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The new fan’s 2016-17 guide to finding a favorite Premier League club

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Must read preface: For several years on my own site and then on a Western New York soccer blog, I’ve given prospective fans of the Premier League a guide to choose a team. In no way do I claim to give anything other than an opinionated overview that I believe to be a fair representation of clubs whose history far outlives even my fandom of the beautiful game. And as time goes on, this is less and less a necessity. We are talking about the biggest league in the world, after all.

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But the fact remains that people need to know what they are getting into, as I know personally of a fan or two now attached to insufferable clubs. ‘They’ had no idea that their love for a brown ale or clever nickname would lead to a lifetime of supporter misery. And now ‘they’ have got to twice watch their beloved club, massive as it is, flub its way to the second tier. Again, just what I’ve heard from ‘them’.

I almost always advocate choosing a club that isn’t already a giant because that’s my background as a proud Buffalonian, but do what feels right. Maybe you’re a Yankees or Cowboys fan who enjoys feeding off the hate of others. By all means, continue onward!

So without further ado, I submit to you my 2016-17 beginners guide to selecting a Premier League team. For each team, we’ll let you know which Americans are on their team — if any — who their fans tend to hate, and give a very loose comparison to American professional teams.

1. Arsenal
Last championship: 2003-04
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Gunners
Location: London
American players: Gedion Zelalem
Biggest rivals: Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Manchester United
Comparison: New York Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers

The good news, if you choose Arsenal, is that you’ll have so much company. Arsenal is the most-supported team in these here United States of America, and their passionate fan base is almost impossible to miss.

They have a massive celebrity supporter base, too, from Idris Elba to Prince Harry, Steve Earle to Jay-Z, there’s a bountiful group of shiny fans. There’s some magic to the club, for sure. French manager Arsene Wenger fashions players who play the game with flair and the club has begun to spend again after paying off a great deal of debt. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are incredible talents, and Santi Cazorla could be among the more unheralded out-and-out superstars of all-time.

For a big club, they provide their fans a fair bit of misery. They’ve won two of the last three FA Cups, but haven’t seen a Premier League title since 2004. Their club is massive, has gobs of money, and their manager still talks like he’s running a not-for-profit.

2. Bournemouth
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 2/25 (Return: 2015-16)
Nickname: Cherries
Location: Bournemouth, Dorset
American players: Emerson Hyndman
Biggest rivals: Southampton
Comparisons: Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Lightning

What young, promising manager Eddie Howe has done with this club to get them to the Premier League and keep them there is amazing. Chairman Jeff Mostyn kept the team from administration with his own money, and engineered one of the biggest rises in English soccer history. Now they’re investing in the club, and have a promising squad.

Their crest is a man heading the ball incorrectly, unless of course the Cherries player is clearing the ball from danger. We’ll be rooting for the upstarts this season.

3. Burnley
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 3/25 (Return: 2016-17)
Nickname: Clarets
Location: Burnley, Lancashire
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Blackburn Rovers, Preston North End
Comparisons: Pittsburgh Pirates, Calgary Flames

Manager Sean Dyche looks like he eats wood for breakfast, thinks condiments are for lesser weaklings, and gets in bar fights as a hobby. He expects his small market club to play in a similar fashion, and likes to use the same lineup as often as possible. SportsWorld’s Joe Posnanski wrote a story on Burnley the last time they were promoted. It was called “David and Goliath and Burnley”. Read it.

4. Chelsea
Last championship: 2014/15
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Blues
Location: London
American players: Matt Miazga
Biggest rivals: Arsenal, Tottenham, West Ham, Fulham, Millwall
Comparison: Los Angeles Lakers, Washington Redskins

A simply massive club with loads of accolades and glory — not to mention a deep-pocketed owner in a big, big city — Chelsea took a step back last season when their players seemingly quit on their abrasive but brilliant coach Jose Mourinho (now with the Manchester United). Given the huge support for Arsenal in America, it seems lots of folks hate Chelsea. New manager Antonio Conte won’t have a problem with that, nor will current forward Diego Costa and center back John Terry, two of the more detested but respected players in the world.

5. Crystal Palace
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 9/25
Nickname: Eagles, Glaziers
Location: London
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Brighton & Hove Albion, Charlton Athletic, Millwall, Wimbledon
Comparisons: Memphis Grizzlies, Kansas City Royals

Palace is a truly intriguing option due to incredible fans and their manager, Alan Pardew, who is at best a goofball and at worst a lunatic. Palace is a real working-class London club, and the Eagles have flair and work rate in their club. I love their modern crest, though they aren’t new jacks. Yohan Cabaye and Andros Townsend are very good, exciting players, and both Joe Ledley and Mile Jedinak bring the steel.

6. Everton
Last championship: 1986-87
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Toffees, The School of Science
Location: Liverpool
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Liverpool
Comparison: Boston Bruins, Denver Broncos

Everton gives you the ability to back a team with proud history, and a team involved in one of the best rivalries in sports (The Merseyside Derby with Liverpool). The club has had two of America’s biggest players in Landon Donovan and Tim Howard, and has a classy color scheme and simple crest/kit. With new investment coming and a good manager in Ronald Koeman, Everton is one of my top prospects for new Premier League fans.

7. Hull City
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 5/25 (Return: 2016-17)
Nickname: Tigers
Location: Hull, Yorkshire
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Sheffield United, Leeds United
Comparisons: Sacramento Kings, Cincinnati Bengals

Hull City is back in the Premier League, but respected manager Steve Bruce quit before the season because — many believe — he was frustrated at the lack of investment in the club (which is for sale). Great nickname, colors, and “bounce-back-ability” here, and no one will accuse you of jumping on a bandwagon. You can never count out Hull, but in a sense you’d also be silly to count on them. Here’s hoping the Tigers surprise us this year.

8. Leicester City
Last championship: Last season!!!
Years in Premier League: 11/25
Nickname: Foxes
Location: Leicester
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Nottingham Forest, Derby County, Coventry City
Comparison: Seattle Seahawks, New Jersey Devils

You could hate sports, and you’d have heard of Leicester City’s last season. The most unlikely championship story in history, with castaway players and a forgotten manager rising up to claim the Premier League crown from the richest of the rich. I can’t tell you not to root for the Foxes, though I also wouldn’t bet on them repeating the glory. That said, they’ve proven me horribly wrong before!

Foxes is a great nickname, blue is a solid color, and who doesn’t love the silky skill set of Riyad Mahrez?

9. Liverpool
Last championship: 1989-90
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Reds
Location: Liverpool
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Everton, Manchester United
Comparison: Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Flyers

Superstar players? Check. Intense, fascinating manager? Check. Title-winning history you can brag (and brag and brag) about? Check. Still plenty of misery to feel like you’re somehow an underdog? Check.

No wonder American fans have seemingly flocked to the Anfield set.

10. Manchester City
Last championship: 2013/14
Years in Premier League: 20/25
Nickname: Citizens
Location: Manchester
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Manchester United
Comparison: Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Angels

Some folks will tell you that you can’t support Man City because they’re a club that’s done all their recent winning on the backs of incredible investment from deep-pocketed owners, but as time goes on we’re learning they were an early-adopter. Still, City has spent crazy money, most recently to bring one of the most brilliant managers in the world in Pep Guardiola. Plus, you’ll love the same team as Noel and Liam Gallagher, and their banter game is, generally speaking, top notch.

11. Manchester United
Last championship: 2012-13
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Red Devils
Location: Manchester
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Liverpool, Leeds United, Manchester City
Comparison: New York Yankees, Montreal Canadiens, New England Patriots

A little shine came off United when it struggled to keep up legendary manager Alex Ferguson’s lofty standards once the Scottish coach left the team. But United has spent almost as much money as any club on Earth and should never, ever be considered anything but a favorite with the biggest financial influence in the game. Now with vilified but brilliant manager Jose Mourinho and the fanciest attack this side of Real Madrid and Barcelona, Manchester United can get back to seriously contending for any trophy in the world. And you can sort of feel like you aren’t jumping on any sort of bandwagon.

12. Middlesbrough
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 15/25 (Return: 2016-17)
Nickname: The Boro, Smoggies
Location: Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire
American players: Brad Guzan
Biggest rivals: Sunderland, Newcastle United
Comparisons: Buffalo Bills, New Jersey Devils

There is no American club that would be considered the third-biggest club in its market, is there? Here’s the good news, it may not be that way for long. With Newcastle laboring in the Championship for at least a season and Sunderland a consistent struggler, The Boro is taking advantage of its return to the top flight by bringing players aboard who can help keep it in the Premier League. Boro also made an unlikely run to the League Cup in 2004, and thrived in the Europa League (going all the way to the final before losing). They embraced a nickname, Smoggies, which was once foisted on the club by dissenting opposition fans. I respect the heck out of that.

13. Southampton
Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 18/25
Nickname: Saints
Location: Southampton
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Portsmouth, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bournemouth
Comparison: St. Louis Blues, Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Vikings

Saints have a whole lot of “Moneyball” to their program, and chairman Ralph Krueger literally wrote books on leadership. The ex-NHL coach is an incredibly impressive man, and the way Southampton has replaced assets with cheaper assets is admirable. With one of the best young programs in the world, pound-for-pound, and a certain bit of magic around St Mary’s (their home ground) you could do worse than Southampton.

14. Stoke City
Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 9/25 (Return 2008-09)
Nickname: Potters
Location: Stoke-on-Trent
American players: Geoff Cameron
Biggest rivals: Port Vale
Comparison: Green Bay Packers (without the titles), Portland Trailblazers

There’s a bit of “How are they doing this?” to Stoke City’s continued improvement, and manager Mark Hughes has brought a real strong mentality to the squad. Stoke has one of the most unheralded American stars in history when it comes to Geoff Cameron, and the Potters are a true underdog that has found a way to bring and keep tremendous talent to a smaller market.

15. Sunderland
Last championship: 1935-36
Years in Premier League: 16/25
Nickname: Mackems, Black Cats
Location: Sunderland, Tyne-upon-Wear
American players: Lynden Gooch
Biggest rivals: Newcastle United, Middlesbrough
Comparison: Sacramento Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs

There’s decent tradition in Sunderland to go with new manager David Moyes, who many think has gotten a bum rap from his last few managerial stops, but the club has seen a series of seasons that include hanging out near the bottom of the league before surviving by the skin of its teeth. It’s incredible that they even survived their moribund last three seasons to remain in the top flight. Sunderland is owned by an American and has a relationship with DC United of Major League Soccer. Another fun fact: their nickname isn’t an actual word (Mackem is short for Make Them, abbreviated).

16. Swansea City
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 6/25
Nickname: The Swans, The Jacks
Location: Wales
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Cardiff City
Comparison: Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Suns

A big time rugby area, Swansea is also a travelers dream: friends have told me it’s a gorgeous place to visit. They flirted with relegation last season and have watched a lot of assets go, but there’s no debating that Swans are a group that grind for their fans and city. The Welsh side has made some head-turning signings in Mike Van der Hoorn and Borja Baston, but also let mainstay Ashley Williams and star striker Andre Ayew leave town.

17. Tottenham Hotspur
Last championship: 1960-61
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Spurs
Location: London
American players: DeAndre Yedlin, Cameron Carter-Vickers
Biggest rivals: Arsenal, Chelsea, West Ham
Comparison: Washington Capitals, Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Cowboys

Spurs are a good team to pick. They have an awesome name, an inventive manager and a cool-albeit-goofy logo. They also play in London, so visiting them is an A-plus idea. Tottenham hates Arsenal, so it’s a good bet for vitriol as well.

Spurs also have a ton of extremely likable and/or exciting players, and have surged into the UEFA Champions League. The players are strong and deep, with superstar striker Harry Kane, young flash Dele Alli, and midfield general Moussa Dembele. There’s also terrific French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. There’s really a terrific tradition at the North London club and perhaps they’ve moved from being “so close” to being truly elite again.

18. Watford
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 4/25 (Return: 2015-16)
Nickname: Hornets
Location: Hertfordshire
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Luton Town
Comparisons: Arizona Coyotes

The Hornets finally made it to the Premier League without being instantly relegated. The club questionably cut ties with manager Quique Flores, and will be counting on star forwards Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo to do a lot of heavy lifting this year. Sir Elton John’s favorite club, this is a side that once gave USMNT star Jay DeMerit a shot… and he ended up their captain.

19. West Bromwich Albion
Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 11/25
Nickname: Baggies, West Brom
Location: West Midlands
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Aston Villa, Wolverhampton
Comparison: Milwaukee Brewers, Indiana Pacers

I’ll let Wikipedia show you why I have respect for the fans of this club:

“Albion have always enjoyed loyal and passionate support… Supporters of the team celebrate goals by bouncing up and down and chanting “Boing Boing”. This dates back to the 1992–93 season, when the team was promoted from the new Second Division. In recent years fans of the team have celebrated the end of each season by adopting a fancy dress theme for the final away match, including dressing as vikings in 2004 in honour of Player of the Season Thomas Gaardsøe. In 2002–03 Albion’s fans were voted the best in the Premier League by their peers, while in the BBC’s 2002 “national intelligence test” Test the Nation, they were found to be ‘more likely to be smarter than any other football supporters, registering an average score of 138′.”

That said, until they cut ties with manager Tony Pulis, they will not be playing a style of football I’d enjoy watching on a week-to-week basis. Their fans pride themselves on enjoying beautiful football, and Pulis has not been bringing that.

20. West Ham United
Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 21/25
Nickname: Hammers, the Irons
Location: London
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Millwall, Leyton Orient
Comparison: Brooklyn Nets, Oakland Raiders

West Ham United has a lot of money, a new stadium, and an incredibly deep team given its relative lack of big stage success in recent years. There is every reason to believe West Ham is primed to surge into annual contention for UEFA Champions League places and, given their city and backing, you could be getting on board with a next level club while they’re still an underdog story (of sorts).

The focus of some hard-nosed supporter stories — the film “Green Street Hooligans” was penned about fictional West Ham fans — the Hammers have plenty of grit on the pitch as well.

Report: Arsenal not interested in Ancelotti “profile”

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According to The Athletic reporter David Ornstein, Arsenal is not interested in a manager of Carlo Ancelotti’s “profile.”

The Italian was recently let go by Napoli after a disappointing first half of the season despite qualifying for the Champions League knockout stage.

Ancelotti has won a Premier League title, three Champions League titles, and a Scudetto during his career but apparently a manager with his resume does not interest the Gunners, who may be looking for a more youthful boss with a longer-term strategy and potentially stronger club or domestic ties.

At 60 years old, Ancelotti has been fired from posts at Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and now Napoli over the last four years. Over those four seasons, he has just one league title, the 2016/17 Bundesliga crown he won with Bayern in runaway fashion, and has exceeded expectations in very limited capacities, instead seeing things turn sour at each job relatively quickly. This season at Napoli, the club sits seventh in the Serie A table, mired in a horrible seven-match winless run that has seen them tumble further from the Champions League places.

Ornstein’s report also touched on the timeline of a potential hire, with the club apparently still deciding on whether to see out the season with interim manager Freddie Ljungberg or make a mid-season appointment. He states that the club “want situation settled asap” but also prefer “right man over quick decision.” He does not identify who the number one target is, but suggests that if that person is available at this point in time, they will make the hire mid-season, otherwise there will be a waiting game.

Jorge Sampaoli resigns as Santos boss

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Brazilian club Santos confirmed Tuesday evening that manager Jorge Sampaoli has resigned as boss.

Sampaoli, who won the 2015 Copa America in charge of Chile but could not recreate that success with the Argentinian national team, signed on with Santos a year ago and guided them to a second-place finish in the Brazilian top flight, 16 points behind runaway champions Flamengo. His contract had another year, expiring in the winter of 2020, but with reports of offers from multiple clubs, he has stepped down.

The most widely reported destination is fellow Brazilian club Palmeiras, whom many believe Sampaoli has already entered talks with. He has also been linked with Argentinian club Racing, and his name has cropped up on occasion with the Arsenal vacancy, although that seems like a longshot. It was said in late October that Sampaoli had an offer from an unnamed La Liga club, but those rumors have cooled.

His reason for leaving Santos after just one successful season in charge is unconfirmed, but rumors are circulating that Sampaoli had incredibly ambitious transfer plans for the offseason, and when club president Jose Carlos Peres could not guarantee his support, the relationship became strained.

The 2019 season was mostly successful for Sampaoli at Santos, finishing second in the league table, but the secondary competitions were somewhat disappointing. They received a tough first-round draw in the Copa Sudamericana, falling to River Plate on away goals. They were also ousted from the Copa do Brasil in the Round of 16, falling 2-1 to an Atletico Minero side that finished 13th in the league table.

Tierney out months as Arsenal injuries pile up

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According to multiple reports, including Mark Mann-Bryans of PA Sport and Charles Watts of Goal.com, Arsenal full-back Kieran Tierney could be out up to three months after dislocating his shoulder in the 3-1 win over West Ham on Monday.

Tierney was withdrawn in the 29th minute after an awkward fall, using the bottom of his shirt as a makeshift sling. The club is still deciding on whether he will require surgery, according to Mann-Bryans, and that decision will ultimately determine the length of time he will miss. Still, even without surgery, it could leave him sidelined for a month or more.

The 22-year-old has struggled with injuries since joining the Gunners this past summer, missing the first seven games of the year with a hip injury. He has seen action in just five Premier League games thus far, and again could be sidelined for a significant spell. He could also end up missing Scotland’s critical playoff match against Israel in late March depending on his recovery timeline and fitness level.

Tierney’s injury is not the only one Arsenal is currently sweating. Granit Xhaka will miss the Europa League group stage finale against Standard Liege with a concussion, while Hector Bellerin is struggling with a hamstring problem. “Hector had a feeling in his hamstring during the warm-up [before West Ham] and we took the decision,” said interim manager Freddie Ljungberg after the win over the Hammers. “Not going to force anyone to play if they don’t feel 100%.”

Dani Ceballos is still sidelined with a hamstring injury suffered against Vitoria in October Europa League play and won’t return to training until later this month, while Rob Holding is a question mark this week after missing the West Ham game thanks to a bruised knee.

Arsenal, currently sitting ninth in the Premier League table and is scheduled to host Manchester City this coming Sunday following the trip to Belgium. They have upcoming games against Everton, Bournemouth, Chelsea, and Manchester United through the festive period.

Report: Leicester City looking to give Maddison, Soyuncu pay raises

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According to a report by Sky Sports, Leicester City has started negotiations with young stars James Maddison and Caglar Soyuncu about new contacts with increased pay.

The pair of 23-year-olds have current deals that run through the summer of 2023, so there is no urgency to lock them up long-term, but the Foxes are hoping to ease any lingering doubts about their futures at the club by rewarding good play on the field with a salary that fits the bill.

Soyuncu has been one of the league’s breakout defensive stars this season, partnering with veteran Jonny Evans to produce the Premier League’s stingiest defense thus far. The Foxes sold Harry Maguire in the summer for a record fee, and thanks to Soyuncu haven’t missed a beat.

Maddison, meanwhile, has proven himself the heartbeat of the Leicester City attack. He is assisting or taking nearly six shots per 90 minutes, and is on pace to score double-digit goals in league play.

The Sky Sports report says both club and players are “relaxed” about securing a new deal, given the lack of urgency required, but locking down the pair with improved salaries will ward off any significant noise about their futures – at least, for now.