We are two weeks into the English Premier League and there are some exciting story lines already forming. Tottenham and Chelsea now have a renewed London rivalry after their coaches got into it following last week’s match. Manchester United looks helpless. Manchester City looks unstoppable. Leeds United have been renamed Leeds United States of America with American Jesse Marsch as manager and with Tyler Adams and Brendan Aaronson joining the squad. For those of you without a team, it may be a daunting task to keep up.
How to Pick a Premier League Team for the 22-23 Season
Before you pick your team, there are some important things to know. This season of the EPL will primarily take place on NBC’s Peacock app. You can get a subscription for $4.99. If that doesn’t interest you, you should probably pick a different league. ESPN+ gives access to MLS, the German Bundesliga, La Liga, and more. Paramount+ provides Champion’s League coverage and Series A in Italy. Basically if you want to watch soccer in America, you gotta pay for it.
If you’re still committed to the EPL, here are the main items to focus on. The “top of the table” is the fight for the championship. Whichever team with the most points at the end of the season wins the league. Points are calculated by Wins (3 points) and Draws (1 point). Outside of finishing first, teams in the top of the table are competing for a spot in a continental tournament. The top 4 spots go to the Champion’s League. Spots 5 and 6 get to compete in the Europa League. And the 7th place finisher competes in the new Conference League.
Many viewers prefer to root for winners, and for most of the season the teams at the top of the table will try to hold onto that spot to earn those tournament seats. But by the end of the year some of the most exciting soccer will take place at the bottom of the table. The teams who finish in the last 3 spots will be relegated to a lower division of professional soccer. That means they lose out on the prestige of the EPL as well as the huge advertising and TV money that it brings. These relegation battles can be just as exciting as title runs.
With the basics out of the way, let’s pick some teams.
The Boring Picks
There’s nothing wrong with being a boring person. I personally root for Alabama Football and the New York Yankees. You may want to hitch your wagon to success and not have to worry about defeat. And that’s ok! That will lead you to two teams, Man City and Liverpool. Man City has won the 4 of the last 5 EPL seasons and they added Erling Haaland to their already loaded roster, they’re massive favorites to repeat as champions. Liverpool have been the only consistent challenger to Man City.
Both of these teams play exciting and fun soccer. If you want your boring pick to also provide boring soccer, then you should pick Chelsea or Man United. Both teams are tough to watch but should still find themselves fighting for a spot at the top of the table. Well, Chelsea will at least.
The Hipster Picks for Boring People who Don’t Think They’re Boring
Sometimes people like to pick something safe that appears edgy. Designer jeans with holes in them or Indie rock of the early 2000s. If you tend to fall into that category, you have a few teams to choose from. Tottenham and Arsenal are two London based clubs with loads of money, decades of history, and yes, a recent run of disappointment. Both are on the up and up, and if you join now you may still be able to say you “liked them before they were cool.”
West Ham, Leicester City, Brighton, and Aston Villa fill out the rest of this bracket. All of these teams are favored to push for a 6th or 7th place spot, but more than likely will wind up around mid-table. Leicester (pronounced Lester) has the most recent run of form after a miracle season that won them the championship in the 2015-16 season. They also appear on some relegation lists, so be prepared if you pick here.
West Ham are a big club that is always disappointing, but they’ve been featured in a handful of movies and their fans sing about bubbles. Brighton and Aston Villa have a quiet history but play hard nosed soccer and tend to be fearless against top opponents. Either of these sides could make it near the top or crash to the bottom. Newcastle should be in this conversation, but their owners killed Jamal Khashoggi and I don’t support sports washing.
The Relegation Battle
For the masochists still reading I do have some teams for you. Bournemouth, Nottingham Forest, and Fulham are all newly promoted and therefore more than likely to wind up back at the bottom. Bournemouth are still building their roster and until they get some depth they are the main favorite to finish at the bottom. Fulham have a roster full of players with experience in the Premier League and a few Americans in Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson. Nottingham Forest is owned by a Greek gangster, so he may pump some blood money into the team to stave off relegation this year. They fall into sports washing though, so I don’t recommend them.
Other teams that should expect to struggle are the same who barely survived last season. Previously mentioned Leeds are a ton of fun and may take a step forward with a full offseason under Marsh, but they barely survived last year. Everton has Frank Lampard as their coach and a poorly run front office, never a good combo. Southampton, Wolves, Crystal Palace, and Brentford could all wind up in these conversations as well but it’s too soon to tell.
In the end, I would recommend picking from the hipster category or Leeds or Fulham. Hope is my favorite feeling in sports. It builds the greatest tension and overcoming odds makes those wins all the better. Nothing can beat the feeling of an underdog pushing their way into the top 4. Except of course a last minute goal on the season that keeps your team from relegation.