Story by Elise Cardenas
Illustrations by Jillian Lowe
Picking a sports team is difficult. You want a team you love that represents your identity, but one that withstands the future. While English Premier League intimidates outsiders, it shouldn’t. You only need a few snippets of knowledge to pick the right soccer team and become a full-time fan.
If you want to start calling yourself an Arsenal fan — or better yet, the official term, “Gooner” — get to know a few key facts. In 1886, cannon workers from Royal Arsenal formed a football club now widely known as “The Gunners.” Arsenal fans continue this tradition by calling themselves “Gooners,” a play on the club’s nickname.
Keep an eye on players like Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez and English forward Theo Walcott. The 2014-2015 season marks Sanchez’s first season in the EPL after his summer transfer from FC Barcelona. According to the club’s website, Sanchez has tallied 18 goals in his rookie season with Arsenal across all competitions to date. London native Theo Walcott debuted with Arsenal in 2006. His explosive speed helps give Arsenal options in the final third, or the offensive end of the field, and proves difficult for opposing teams to defend.
If your loyalty lies with a team like the St. Louis Cardinals, consider yourself on track to becoming a Gooner. For starters, both teams command respect. Fans can boast about the Cardinals’ 11 World Series wins or Arsenal’s 13 EPL Championships. Either way, playing against them will induce nail-biting situations for non-supporters. Looking at the guys in charge, Tony La Russa’s 15 years managing the Cardinals rivals the current 19-year Arsène Wenger Era at Arsenal.
In southwest London, the seats of Stamford Bridge fill with a blue sea of Chelsea supporters. “The Blues,” as people like to call them, are like the older sibling you envy whose life comes with natural talent in the areas of sports, school and popularity. You don’t know how they got to be so cool, but they did, and they know it.
John Terry and Eden Hazard highlight the Chelsea roster. Captain Terry debuted with Chelsea in 1998 and serves as the base for the club. He commands Chelsea’s back line with authority and precision. Chelsea’s gifted midfield comes in the form of 5-foot-8 Belgian midfielder Hazard. Hazard possesses speed, accuracy and creativity, which when combined, prove difficult to defend. According to Chelsea’s website, Harzard’s personal honors include PFA Young Player of the Year and Chelsea Player of the Year for the 2013-2014 season.
If you’re a Los Angeles Lakers fan, start buying some blue jerseys. The Lakers’ franchise, like Chelsea’s, divides the public along lines of love and hate. Both teams ran successful campaigns in the past, leading their fans toward a sense of entitlement to championships. Kobe Bryant’s giant persona and controversial past rivals that of Terry and his own allegations.
Liverpool Football Club, also known as “The Reds,” carries some baggage. If you consider yourself a fan who loves tradition and history enough to wait on the sidelines for league trophies to come, then pick Liverpool.
The club’s start came in 1892 with its first game at Anfield. Since then, Anfield remains Liverpool’s one and only home. Along with the iconic stadium, Liverpool fans take pride in the “You’ll Never Walk Alone” anthem. Gerry & The Pacemakers originally performed the song, but now fans belt the lyrics before each home game. The motto “You’ll Never Walk Alone” provides support for fans when hard times roll around.
Statistically, Liverpool stacks up well against other English teams. Granted, the last time it won the league was in 1989. Before that though, it built up quite the resume. It holds 18 Premier League titles, seven FA Cup victories and five UEFA Champions League wins. Its five UEFA trophies are the most most among English clubs.
If you classify yourself as the romantic type of fan who falls in love with the idea of loyal players always signing that contract extension, look no further than Liverpool's No. 8. Captain Steven Gerrard has served as a member of the Liverpool football club since his debut at the age of 18. Other promising talents include the quick English forward Raheem Sterling and young Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho.
The Boston Red Sox are Liverpool’s American counterpart. The two teams are practically siblings given the rich history, number of previous trophies won, fans’ familiarity with hard times and the iconic stadiums. The fact that the Fenway Sports Group owns both teams just adds to the mystique of the relationship these two share.
Manchester City, or “The Citizens,” currently reign as the champions of the EPL after winning the 2013-2014 season. The sky blue Citizens finished the past three seasons in the EPL as champions or runner-ups, so if embracing a bandwagon club works for you, consider joining now.
Tradition in Etihad Stadium helps maintain pride among new and old fans. After scoring a goal, City fans celebrate by doing the Poznań. The Poznań originated in Poland, but City adopted it in the 2010-2011 season, according to the Independent. The celebration consists of fans turning around, linking arms and jumping up and down with their backs to the field. Do not be alarmed the first time you see the Poznań in action. City fans still love their team, even when the entire stadium faces away from the field.
When it comes to the roster, Manchester City’s lineup arguably tops the league. With the right financial backing from club owners, the Citizens managed to bring in top tier players to the Etihad. This includes Argentinian striker Sergio Agüero. A striker like Agüero only brings nightmares to opposing teams. His stats for the current season include 17 goals, which is tops in the Premier League this season, and five assists in 21 games, according to ESPN FC.
The American counterpart to the Citizens looks like the Miami Heat circa “The Big 3” era. Within three seasons, both teams won two championships and one runner-up title. The star power on the court for the Heat exemplifies the type of talent on the field in Manchester. Not to mention how easily both teams’ owners dropped major cash to acquire that level of star power.
Seven miles serve as the difference between the city of Manchester’s two EPL fan bases, and depending on your choice, Old Trafford might win your allegiance.
Manchester United, or “The Red Devils,” can proudly complain about the lack of space in its trophy room. The Red Devils carry a total of 20 EPL titles, 11 FA Cup victories and three UEFA Champions League wins. Their gallery of trophies also includes a FIFA Club World Cup. The trophy honors United as the only British club to win, according to the Manchester United website.
Being an American whose first language is not soccer does not prevent your exposure to the names of Manchester United’s most notable players. As a nine-year-old Texan, I knew about the legendary Wayne Rooney long before I found out what EPL even stood for. Rooney joined United at the age of 18 and now captains the squad at age 29, according to Manchester United’s website. He usually plays as a striker, but his versatility on the field allows him to work as a wing or midfielder. Dutch striker Robin Van Persie demands attention on the field and serves a vital role for United. American fans might recognize him from the 2014 World Cup after his heading goal against Spain went viral.
In a nutshell, Manchester United is the New York Yankees of soccer. Both teams hold the record for most titles in their respective sport — the Yankees with 27 World Series wins, according to mlb.com, and Manchester United with 20 EPL wins. Even if the current Yankees do not suit up in “The House That Ruth Built,” the old Yankee Stadium remains an important piece of Yankees history and culture. In similar fashion, Old Trafford’s 105 years of housing passionate Red Devils fans leave it undoubtedly in the hearts and history books of Manchester United.
Each club comes with a unique history and perspective within the Premier League. Deciding who to root for remains in your hands.