My colleague Patrick Redford already laid out which Premier League clubs to watch when you’re trying to take a nap; so unless you enjoy soccer’s equivalent of eating your way through a tub of raw broccoli, steer clear of those guys (except Everton) and allow me to tell which clubs are going to be fun as hell, and thus actually worth your time.
The ’Pool Boys already had plenty of goal scorers—last season they racked up 77 goals, fourth-best in the league—but in June, they went ahead and bought Mohamed Salah from AS Roma for €35 million. The Egyptian international is dazzlingly fast and, especially when paired with Liverpool’s most lethal attacker Sadio Mane, he’s going to leave defenses in shreds.
There’s also Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi, both of whom contributed double digit goals to last season’s haul. And then adding to the embarrassment of riches, there’s winger Philippe Coutinho, who was the club’s leading goal-scorer last season; and 19-year-old Dominic Solanke, who still has a lot to prove but is already being heralded as one of England’s next best hopes.
Even without their midfield marshall Adam Lallana, who’s out until October with a thigh injury, Liverpool’s attacking abilities are scary good. Just look what Lucas and Emre Can teamed up to do at the end of last season.
This is a team that believes in the virtue of the 4-3 victory, and refuses to concern itself with traditional ideas like “don’t have your players spend the entire game sprinting at full speed” and “try to play defense.” Led by the trendily bespectacled Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool plays a style of soccer known as the gegenpress, which means their attackers are constantly pressing opponents as soon as they lose the ball. This puts a shitload of pressure on opposing defenses, and creates turnovers deep in enemy territory that lead to pretty goals.
Liverpool are clinging tightly to Coutinho despite Barecelona’s best efforts to pry him away, and if they do end up losing him that will certainly put a damper on their title hopes. They have also been intent on signing Dutch international Virgil van Dijk, but those efforts appear to have stalled over a possible breach in procedure. With jughead James Milner mostly manning the defense, van Dijk’s services would’ve been a boost to the back line, but as the maxim goes, the best defense is a good offense, and Liverpool have plenty of that.
City manager Pep Guardiola employed a possession-heavy, attack-focused plan last year that resulted in a disappointing third-place finish in the league and an early Champions League exit. City pressed the ball and played a high line in an effort to smother opponents and score as many goals as possible, but this strategy too often left the back line scrambling and failing to deal with counter attacks. In his second season, Pep might be softening this approach; he’s at least splashed some money around to shore up the defense.
City replaced sometimes brilliant but many times head-scratchingly bad goalkeeper Claudio Bravo with Benfica’s Ederson. I say unfortunately because it’s truly a spectacle to behold watching a world-class athlete derp his way out of a starting position. So Bravo likely won’t be around to hate, but luckily for those jonesing for some City schadenfreude, John Stones, the erstwhile Everton lad who looks the part of a heroic English footballer more than he is one, is always good for a couple major bungles in front of his own goal. In addition to Ederson, City brought on right back Kyle Walker from Tottenham and Benjamin Mendy from Monaco to join stalwart Vincent Company on the back line.
Like Liverpool, City have a disgusting wealth of goal scorers in Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Yaya Touré, Leroy Sané, and Sergio Agüero. They will play some of the best attacking soccer in the league, and should be in good position to win the whole damn thing if the defense doesn’t once again succumb to the pressure created by those all-out attacks. Anyway, watch this team if you want to see lots and lots of spectacular goals; they might score 15 against Brighton & Hove Albion to kick things off.
All the way down on the other end of the coaching spectrum, far away from Guardiola, there’s Jose Mourinho. The two preeminent managers of a generation are coaching against each other once again in the league’s most ferocious rivalry—it’s the stuff TV producers dream of, and at least last season, the Manchester derbies certainly got the Hollywood treatment. The tension is fun if fading, but thankfully there’s a new duo at United to add some intrigue this season: Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku.
After languishing at Everton for another mediocre year, Lukaku was out the door before the season even ended. Pogba, whom he met when they were both teenage phenoms, did his part to help broker a deal, and after weeks of speculation, Lukaku officially joined Manchester United for €85 million. If their on-field chemistry is anything close to their off-field friendship, expect Pogba and Lukaku to put together some bangers this season.
Here’s some Instagram evidence of Paul and Rom getting up to BFF shenanigans:
If all goes well, these two should make for a fantastic one-two punch on the field. Lukaku managed to score 25 league goals for Everton last season despite rarely sharing the field with a midfielder who could get him a decent pass. Pogba, on the other hand, wasn’t quite the world-destroying midfield force many expected him to be when United broke the bank for him last summer. But the arrival of Nemanja Matić should do a lot to shore up the defensive midfield, freeing Pogba to get a little higher up the pitch and get creative with his large and skilled buddy. If Pogba and Lukaku find their chemistry, the rest of the league is in trouble.
With big English galoot Harry Kane bringing home the Golden Boot again, Dele Alli doing things like this, Mousa Dembélé keeping the midfield humming, and the team making a thrilling if unsuccessful push at the title, Tottenham were one of the most fun teams in the league last season. And despite signs of discord from at least one player—Mauricio Pochettino’s currently injured golden boy Danny Rose signaled he’s looking for a way out, or just pressuring ownership for more (deserved) money—the Hotspur have a decent shot at improving on their second-place finish from last season and winning the league. And as everyone knows, winning is fun.
After their nostalgic final season at White Hart Lane, Spurs will play home games at Wembley and miss the atmosphere of their old grounds. But they have more continuity in their roster than most clubs, so that should ease the transition. Of course, “roster continuity” is the rosy way of looking at their reluctance to spend; a pessimist would say the ownership’s stinginess (exacerbated by new stadium costs) could doom a team on the cusp of greatness.
Either way, Tottenham will continue to run out a starting XI that really doesn’t have any holes and plays a precise, fast, and punishing style of soccer that makes them a formidable opponent for even the richest clubs.
Along with Sanchez, they’ve got Mesut Özil, Danny Welbeck, and Theo Walcott—all fun; behind them, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Hector Bellerín—both fun. Last month, they signed Alexandre Lacazette for €50 million; he’s already fun, seeing as he bashed in the first goal of the season just three minutes into Arsenal’s opener against Leicester, which they won 4-3 in dramatic fashion.
That game functioned as a pretty good preview of what you can expect from Arsenal this season. There will be lots and lots of passages of brilliant, fine-tuned soccer, more than a few valleys in which it seems like the team has no hope of finishing higher than 8th, and just enough heroics to keep fans convinced that this might actually be the year. And that’s all good news for Troopz and Arsenal fan TV, which, even in the darkest days, is a good enough reason to follow this team.
In fact, the only not fun part of the whole club is the dour stork of manager Arsene Wenger, a 20-year veteran who’s maybe is a little too comfortable scooping up Champions League riches without actually winning trophies. But he’s an perfect symbol of Arsenal’s underachiever reputation and therefore a good way to troll Arsenal fans, so even that’s kind of fun.
The Cherries! The Cherries believe anything is possible, and their optimism is a joy. Since being promoted to the top flight two seasons ago, they’ve finished 16th and 9th. Under the ambitious Eddie Howe they’ve assembled a talented if mostly little-known cadre of players, and could have a season like Swansea’s 2014-15 campaign in which they finished 8th and picked up legions of fans along the way for their plucky overachieving.
While the club will rely on unproven players like Joshua King, a 25-year-old striker and former Manchester United prospect, Howe signed a few name-brand players over the summer as well. Bounemouth added veteran Jermain Defoe, who scored 15 goals for Sunderland last season; 22-year-old Nathan Aké from Chelsea, who spent part of last season on loan at Bournemouth; and goalkeeper Asmir Begovich from Chelsea. They also have Ryan Fraser, a little winger who looks like he belongs to the Brandybuck clan and is extremely fun to watch as he goes flying down the pitch.
Howe, meanwhile, is another good season away from being a manager destined for a job at a bigger club, and he will try anything to an edge. Last season, he even bought into some questionable science, per the Daily Echo:
Eddie Howe has given cutting-edge glasses used by Cherries’ players his seal of approval – after trying them himself.
Squad members have been asked to wear a pair of orange specs in the evening before they go to bed.
The glasses use amber lenses which help reduce the effect blue light has on sleep patterns.
Research shows the blue light present in electronic devices like mobile phones and tablets is responsible for suppressing the production of melatonin, which aids sleep.
Dimitri Payet was one of West Ham’s brightest, or arguably only, stars last season, and after he demanded a move back to Marseille earlier this year, the Hammers were left without a real identity, and stumbled their way to an 11th place finish. Andy Carroll and his man bun provide some occasional bright spots, but Slaven Bilic’s summer signings, namely Mexican superstar Javier Hernandez, will Make West Ham Fun Again.
West Ham also added veteran fullback Pablo Zabaleta after he was released by Manchester City. Another City reject, Joe Hart, joined the club on loan. When West Ham has their shit together, they can look like a threat to break into the top six and make some noise. Last season was essentially a lost cause because of the Payet drama, but with an offseason to recover and some new signings, they should be worth your time once again.
Okay, those are the fun teams. Enjoy the soccer.