Gone are the days of the smug American sports fan, sitting on their elevated throne, spewing regurgitated insults about poor Europeans running around a field for 90 minutes to finish 0-0. And they can’t even use their hands! Silly rest of the world. America always knows what’s best.
Yeah, those fans are rapidly diminishing in number, and the few who still dare to speak their antiquated opinions are now rightfully ignored, with a few notable holdouts (looking at you, J.A. Adande). Appreciation of the game is spreading like wildfire across the country, due to the resurgence of the US Men’s National Team, common sense, and NBC making the momentous decision to purchase the television rights to the English Premier League. In a deal worth $250 million, NBC will now broadcast 380 games across all its platforms for the next three years. They are also showing a commitment to the game that past networks like FOX and ESPN sorely lacked, by simply airing the games live and hiring veteran announcers with years of playing and broadcasting experience.
This irrepressible groundswell, combined with the copious amounts of quality coverage these games receive, may leave you with just one complaint: But I don’t know any of the teams! Relax, anxious reader. Here, for your quick and humorous edification, is a painless guide to the top 10 teams.
Nickname(s): The Swans
Manager: Michael Laudrup
Key Players: Michu (ST/M), Wilifried Bony (ST), Michel Vorm (GK)
The Rundown: Since being promoted in 2011, the Swans have improved remarkably, bettering their league position every year. That should continue this year, as Michu and Bony form one of the best striker partnerships in the entire league, and Vorm continues to anchor a very underrated defense. Plus, under tactical visionary Laudrup, Swansea always has the ability to pull a fast one come game day.
Projected Finish: 6th-10th
Nickname(s): The Potters
Manager: Tony Pulis
Key Players: Asmir Begovic (GK), Ryan Shawcross (D), Peter Crouch (ST)
The Rundown: Stoke has 4, count ‘em, 4 Americans on the roster! Wooo!! Aside from that, there is no reason for you to watch this team. They consistently rank near the bottom in goals allowed and goals scored. They’ll quietly finish mid-table like every year and come back next season to it all again.
Projected Finish: 13th-15th
Manager: Andre Villas-Boas
Key Players: Roberto Soldado (ST), Paulinho (M), Jan Vertonghen (D)
The Rundown: When they sacked AVB mid-season in 2011, Chelsea had no idea what a favor they were doing league rivals Tottenham. Spurs signed the former Blues manager before the start of the last season, and it paid dividends, as Tottenham challenged for a Champions League spot all season when many predictions had them in line for 6th place at best. Sure, maestro Gareth Bale is gone, but the club has spent big and spent well to replace him. They’ll be more well rounded and arguably more powerful.
Projected Finish: 4th-5th
Nickname(s): The Gunners
Key Players: Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla
Manager: Arsene Wenger
The Rundown: Notoriously thrifty Arsenal finally caved to the fans’ demands when they splashed the cash on a world class player, spending almost $66 million on visionary midfielder Mesut Ozil. He lifts an already very good team to an elite level. The squad is still a bit thin and injury prone, but on their day, Arsenal can beat anyone.
Projected Finish: 3rd-5th
Nickname(s): The Citizens, The Sky Blues
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini
Key Players: Yaya Toure (M), Alvaro Negredo (ST), Matja Nastastic (D)
The Rundown: After winning the 2011 title in spectacular fashion, City crashed back to earth in 2012, finishing second by a wide margin to rivals Manchester United. This offseason, they went on the attack, hiring a new manager and splashing almost $151 million on new players. The revamped squad should brutalize the competition this year and be neck-and-neck for the title with Chelsea all year.
Projected Finish: 1st-3rd
Nickname(s): The Red Devils
Manager: David Moyes
The Rundown: After an unbelievable 27 years at the helm of Man U, legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson retired this offseason, leaving behind a void that even the most accomplished of managers would tremble at the thought of attempting to fill. Into that position steps former Everton manager David Moyes, who accomplished a lot in his time there but has never had to deal with the pressures of managing a team like Man U. His first year may be a bit bumpy, as the squad hasn’t improved much since last year, and all the other top teams have made dramatic upgrades. But hey, it’s Man U. They can’t finish outside the top 4…right?
Projected Finish: 2nd-5th
Nickname(s): The Blues
Manager: Jose “The Special One” Mourinho
Key Players: John Terry (D), Petr Cech (GK), Eden Hazard (M)
The Rundown: The Special One returns to Chelsea after a four year stint managing Real Madrid, and fans anticipate a return to the domination of his first term, like in 2004-05 when they only conceded 15 goals all season. All season. And as good as those teams were, this one might be even better. An ironclad defense, brilliant midfield, and solid strikeforce make this team very scary indeed.
Projected Finish: 1st-2nd
Nickname(s): The Toffees
Manager: Roberto Martinez
Key Players: Leighton Baines (D), Tim Howard (GK) [AMERICAN!], Romelu Lukaku (ST)
The Rundown: Yes, Everton wasn’t able to hold on to star midfielder Marouane Fellani, but the great signings they’ve made this summer will more than make up the difference, especially when utilized by tactical genius Roberto Martinez. Look for Everton to make some serious noise all year long.
Projected Finish: 7th-5th
Nickname(s): The Reds
Manager: Brendan Rodgers
Key Players: Coutinho (M), Daniel Sturridge (ST), Luis Suarez (ST)
The Rundown: Everyone predicted that Liverpool would crash and burn when faced with the prospect of losing star man Suarez for the first five games of the season due to suspension. However, the rock-solid defense and attacking brilliance of Coutinho and Sturridge has proved everyone wrong. Expect a strong season from these guys.
Projected Finish: 3rd-5th
Nickname(s): The Saints
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino
Key Players: Rickie Lambert (ST), Morgan Schneiderlin (M), Dejan Lovren (D)
The Rundown: Many people screamed insanity last year when longtime manager Nigel Adkins was fired midseason despite not being in the relegation zone at the time. The doubters were silenced when new manager Pochettino not only saved the team from relegation, but kept them in the top 15. This team has only improved since then. They shored up the defense in the offseason and remarkably consistent striker Lambert is still leading the front line.
Projected Finish: 10th-15th