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How Many Premier League Games In a Season Are Must-See TV?

DORTMUND, GERMANY - JUNE 13:  People watch a live TV broadcast at a beach-party on the top of a warehouse on June 13, 2006 in Dortmund, Germany. Togo played against South-Korea today n the Commerzbank Arena in Frankfurt. South Korea won the match 2-0. (Photo by Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images)

Pop quiz! Out of the 380 games in the 2010-11 Premier League season, how many matches would you say are a must-see? Sure, there are always matches that sneak up and surprise you with their quality, but how many in a typical season would you, before the season started, write down as must-see matches? 100? 75? 50?

There are Super Sundays, massive derby clashes, cross-town rivals and bitter enemies. And then there are the games which, on paper, look like they’d be rather boring such as Stoke City against Birmingham, but they turn into a pleasant surprise. But those are games that generally you can’t bank on being a must-see.

Think about the teams in the division before guessing your answer. And don’t forget to count both the home and away match.

Now that you have a number in mind. Here’s how many I believe most soccer fans who watch the Premier League would answer:

The answer is 24. It’s 24 out of 380 matches played, which represents just 6.3% of the games. Those games are:

  • Manchester City vs Manchester United,
  • Manchester United v Manchester City,
  • Liverpool v Manchester United,
  • Manchester United v Liverpool,
  • Chelsea v Manchester United,
  • Manchester United v Chelsea,
  • Arsenal v Manchester United,
  • Manchester United v Arsenal,
  • Chelsea v Liverpool,
  • Liverpool v Chelsea,
  • Arsenal v Chelsea,
  • Chelsea v Arsenal,
  • Liverpool v Everton,
  • Everton v Liverpool,
  • Arsenal v Spurs,
  • Spurs v Arsenal,
  • Arsenal v Liverpool,
  • Liverpool v Arsenal,
  • Liverpool v Manchester City,
  • Manchester City v Liverpool,
  • Manchester City v Arsenal,
  • Arsenal v Manchester City,
  • Chelsea v Manchester City,
  • Manchester City v Chelsea.

Now if I was creating my own list, I would add to that Newcastle v Sunderland (home and away) and Birmingham City versus Aston Villa (home and away), which would increase the the number of games to 28, which only increases the percentage of must-see games from 6.3% to 7.3%.

There are a few ways you can look at this. One, that 92.7% of the games may not be must-sees but may surprise you with their quality when you watch them. Two, the number of games that are must-see are now far more that Manchester City have joined the echelon of Premier League clubs. Without the money they’ve spent and their success on the field, the above list of 24 would be lowered to 18 (the Manchester derby would still stick). Three, if Tottenham Hotspur can compete at the highest level and most especially compete against the top teams in the Premier League (who they have a horrible record against), then they could join the above list. Right now, they’re on the fringes.

The above list is not meant to be derogatory to the teams in the Premier League who are not listed. Some of the most enjoyable games I watch feature teams outside of the Big Four. But the fact is that many soccer fans gravitate to the big games. And some of the more casual fans may only try to watch the big games themselves.

What do you think? Is the above list of 24 games complete? Should some of those matches be removed, or should some that are not listed above be added? Share your opinion in the comments section below.

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  1. Aaron

    November 15, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    For me there are exactly 38 MUST SEE games each season, not one more or less. When I say MUST SEE I mean that I will watch the game no matter what. The games you list (that aren’t already on my list) I would rank as second tier games. These are ones where if I have free time on Saturday/Sunday I might watch them, especially if it is going to have direct bearing on Arsenal’s place in the standings. It’s rare that I would record them to watch later (especially before NFL and NCAA football seasons are over).

    However, as was said before: if you are planning which games to schedule in the prominent time slots then you probably picked the right ones as if I’m going to watch a second game that weekend it is likely to be one of those.

  2. Q

    November 12, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Well… at least you got the Arsenal part right!

  3. JD

    November 12, 2010 at 9:41 am

    It depends on how knowledgeable the viewer is, surely? Every game between Everton and Aston Villa, for example, has been riveting in the past 3 or 4 seasons. All but a couple have been live on Sky, so it’s clear that they have picked up on this. Good football is more important than good reputation. Sky will concentrate on the former usually, but picking up on the latter (as in the case of Everton vs Villa) tells its own story.

  4. David the Yank

    November 12, 2010 at 5:57 am

    As someone who sticks my neck out every week and tries to put ‘ratings’ on which matches are worth watching, I understand and agree completely with what the Gaffer was getting at. For each of us, must-see is different. I have, with great pain and displeasure, save for the Spurs match, watched every second of all 12 West Ham matches this season. Those are must-see tv for me. The question he was asking is whatever our preferences, which matches are must-see tv for EVERYONE! I have given very high 3-star and 4-star ratings to most of the Spurs matches this season, because they play entertaining football, and have the player most fun to watch IN THE WORLD this year (Bale). But is a Spurs v Everton match ‘must-see’ for everyone? No. Will it get 3-stars from me if Everton is pretty high up in the table? Absolutely. If it’s Spurs v Everton (I’m just using this as an example) to decide the last champions league spot or last spot in Europe, then I’ll make it 4-stars, just as I would a Wolves v Wigan match if it is for the final relegation spot on the last weekend!

    So good post, Gaffer. To anyone who hasn’t read my weekly column, please do so and comment. I’m happy to take constructive criticism as when last year I gave low stars to Birmingham v Villa, got (correctly) excoriated in the comments, and saw the error of my ways!!

    Enjoy the matches this weekend everyone!

  5. arsenalyevo

    November 12, 2010 at 2:16 am

    yeah some more need to be added..can’t believe no one mentioned Wolves V. Westbrom rivarly…cant wait to see both of those games this season

  6. Victor

    November 11, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    I’m a big EPL fan so try to watch as many games as I can. I don’t care if Chelsea(my team) is playing or not. I watch up to 2 games every week so dat like 62 games i watch a season.

  7. Stacy Richardson

    November 11, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    First, I think of teams which are “knocking on the door” as being worthy of inclusion in the “must-see” list. So I would include in the list Tottenham’s matches against the other top teams. A couple of seasons ago, I would have included similar matches involving Aston Villa (not just the Birmingham derbies). That gets us to about one match out of twelve.

    Second: Mr. Gaffer, I don’t disagree with your choice of matches so much as I disagree with your analysis. I think the matches you listed mean a “big” match is on the week’s fixture list more often than not! If 7.2% of the matches are big, and ten matches are scheduled each week, on average a big match will be on the list five weeks out of seven.

    What’s wrong with that? Nothing!

    And to my version of your list, I would add many of the “away” matches of the Big Four/Five/Six/Whatever, because the Big team is less likely to garner all three points when playing away from home. For example, while I might not be interested in Chelsea/Birmingham, Birmingham/Chelsea could perhaps be a different story. Aston Villa at home to any of the big clubs would hold my interest. So for me, usually a MINIMUM of one match is very interesting to me each week, in addition to the match involving my favorite side.

    So, for the upcoming weekend, I want to follow Aston Villa/ManU and Tottenham/Blackburn; televised coverage of my favorite team will not be available to me this time around.

  8. Andrew

    November 11, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    I think any match involving Fulham and the rest of London (save West Ham) would be a must see, Same with Spurs-Chelsea and Spurs-City, Also Fulham-Man U at The Cottage has always been a cracking match.

  9. The Gaffer

    November 11, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    The thing about articles is that when you’re writing them, you never know which ones are going to resonate with the audience and which ones are going to be a dud. I’ve written what I thought were poor ones in the past and they’ve been a big hit. And vice-versa.

    In hindsight, this one didn’t work out as well as I had hoped. It’s just an opinion, but it’s perhaps an opinion that would have worked on a different site and not EPL Talk. It ended up being more critical of the Premier League, so it could have worked better on a site such as MLS Talk where the readers there may have chimed in and said “Yes, here’s why the Premier League isn’t as good as everyone says it is.”

    Nevertheless, I’ll keep on plugging along. Sometimes posts win, sometimes they lose. But this one was an opinion piece although in hindsight it probably wasn’t articulated as well as it could have been, and perhaps was posted on the wrong site.

    The Gaffer

    • patrick

      November 11, 2010 at 2:20 pm

      I think we all knew where you where going with this…
      If i could rethink your thought process, its as if you where looking to program ESPN2. I get that.

      Framed like that, your argument is without doubt. Throw it to a general audience, it is so very subjective as to what is an important match.

      But it got to visit the site three times today…

      • The Gaffer

        November 11, 2010 at 2:44 pm

        Aha! 3 Times? Success!! Just kidding 😉

        The Gaffer

        • Onions

          November 11, 2010 at 3:42 pm

          Well, you’ve earned a lot of respect from me with your admission. It is a bit interesting to think of, but it’s easy to see what happened: the Spurs fans and smaller clubs’ fans would feel slighted and the Big 4 fans would kind of shrug and say “so what?” Also, I get the feeling that completely neutral fans such as yourself aren’t a huge portion of the epltalk community. Cheers!

    • Dave C

      November 12, 2010 at 10:48 am

      I don’t see why everyone’s so hostile to this article. I think it’s OK – I don’t agree with it 100%, but I’m not vehemently opposed to it either.

      I don’t buy into Patrick’s idea (or anyone else’s) that if you’re not a fan of a particular team, you’re not a fan of premier league football, or that if you are a fan of a team, you would have no interest in any other games.

      Personally I’m a Hull fan – but I’ve always enjoyed watching the premier league both before they got promoted, and after they got relegated. I don’t think it’s any one else’s business to be telling me whether I’m a “real fan of the EPL” or not.

      I think this article shows one thing about football – that you actually cannot tell which games are “must-sees” until after the event. A game between Man Utd and Man C could end up as a boring scoreless draw, or Portsmouth vs West Ham could end up as a crazy 7-3 goal fest. Obviously some games seem more appealing on paper, but you can never tell.

      Also, it would be interesting to compare what percentage of games you might consider “must-sees” in the EPL(on paper at least) compared to other leagues (La Liga, Serie A, etc) or with other sports.

      • The Gaffer

        November 12, 2010 at 11:48 am

        The good news is that Manchester City is part of that list now. If Tottenham can raise its game and enter the “must see” category on a permanent basis, then the number from 24 will grow. And the same thing applies for the other teams. The more must-see games, the better.

        The Gaffer

  10. Jose

    November 11, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    If the teams I follow are not in the match I don’t usually watch the game. I prefer to watch the highlights of the games I don’t watch on fox soccer report or sky sports news later that night.

  11. C Dub

    November 11, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Seems to me that this article got some panties up in a bunch. Its just an opinion…everyone has one. I liked the article Gaffer. Cheers!

  12. Ringo

    November 11, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    I understand the nature of your post Gaffer, and yours seems a rational conclusion. However, as I have turned several of my good friends onto the PL in the past couple years and they have since chosen teams outside of the “Big Four” to support (Man City and West Ham were the choices of my two ex-roomates), I think I would expand this a bit. I’m not going to go and say West Ham games are a must-see right now, but I’d say any match involving two of Man Utd., Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Everton, and Aston Villa is “must see” for someone who is a fan of the league. Those matches are almost always contentious and I think it’s fair enough to say even the most lax viewer who still wants to consider himself a fan of the league should be watching those matches.

    • Ringo

      November 11, 2010 at 12:09 pm

      We might even be able to add Newcastle to that list.

  13. cy

    November 11, 2010 at 11:37 am

    What makes Man City vs Chelsea/Liverpool better then Spurs vs Chelsea/Liverpool? Especially if we’re talking about the “average fan”. Spurs might not finish above City this year, but they sure are a lot more fun to watch. You can’t say Spurs are consistent but you can rarely say their boring.

  14. Kevin

    November 11, 2010 at 11:09 am

    What about Spurs-Chelsea? Spurs-City?

    Why is Man City-Liverpool bigger than any matches against those teams involving Spurs? Remember who actually finished in the top four last season…


  15. Gaz Hunt

    November 11, 2010 at 10:36 am

    I’d add Newcastle United against Liverpool.

    In the past, they’ve been some of the most entertaining games and it looks like we may get something similar again this season.

  16. Carmello

    November 11, 2010 at 10:29 am

    I would add Spurs v. Chelsea. Always a cracking match. I also like any of the “big 4” against Villa too.

  17. jose

    November 11, 2010 at 10:13 am

    wow, epl talk completed 5 years of taking our bs. much respect. lol.

  18. Joey

    November 11, 2010 at 9:12 am

    As usual, I think your characterization of an “average” EPL fan is far more close-minded than is the reality. But, perhaps this “average” fan is just a stand in for you.

    • The Gaffer

      November 11, 2010 at 9:29 am

      Joey, it’s definitely not me, that’s for sure.

      The Gaffer

      • patrick

        November 11, 2010 at 10:07 am

        then what is your point?

        someone who watched the world cup and is watching as they eat their corn flakes on a Saturday morning, thinking they would see college football preview show?

        who cares about them, they are not ones that will bring revenue into the game, they won’t add rating points and bring more coverage, they are ignorant.

        why pander to ignorance.

  19. leeboy

    November 11, 2010 at 8:26 am

    So spurs are only worth watching if they play arsenal? Complete and utter bollocks

    • Mike

      November 11, 2010 at 9:56 am

      Leeboy, Gaffer, I believe, is talking about matches that the casual fan, in addition to fans who might not have a horse in the race, still would watch. For example, Chelsea fans who would sit down and take in the Manchester derby.

      • patrick

        November 11, 2010 at 10:04 am

        A real Chelsea fan would only watch that match if it effected its teams position. Not to see football…

        and that “casual fan”, will either soon pick a team and become a fan, or forever live on the outside and be meaningless.

        • Clampdown

          November 11, 2010 at 10:58 am


          You can only speak for yourself, not others. And who has the right to determine who is a “real fan”?

          Though I am not a fan/supporter of Tottenham or Arsenal, I look forward to the two times they meet every year, for example, and try to carve out time to watch. I would not do the same for Stoke v. Wolves, Wigan v. Blackburn, etc.

          It also can change year to year. While I wouldn’t always want to watch the Tyne-Wear derby, this year I would because I find both sides compelling.

          The answer for you may be 38, but for others it’s more.

        • Clampdown

          November 11, 2010 at 11:30 am

          Although, I should also note that I don’t know who the “average fan” as put forth by the Gaffer would be, either.

  20. patrick

    November 11, 2010 at 6:55 am

    The proper answer is 38 league matches…

    You ‘may’ watch a game that doesn’t include your team, but they are hardly ever must see.

    Would you ask a Yankee fan if Phillies v Red Sox interleague game is ‘must-see”? The Florida water has clouded you sense of British provinciality…

    BTW the list you have up there are some of the most over hyped, boring football played to an outsider… A Spurs’ fan could care less about, Man U v Liverpool.

    Gaffer, sometimes you come up with the most insipid posts… Derbies with top clubs, and the big 4 playing each other are the only games worth watching????

    Do you even like football. Clearly not. You like hype.

    • The Gaffer

      November 11, 2010 at 7:26 am

      Patrick, I think you misunderstood the article. It’s how many matches I think that an average Premier League fan, who may not have a chosen team, considers must-see matches. It’s not how many I think.

      I often prefer watching a highly entertaining Aston Villa v Blackpool or Stoke v Birmingham rather than Man City v Man United, but I don’t know that until after the matches are played. The ones listed above are sure-bets. But as we saw in the case of City v United, that was one of the dullest games in ages. Note that the article was written before the City v United match!

      The Gaffer

      • patrick

        November 11, 2010 at 10:02 am

        I understand totally what you are saying, and I disagree. People don’t gravitate towards big teams if they don’t support them. end of/

        In fact most people I know who have distain for say Chelsea or Man U, hope simply that the pitch opens and swallows them up when they play.

        I’m not buying into this dumbing down of football because we are Americans. As you have well documented the world has never been flatter for experiencing the League. If you live in Iowa, there must be something that ONE team does that draws you in to at least be loyal.

        Wigan v Stoke at the JB could well be an entertaining match, it could be a foulfest dud. But to the support of those teams, it is an important match.

        and finally, lets be quite clear…. you are NOT a fan of the PL if you don’t support a team. You are an observer.

        • The Gaffer

          November 11, 2010 at 10:37 am

          Patrick, I disagree with you that “you are NOT a fan of the PL if you don’t support a team. You are an observer.” I am a fan of the Premier League, as a perfect example. The team I support is not in the Premier League, but I’m an avid passionate fan of the PL, not an observer.

          The Gaffer

    • Miak

      November 11, 2010 at 7:26 am


    • slobkilla

      November 12, 2010 at 11:29 am

      just go to the match u partime couch potato plastic supporters your an insult to ppl who go week in week out i dont care what your pathetic excuse is.

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