With the English Premier League season soon upon us, soccer fans across the United States and the world are licking their chops at the chance to enjoy arguably the best soccer league in the world once more.
For Americans that didn’t grow up with the game or the EPL, picking a team can be the most difficult part of watching the Premier League. While it’s easy to hop on board with the top four of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, and Manchester United, or hitch your wagon to a team like Liverpool or Tottenham Hotspur, why not do something different? Here are three Premier League bandwagons worth jumping on this season.
Football hipsters across the globe have gotten on board with the Swans, Wales’ first ever team in the English Premier League. After winning promotion in 2011, Swansea has climbed the table every season in the EPL, finishing 8th last season, the highest ever for the Welsh club. Swansea was very active in this summer’s transfer window as Gary Monk looks to improve on last season’s form, bringing in Andre Ayew, a Ghanaian winger from Marseilles, and numerous other stars from around Europe. As was the case last season, the player to watch for Swansea is Jonjo Shelvey, a 23 year-old Englishman who played beautifully for the Swans last season.
Gary Monk’s coaching philosophy surrounds personal development, pushing his team to their highest potential each week, and he demonstrated that last season when he sold his star striker Wilfried Bony to Manchester City in January, only to get more points without Bony. If you’re looking for a team that will be a roller coaster, but improve every week, then Swansea is your squad.
Once a yo-yo side from south London, Crystal Palace have transformed into a legitimate mid table side in the EPL under the management of club legend Alan Pardew. Since taking over from Newcastle last year, Pardew brought the Eagles from the relegation zone to 10th place, their best ever finish in the Premier League. This summer he brought in attacking midfielder Yohan Cabaye from PSG to help bolster an already strong attack. Cabaye was stellar under Pardew at Newcastle, which led to his sale to PSG, and his form should be no different with Palace.
Returning to Crystal Palace this season is Jason Puncheon, the speedy winger who has scored a goal in every level of English football. Puncheon was a thrill to watch last season on loan from Southampton, and this year should be no different. Patrick Bamford, the young Chelsea player who starred for Middlesbrough in the Championship last season, also joins Crystal Palace on loan, making them an exciting, attacking team heading into this season.
The poster boy for negative, defensive football is no more, as Stoke have been completely revamped under new manager Mark Hughes. Hughes has brought in a number of strong attacking players (many formerly of Barcelona) to help retool the English side. The prime candidate to do that is Ibrahim Affelay, the former Barcelona midfielder who is ripe with talent but struggled with injuries over the past few seasons.
Joining Affelay is Chelsea loanee Marco van Ginkel, who will help create some impressive link up play in the Stoke midfield and provide the creative force that has been devoid from Stoke for many years. Additionally, USMNT fans will enjoy watching Geoff Cameron, who figures to start at right back for the Potters. After a ninth place finish last season, Stoke is poised to make a run at a Europa League place, and continue to be one of the best run clubs in all of England.