OVER/UNDER: Come on Burnley!

Do you like Premier League soccer? I sure as hell do. Since 2008 I have been admiring the skill and talent of the players in the English Premier League. From top to bottom, the league is objectively loaded with more talent and quality teams than any other league on the planet. Fans of the beautiful game flock the Premier League even to watch matches between bottom-of-the-league clubs like Norwich City and Watford.

I have spent my adult life supporting Liverpool Football Club, which play out of, you guessed it, Liverpool. After a 30-year drought, they finally won the Premier League title again in 2020. One of the world’s top clubs, Liverpool boasts a large pocketbook and can afford and attract the talent of top-level players from around the globe. Their rivals, Manchester City, are poised to repeat league titles this season, but Liverpool sits in what I consider to be a comfortable second position and will be playing Champions League football next season as they coast into a top four finish in the Premier League once again.

Rooting for the big boys can be dull at times. They often crush opponents that need to play at their absolute best just to keep a game close. They also have the ability to pay for talent if they are in need at any given position. Unlike the teams that struggle to stay off the bottom of the table each year, the Liverpools and Manchester Cities of the league take turns winning titles and earning hundreds of millions of euros every single season.

As one who likes to gamble on sports, I follow all 20 teams in the “EPL” and even most of the top teams in what is called the “Championship League.” This league is the next level below the Premier League and its top three teams swap places with the Premier League’s bottom three teams each season.

To me, there is something considerably more enjoyable about watching the teams at the bottom of the table battle to avoid relegation. They have considerably less depth on their rosters and often only have enough money to bring in a single first-team player during the winter and summer transfer windows. The managers of these teams must be extremely tactical and calculated with their roster decisions, clawing out points wherever they can in their schedule.

My favorite of these teams is Burnley F.C. Since Sean Dyche was appointed manager in 2012, they have been promoted to the Premier League twice, most recently in 2016 and they haven’t looked back since. Their style is big and slow. They deliver hard tackles and spend much of the match playing without the ball. Their goalkeeper, Nick Pope, and center halves, Ben Mee and James Tarkowski, create what I consider to be the strongest defensive trio of any smaller budget club in England. This is a team that sits back and absorbs body blow after body blow waiting for a moment to steal a goal on a counterattack or set piece. In fact, they are typically one of the better teams in the league at defending and executing set pieces.

This old school brand of football has kept their heads above water since they arrived in 2016, but their days of Premier League football are in jeopardy as of late. Currently, the Clarets sit at the bottom of the table and have a tough road ahead to climb to safety in the 16th position. While they do have a few games in hand, they must earn positive results on those games to make the most of that slight advantage.

They have only won one game thus far in the 2021-2022 season but do have a league leading eleven draws. I rarely miss a league match for them and have always put my faith in Sean Dyche’s ability to pull the team up by the neck hairs and keep them in the top-flight of English football. It will be a tall order this year and I have already begun making funeral arrangements for my favorite team ever.

Star striker, Chris Wood, has already been sold and is off fighting to keep Newcastle United, which sits in 16th position, from relegation themselves. The Lancashire-based club will have to rely on the newer faces of players like Maxwel Cornet and Wout Weghorst to lift them out of the relegation zone.

It would be a shame to see the old school 4-4-2 formation and hard-hitting tactics of Dyche’s squad vanish from the league. Soccer is better when a few teams like this exist and disrupt the flow of bigger clubs that struggle when pushed around. I’ll be rooting for Burnley until the final whistle and truly hope that they find a way to survive in the world’s rapidly changing soccer environment.

Come on Burnley!