Traditionally, supporters had their affiliation decided by location or familial ties. But as England’s top division has become a truly global business, soccer fans have had to find other ways to choose a team to follow.
So, if you’re keen to nail your colours to a particular Premier League mast but aren’t sure which club to plump for, the following guide should help you make a decision. Pick carefully, though – there’s no going back from here…
Liverpool is the reigning English champion, having won its 20th championship last season – meaning it is just one shy of Manchester United in the all-time standings. Their manager, Jurgen Klopp, is one of the best in the world and is currently under contract until 2024.
Liverpool is a historic club. Only Real Madrid and Milan have won more than its six European Cups. They play their home games at Anfield, a world-famous stadium with a magnificent atmosphere. If you’re after prestige and silverware, you can’t go far wrong with the Reds.
Manchester City was the most successful English team in the 2010s. They won four Premier League titles in that time, having previously not finished on top of the division since 1968. They have also lifted the FA Cup twice and the League Cup five times in the last decade.
City plays attractive soccer, and their manager Pep Guardiola is among the most successful of the modern era. Their wealthy benefactors from Abu Dhabi virtually guarantee that City will be a major force for as long as the present ownership remains in place.
Chelsea has won as many Premier League titles as any other club since they were bought by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich in 2003. They have been unable to mount a challenge for the championship in the last three seasons, but recent history suggests that it won’t be too long before Chelsea is back on top.
The London side has tended to focus on short-term results in the last 15 years, but the appointment of club legend Frank Lampard as a manager in 2019 perhaps hints at a change of approach.
Arsenal has at times been the Premier League’s ruling force. They won the title in 1998, 2002, and 2004, and in the latter campaign, they became the first English team since 1889 to go the entire season unbeaten.
Arsenal has slipped down the pecking order in recent times, though. They remain a popular club with a reputation for playing good soccer, but their current coach Mikel Arteta has a big job on his hands to make the Gunners challengers again.
Manchester United is the most successful club in English domestic soccer, having won the league 20 times in their history. Thirteen of those triumphs came under Alex Ferguson, whose remarkable 27-year tenure as manager came to an end in 2013.
However, United hasn’t even come close to adding a 21st crown to their collection since then. They are still one of the world’s biggest names and play in England’s biggest club stadium, but even the most ardent United supporter would acknowledge that the club has declined significantly in the last few years. They are now managed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who spent 11 years at Old Trafford as a player.
Tottenham occupies an almost unique position among the Premier League’s 20 clubs. After taking charge in 2014, Mauricio Pochettino transformed Spurs into occasional title challengers despite having a much smaller budget than their rivals. They are now part of the so-called big six (which also features the five aforementioned sides), which certainly wasn’t the case a decade ago.
Pochettino has since been replaced by Jose Mourinho, who has been tasked with winning Tottenham’s first trophy since 2008. Spurs play at the newest stadium in the Premier League, which is widely regarded as one of the most impressive arenas in world soccer.
Leicester City was responsible for the most extraordinary title triumph in the history of soccer when they won the Premier League in 2016. The club was 5000/1 outsiders at the start of that season, and most pundits expected them to be demoted to the second division.
After a slight dip following that unprecedented success, Leicester is on the rise again. They are arguably the Premier League’s smartest recruiters and have assembled a team capable of challenging for a place in the top four. Brendan Rodgers, who took charge in 2019, is the most highly-rated manager from the United Kingdom.
Wolverhampton Wanderers is also moving in the right direction. They were taken over by Fosun International Group in 2016 and have since fashioned an excellent side with a heavy Portuguese influence thanks to their owner’s links with agent Jorge Mendes.
Wolves – the club tends to go by its wonderful nickname – will expect to challenge for a European spot again in 2020/21. That could become a regular occurrence for a side that, along with Manchester United, dominated English soccer in the 1950s.
Aston Villa was one of the 12 founder members of the Football League, England’s first professional soccer league that was launched in 1888. They finished second that year and then won the competition five times the following decade, plus twice more in 1910 and 1981.
Villa is one of only five English teams to have won the European Cup or Champions League, a feat they achieved in 1982. They have not been as successful in recent years and are currently battling against relegation to the Championship, where they recently spent three straight seasons for the first time since the 1970s. Nevertheless, Villa is one of English soccer’s most historic clubs.
Leeds United is back in the Premier League after 16 years outside it. Managed by the fascinating Marcelo Bielsa, the Whites will be looking to extend their stay in the top tier in 2020/21.
Leeds finished third in the league around 20 years ago and also reached the Champions League semi-finals. It won the final First Division title in 1992 and was also triumphant in 1969 and 1974 under its legendary boss Don Revie.
Everton was also involved in that inaugural Football League season in 1888/89. They have won the top-flight title nine times, although their most recent success was in 1987. Everton’s stadium Goodison Park has plenty of soul and character, but Everton plans to move to a new ground in the next few years.
Everton has occasionally flirted with the top four in the Premier League era, and once finished among the division’s leading quartet. Now managed by serial trophy-winner Carlo Ancelotti – who lifted the Premier League title with Chelsea in 2010 – Everton fans hope that the glory days will soon return.
Newcastle United’s supporters are hoping for a similar upturn in fortunes after a disappointing few seasons. This club challenged for the Premier League title in the 1990s but now usually scraps it out in the bottom half.
Newcastle is one of the great underachievers of English soccer. Its fan base is one of the most loyal in the country – their St James’ Park home is the seventh-biggest in the Premier League – despite the fact that Newcastle hasn’t won a trophy since 1955.
West Ham United might seem out of place in this section if you only take silverware into account. The London side has never won the league – Newcastle, for all that they haven’t challenged in recent times, has won it four times – and has just three FA Cups to show for its 124-year existence.
Yet the London side is still one of the most well known outside of the Premier League’s big six. They won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965, and a year later three of their players were integral as England won the World Cup. West Ham currently plays at the London Stadium, which was built for the 2012 Olympics.
West Bromwich Albion is an archetypal yo-yo club, having made a habit of bouncing between the top two divisions in recent years. Since 2002 it has won five promotions to the Premier League and suffered four relegations out of it.
After a period of stability in the 2010s, the Baggies seem to have readopted their ‘boing boing’ identity. If you want excitement and uncertainty, West Brom could be the club for you.
For much of its current Premier League stay Palace has tended to start seasons slowly, sack their manager, and then recover under a new coach – before repeating the trick the following year. Palace usually favours counter-attacking soccer, which can be thrilling to watch when everything falls into place.
Interestingly, Palace has recently staked a claim to be recognized as the oldest soccer club in the world that is now playing professionally, a title currently held by Notts County. And, as we’re sure you’ll agree, they have a pretty cool name too.
Burnley continually punches above its weight under its astute long-serving manager, Sean Dyche. They upset the odds to qualify for the Europa League in 2018 and have subsequently avoided relegation dogfights despite often being tipped to be involved in them.
There is a strong British and Irish influence to Burnley’s squad, which contains fewer foreign players than most of their Premier League rivals. Burnley is a club rooted in its community, and its Turf Moor stadium is one of the most traditional soccer grounds in the division. They play in claret and blue, historic colours in the English game.
Fulham is back in the Premier League after a season away. Last time it tried to survive by spending huge sums on expensive recruits, but in 2020/21 it looks set to keep faith with the players who won promotion.
Fulham is many people’s favourite to go down this term, so it is definitely in underdog territory. It’s Craven Cottage stadium is also one of the most popular in England for its location on the banks of the River Thames and quaint architecture.
Southampton is an established Premier League club, and in the mid-2010s they achieved four consecutive top-eight finishes. They have one of the most productive academy systems in the division, but their reputation for smart external recruitment has been tainted by some disappointing signings in recent seasons.
Southampton is currently coached by Ralph Hasenhuttl, an Austrian who did fine work with German side RB Leipzig before moving to England. One of the most legendary players in Premier League history, Matt Le Tissier, spent his entire career with Southampton despite receiving offers from some of England’s biggest clubs.
Brighton and Hove Albion, like Southampton, is located on the south coast of England. They won promotion to the Premier League for the first time in 2017, and have spent the last three seasons battling against relegation.
Brighton is a well-run club whose chairman, Tony Bloom, is a professional poker player. They are coached by Graham Potter, an Englishman who has spent most of his managerial career to date in Sweden. Brighton plays at one of the Premier League’s most uniquely designed stadiums, which opened in 2011.
Sheffield United was tipped to finish in the bottom three of the Premier League in 2019/20, but they were, in fact, the surprise package of the season. The current objective for the Blades is to avoid second season syndrome and once again steer well clear of the bottom three.
Their manager Chris Wilder is old-school but innovative, and their Bramall Lane home is the oldest major stadium in the world still to be hosting professional soccer games.
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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