As a lead-in for this ongoing series, I am new to the English Premier League. Well, I’ve known about the Premier League since my college years. Sophomore year, I roomed with a guy who was a sanctioned FIFA referee for youth leagues. He told me about this new league, The Premier League, and it was the greatest thing that would ever happen to soccer. It only took me 15 years and an eye-turning 2010 World Cup to realize he was right.
So, as a new fan, what else do I need but a favorite team? I will chronicle my search for a team in this series.
I will start with what I learned from the World Cup. As an American fan, it would seem on the surface that Everton would be a wise first choice. Tim Howard, a goalkeeper that was supposed to bring America deep into the knockout phase, is the keeper at Everton. Landon Donovan was loaned to Everton, so he’d be there this fall, right, transferred for a hefty fee? Plus, they’ve been a mid-tier team, poised to breakthrough into the top of the table. So for me, at first it seemed like Everton would be the clear-cut favorite.
It has taken three games to sour to the Toffees. This team reminds me of a romantic comedy that frustrates the crap out of you because they have to write in a bunch of heartache, pain, near misses, and unfortunate strokes of horrible luck. Unfortunately, Everton has not provided me with that end-of-movie smile that left me deciding that the drama and tension was worth the happy ending.
Take for instance the game Sunday at Villa Park. How many times can a team NOT put a ball on net? Brad Friedel made a couple of outstanding saves, but the number of chances that were close-but-no-cigar left me wanting to strangle the entire team and myself with it. I know, that’s soccer, but for Everton that’s been the early trend.
For the first three weeks, here are their numbers:
- Week 1, at Blackburn, 0 Goals, 16 Shots, 4 Shots On Goal
- Week 2, vs. Wolverhampton, 1 Goal, 13 Shots, 2 Shots On Goal
- Week 3, at Aston Villa, 0 Goals, 21 Shots, 7 Shots On Goal, 19 Corner Kicks
By the statistics, Everton seems to be able to generate chances, but their finishing ability is nearly non-existent. It could be a stroke of bad luck, or an early season slump, but the games have been excruciating to watch. Nothing is more annoying to me than to watch a team make the wrong decision, or even when they do make the right decision, convert horribly with a ball that bounds off into the stands. I’d even take a shot to the keeper’s chest, at least give the ball a chance to get through!
Everton has therefore dropped on my list. At the very bottom will likely remain the Big Three throughout my search, because I can’t bring myself to root for the most decorated teams. I consider the groups to be a) ruled out, b) not likely, and c) most likely.
- Ruled Out (3): Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United
- Not Likely (7): Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, West Bromwich Albion, West Ham United, Wigan Athletic
- Most Likely (10): Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Blackburn, Blackpool, Fulham, Newcastle United, Stoke City, Sunderland, Wolverhampton
In two weeks, I’ll be back with my next impression. Until then, I’m open to your suggestions and advice.