I am days away from figuring out who I am going to dedicate my Premier League fandom. It’s been quite a journey, and as way of review, here’s how we reached this point:
- Eliminating 12 clubs to get to my Final 8 and seeding protocol
- Quarterfinal 1 featured West Ham United’s upset over Burnley
- Quarterfinal 2 saw AFC Bournemouth defeat Southampton
- Quarterfinal 3 had Leicester City squeak one out against Newcastle United
- Quarterfinal 4 was Everton’s dominating performance over Crystal Palace
This semifinal post is going to be much shorter, as I won’t have to go as far in depth with the clubs as I have before. Feel free to refer back to the quarterfinal posts if you want more than I provide here in these matchups.
Semifinal One – West Ham United vs. AFC Bournemouth
West Ham United was a surprise winner in their matchup with Burnley, though maybe it did more to expose a flaw in my ranking system than anything else. A below average finish last year didn’t help, as well as their decision to use the largest stadium among my finalists. Though it would probably be easier to get a ticket to a real world matchup of these teams in London Stadium, seeing them in Bournemouth at Vitality Stadium seems more appealing. The Cherries lead here.
On this half of the semifinal bracket, neither of the teams have yet to win a title at the top level of English football, though the Hammers have spent 15x as many seasons (61 versus 4 for the Cherries) at the top level in their history. This tips at least the “success” metric to them in this matchup, but I don’t think it will be enough for them to win.
The Cherries recent rapid ascent to the Premier League is a compelling story, and while I don’t think they are closer to competing for a top spot in the league, the future story is more compelling to me. Will they continue to be upstarts in the league, finishing between 9th and 12th and maybe pinning a loss on the top of the table every so often? Probably. But if they continue to spend money wisely, as well as build that new stadium, they might be closer to competing at the top levels of the Premier League for a long time.
If I was picking a team for only this season, West Ham United would probably be my choice. They have made some solid pick ups this off-season and seem poised to move up in the table this year. But this choice is about the overall story, and I feel that Bournemouth is more compelling.
Sorry to the Hammers and all their followers, but the Cherries move on to the final.
Semifinal Two – Leicester City vs. Everton
This is a story of historical success – Everton and its nine pre-Premier League titles – and a recent feel good story – Leicester City overcoming 5,000-to-1 odds to win the Premier League title in 2016. If you wanted to compare based on each teams success in the Premier League, Everton is the run away winner: they’ve never left the Premier League since it began in 1992 and have an average finish of right around 10th. Leicester City, on the other hand is less than 10 seasons removed from a season down in the third tier – where they won a title to come right back up – and have a lower average finish over half as many Premier League seasons. Everton runs away with this.
But this decision is less about past success and more about what team I want to become a fan of for the long-run. Though Everton is outside of the “Big Six” in the Premier League, they are an established team with that long history, which makes it harder for me to root for them. Leicester City is the comparative upstart to Everton, and is still trying to prove that they can remain in the Premier League long term.
Every game is important, but for a team that is just five seasons removed from the Championship, the fight to avoid relegation seems more real. Everton seems comfortable with a mid-table finish, whereas Leicester City proved with their championship that they can take advantage under the best of circumstances. A draw turns into a win, a loss into a draw, and suddenly you see yourself at the top of the table, looking down on teams that probably didn’t think you could do it.
I haven’t done my predictions for the season yet, but I could easily see either of these teams approaching the top 6, if not higher. Longer term, however, the Foxes are my choice, and would have no problem following them back to the top of the table.
Apologies to the Toffees and all their followers, and good luck with the season!
So there you have it. My Premier League team will be either AFC Bournemouth, a team that has scaled the ladder of English football faster than almost every other team in history, or Leicester City, one of only two non-“Big Six” teams to claim a Premier League title.
Which team will I choose? It will all be revealed tomorrow.