Umm, well son, Huddersfield isn’t dead, they just went to live in a farm upstate with the rest of his family.
Leicester City– 2017/18 finish: 9th
Why Pick Leicester? I’ll be honest, I couldn’t pick Leicester. I don’t have nearly enough self-confidence to constantly deal with accusations of frontrunning. It’s been three years, now, but the high of the most unexpected title in sports history is still there. It completely defines the team, as it should. Actual Leicester fans are good for life, now. Literally nothing can take away the fact that they, a random, non-Big Six team, won a title in a sport designed to keep the little guys down. Jumping on now just seems counter-intuitive. They also might not be very good this year.
Best Player: Jamie Vardy. Dominated in their title season and was quietly fourth in the league in goals last year, guy just knows how to score goals and start bar fights.
What Will Other People Think of You? That you still listen to “Took a Pill in Ibiza.”
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? I don’t know. Probably not that much if you’re so comfortable with your own ignorance that you don’t understand that they will never ever ever ever ever ever have a season like 15/16 again.
How Good Will They Be? They won’t get relegated, or anything, but they keep losing players, including Riyad Mahrez, their former best player. This season won’t be anything to write home about.
Liverpool– 2017/18 finish: 4th
Why Pick Liverpool? They’d be the team I’d pick, were I not already committed to #PalaceLife. They’re exciting, have a distinct playing style (Jurgen Klopp is one of the Managers You Need to Know), have one of the best players in the world, have a fun song, and have a ton of history. They’re also owned by the same people that own the Red Sox, if that changes your opinion (I despite Tom Werner and John Henry with a passion, and always will no matter how many World Series the Sox win under them).
Best Player: Mo Salah, who just set the record for goals scored in a 38-game Premier League season. He’s good.
What Will Other People Think of You? That you like Big 12 football, that you’re trying to get on the train early, that you might be a hooligan in training, that you’re probably easily triggered online, that you like to say “27 ringzzz,” that you think Steven Gerrard was better than Xavi.
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? Not much, because Liverpool is probably the most entertaining team in the Premiership and could make a title run this season.
How Good Will They Be? Could suffer a post-hype decline, but in a world where Manchester City didn’t exist, they might be title favorites.
Manchester City– 2017/18 finish: 1st
Why Pick City? They just had the best season ever, so that could be a deciding factor. They’ve turned the art of goalscoring into a coldly efficient science that could, if viewed through a cynical lens, sap the joy out of the game.
Best Player: Kevin De Bruyne, who is rapidly rising the All-Time Ginger Athletes list. Another exceptional season could see him challenge Brian Scalabrine.
What Will Other People Think of You? Whoo, boy. Picking United is one thing. Picking City means you will get literally no respect from anyone. It might be the worst team you can pick from an intelligentsia point of view. They’re the definition of nouveau-riche, have no history (no good history, at least), and are the perfect bandwagon team. If you can’t prove you were there when they weren’t even in the top flight, don’t bother.
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? I envy your self-confidence. A new money team coming off the best season in league history that spends more money than any non-Manchester team in Europe? Couldn’t be me picking them, that’s for sure.
How Good Will They Be? They’ll win the title.
Manchester United– 2017/18 finish: 2nd
Why Pick United? Alright, I know that even you know Manchester United. It’s the most popular team in the world, and for good reason. Just not lately. Because Jose Mourinho (another Manager You Need to Know) sucks the life out of teams then blames everyone else when things don’t go his way. But, hey, they still finished 2nd last year. Also probably the coolest roster top-to-bottom.
Best Player: Paul Pogba, who you surely remember from the World Cup. He was on France! And they won! He’s one of the most talented players in the world, and, when given literally any freedom at all, can totally dominate games. The only problem is Jose never gives him freedom and randomly benches him. Such is life.
What Will People Think of You? That you’re probably also a Yankees-Cowboys-Lakers fan.
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? It’s not so much how much you hate yourself, it’s how much everyone else hates you. When you, Manchester United fan, complain about not winning a title in five years next to Huddersfield Town guy you look pretty bad.
How Good Will They Be? They’ll finish 2nd or 3rd.
Newcastle United– 2017/18 finish: 10th
Why Pick Newcastle? If you love owners who inject themselves into every story, both because of their stubbornness in doing things Their Way and their general ineptitude, have I got a team for you! If you pick Newcastle, you’d better learn everything there is to know about Mike Ashley, because you are going to hate him.
Best Player: Jonjo Shelvey, who answers the age old question, “what if Aaron Mooy was raised by meth dealers?”
What Will Other People Think of You? Probably just that you like Newcastle beer.
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? You are crying for help. No team is a bigger roller coaster than Newcastle, and Ashley will never let it not be so.
How Good Will They Be? Pretty decent, if I had to guess.
Southampton– 2017/18 finish: 17th
Why Pick Southampton? Don’t. They had a great run earlier this decade by virtue of one of the best youth programs in England. That program has dried up and all the good players they produced are gone. They’re not long for this world.
Best Player: I guess James Ward-Prowse because he’s good at free kicks and free kicks are cool.
What Will Other People Think of You? Probably that you’re a weirdo for picking Southampton.
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? Very much. Only a glutton for punishment would take a team like this at this stage in their history.
How Good Will They Be? Bad. Very, very bad.
Tottenham Hotspur– 2017/18 finish: 3rd
Why Pick Tottenham? Tottenham is like the Falcons: high flying, fun to watch, capable of moments of utter brilliance, one of the best all-around teams in the league, and will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever win anything. It’s just not in their DNA. No Community Shields. No Carabao Cups. No FA Cups. Certainly no European titles. And, of course, no league titles. If you want that constant tease of being the best team not to win, be my guest.
Best Player: Harry Kane. The World Cup’s Golden Boot winner was pissed he was denied a third straight Premier League Golden Boot last season. He’ll come back with a vengeance.
What Will Other People Think of You? That you drink yourself to sleep every night.
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? In a weird way, not really. Much like the Cubs and Red Sox, at a certain point not winning becomes your identity and you don’t want to win the title. After all, if you lost the losing, what’s left to live for?
How Good Will They Be? For much of the season they’ll be within striking distance of the top, only to lose one or two key games that cost them a Champions League spot.
Watford– 2017/18 finish: 14th
Why Pick Watford? You like Elton John, right? Of course you do. Everyone likes Elton John. “Rocket Man,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Daniel?” Can’t beat it. Elton John likes Watford, you know. Used to own them.
Best Player: Elton John. The famous songsmith had a good season in front of goal last season, racking up 15 goals. He’s looking to build on that and is reportedly in the best shape of his life.
What Will Other People Think of You? That Saturday Night is your favorite time of the week.
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? You get so mad watching your team you’ve created an alter-ego named “The Bitch.”
How Good Will They Be? I fear the Sun will go down on Watford this season.
West Ham United– 2017/18 finish: 13th
Why Pick West Ham? Tertiary Harry Potter character Dean Thomas is a West Ham fan, so there’s that. No, I didn’t look that up. It’s been in my brain for like, fifteen years. I retain information well, deal with it.
Best Player: Call me crazy, but I kind of like this roster, particularly newly acquired midfielder Felipe Anderson. They badly needed a new midfield presence this year, and he should provide a bit of a creative spark.
What Will People Think of You? That you have good taste in jersey colors.
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? Much like Manchester United, it’s more of how much people will hate you, only this time, it’s the West Ham fans themselves. They don’t like change very much and won’t readily accept a new member to their ranks.
How Good Will They Be? Going for that upper-mid table finish, boiii.
Wolverhampton Wanderers– 2017/18 finish: 1st (in Championship)
Why Pick Wolverhampton? If you’re Portuguese, they literally acquired every non-Ronaldo Portuguese player to ever play this offseason. They’re also in the nice position of being a newly promoted team that could actually be pretty good, which means more money, which means better players, which means more money, and on and on it goes until they max out at a 6th place finish.
Best Player: I don’t know if he’s their best player or not, but Adama Traoré is awesome. Watch this highlight video:
What Will Other People Think of You? That you live in
Brooklyn Seattle and love wearing knit hats 24/7.
How Much Do You Hate Yourself? A lot, only because you care about seeming smart to other people so badly that you picked the up-and-coming hipster team.
How Good Will They Be? They do reek of “too much, too fast,” but they could be a good team. Competitive, at the very least. They won’t be relegated for a while.
There you have it. All twenty teams. Do you have a better idea of who you like, now? You better, because I certainly don’t feel like doing this much work again. For the first few weekends, don’t be afraid to experiment. Watch a bunch of games, figure out what you like. Inevitably come back to the Big Six because who in their right mind would pick anyone else? The only thing that matters is that you’re joining an exclusive club. A group of people who wake up early on weekends, pick up a few breakfast sandwiches, turn on the tube and watch some EPL all morning before watching football all afternoon. Maybe only I do that, but you’ll like it, I promise. The Premier League is the most popular sports league in the world for a reason, and I’m glad you’ll be there to find out why.