Picking a Football Club – Quarterfinal 1

Today’s matchup is between the 1-seed Burnley and the 8-seed West Ham United. First, a tale of the tape (most information from this wonderful post):
Nickname: The Clarets
Founded: 1882
Location: Burnley
Team Colors: “Claret” Red / Blue
Kit Manufacturer: Puma (since 2010)
Primary Kit Sponsor: LaBa360
Ground: Turf Moor (capacity 21,994)
Manager: Sean Dyche (since 2012)
West Ham United
Nickname: The Hammers/The Irons
Founded: 1895 (as Thames Ironworks)
Location: London
Team Colors: Red (Claret) / Blue
Kit Manufacturer: Umbro (since 2015)
Primary Kit Sponsor: Betway
Ground: London Stadium (capacity 60,000)
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini (since 2018)
Based on their seeds from my highly scientific methods, Burnley should walk away with this matchup. Burnley was consistent across my six metrics, finishing in the top three in four individual metrics, including first place in “points rank” due to its 7th place finish last year. West Ham United, on the other hand, only had one second place finish among the metrics – in net profit – and was last or second to last in the top four metrics. Should be a walkover based on my metrics alone. Luckily for West Ham United, it isn’t solely about those metrics, but it may be difficult for The Hammers to dig themselves out of this hole.
Though West Ham United has been around for less time – 1882 vs. 1895 – they have spent more time in the top flight of English football than Burnley, though they have no championships to show for it, with a third place finish in 1986 as its highest placing in the top division of English football. They have won two championships in the second tier (1958 and 1981), as well as won the FA Cup on three occasions (1964, 1975, and 1980), so they have had some measure of success over nearly 125 years of football. Nowhere near the levels of some other clubs, mind you, but they’ve managed to find moderate success at the top levels of English football, spending nearly half of their existence at the top level.
Burnley, on the other hand, can always point to those top division titles, in 1921 and 1960, as well as even more success at lower levels that far exceeds West Ham United’s production: three championships in the second tier (1898, 1973, and 2016), one championship in the third tier (1982), one championship in the fourth tier (1992), and a win in the FA Cup (1914). However, one of the things that standout about all those titles is their age. Aside from the title in The Championship in 2016, everything else was won over 35 years ago, and includes one from the 19th Century! This is helpful in illustrating that Burnley’s success is mostly confined to a past that was prior to the Premier League.
If you want to judge a team for stability at the highest level, West Ham United easily beats Burnley. Including this season, Burnley has spent a total of five seasons in the Premier League: one and done appearances during the 2009-10 and 2014-15 seasons, and this recent run that started during the 2016-17 season. On the other hand, this marks the 23rd season for West Ham United at the ultimate level of English football, only missing out on the inaugural season (1992-93), 2003-2005, and 2011-12. They have also averaged 11th place during the 22 completed seasons, compared to Burnley’s lower 15th place average. Burnley’s lofty results in 2018 appear to be an exception rather than a rule, and the comparative consistency of West Ham United shouldn’t be ignored.
There are some other aesthetics about each team that garner unofficial points outside of my previous ranking. Burnley is situated in a relatively small town (just over 73,000 people) north of Manchester, away from the business of East London that West Ham United calls home. Burnley also plays in the second smallest stadium of my final eight, providing a more intimate fan experience, while West Ham United’s recent move to London Stadium, the third largest by capacity in the entire Premier League, has been fraught with problems for fans and for the club and its owners.
Finally, when picking a team, I am not only looking for success, but staying power that can potentially outlast the current dominance of the “Big Six,” especially the current iteration of Manchester City. One proxy for this is a team’s willingness to spend money on players, or take advantage when better players from other team come available for free. Including this off-season so far, West Ham United has spent the most on player transfers (of my final eight) since the 2013-2014 season, with net expenditures just shy of $275.2M, including over $120.7M this off-season. Not included in this total is two new players that they got for free at the end of their previous contracts that should be solid additions to the starting lineup based on past performance. Burnley, on the other hand, has spent a fifth of that amount, and has yet to dip their toes into the transfer market this off-season.
Burnley may have been more consistent in my rankings, but those rankings didn’t really account for consistent performance within the top level of the English football system. While West Ham United cannot match the trophies of Burnley, they have had more consistent success during my lifetime and the lifetime of the Premier League, and seem to be spending money like they really want to compete.
The Hammers win this battle between claret and blue teams, and are on to the semifinals as I search for my English Premier League Team. My apologies to the Clarets.
Next up will be the 2v7 matchup between AFC Bournemouth and Southampton!
Until next time…

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