It is simultaneously the most gripping and the most frustrating sporting competition in the world.

The standard of play really is amazing (and yes, we should stop comparing it to the A League), and manages to captivate millions of fans across the world every season, even though they all pretty well know what the result will be.

I’m talking, of course, about the English Premier League. If you’re not an aficionado, then fear not. Two weeks into the season, here is a simple team guide to get you up to date.

The League
The Premier League, or just “the Premiership”, is comprised of 20 teams. Only 4 of them (a.k.a. “the big four”) ever have a realistic chance of winning, which, to fans of the other 16 teams in the competition, is a sporting peculiarity is known as “f**king annoying”.

Over the next nine months, each team will play every other one twice. Whoever is on top of the table at the end of the season, wins. There is no ‘finals’ series, meaning that there’s very little room for luck or chance to play a role in the outcome. Hence the same teams win all the time. By which I mean… ALL. THE. TIME.

Don’t confuse the Premier League with separate competitions like the FA Cup (a knockout competition involving many hundreds of teams from all over England and Wales), the League Cup (same again, except only involving teams from the top 4 leagues) the Champions League (a pan-European competition for the top teams from the whole continent) and the Europa League (basically a poor man’s Champions League). I assume that has cleared up any confusion. Now for the teams…

Manchester United
Over the past 20 years, this team has pretty much won everything there is to be won, and will almost certainly win the Premiership again this season. Because people like pretending they’re lifelong supporters of teams that just so happen to win all the time, Manchester United has millions of fanatical supporters around the world. Only 14 of them, however, are native Mancunians.

Much of their success can be traced backed to the 25 year managerial tenure of Sir Alex Ferguson, who I’m pretty sure was conceived after his mum got tipsy and slept with a rod of plutonium, thus giving him a half-life of 80 million years. He is renowned for giving players the “Hairdryer Treatment” in the dressing room at half time, which is a technique I think he learned from Joh Bailey.

Manchester United’s most famous player is Wayne Rooney, who has a reputation far greater than any of his on-field performances, and also bears an alarming resemblance to Sloth from ‘The Goonies’.

If Manchester United doesn’t win the Premiership this year, then this team will. They drew much ire a few years back when they were bought by Russian oil baron Roman Abramovich, who made it his personal hobby to use his vast wealth to assemble the best team money could buy. Much to the annoyance of anyone who idealistically believes in a thing called “sport”, he has ushered in an era of great success for the club.

Money has, however, thus far been unable to buy him the Champions League title, which is what he really craves. If Chelsea again fails to win it this season, Abramovich will not only sack the newly-appointed manager, but also kill him and anyone he has ever loved, and later feast on their entrails.

Chelsea’s captain is a guy by the name of John Terry who is now, thanks to the retirement of Melbourne Victory’s Kevin Muscat, officially the world’s most-despised footballer. There are 4 reasons for this:

1. He has an extraordinarily high level of general dickishness.
2. He has no respect for referees.
3. He once cheated on his wife with the ex-girlfriend of a team mate, and
4. He is the captain of Chelsea Football Club.

Manchester City
If I could summarise Manchester City in one sentence it would be: Chelsea on steroids, but without the winningness. Its (also oil-rich) owner is also hell bent on essentially buying the club immediate success.

Since taking over the club, they have spent (literally) hundreds of millions of dollars buying in (mostly over-hyped) players from other clubs, to do little more than warm the bench and drain their wages account. They have far more money than sense.

Do you know a football player with slightly-above-mediocre talent? If so, Manchester City would like to buy them off you for whatever astronomical price you decide to slap on them.

Arsenal is the last of the “big four” who have pretty much zero chance of winning the title this year, having just sold their best player (and captain) to Barcelona. Apparently Pep Guardiola decided he didn’t have enough talented midfielders at his disposal. Also, they just lost again this weekend.

This team has been managed for the past 15 years by a guy named Arsene Wenger (no, that’s not a typo). He personally designed the team’s dressing room in their home stadium according to the principles of Feng Shui. That last sentence was not a joke.

Liverpool are the one team above all others that deserves to win their first Premier League title this year. But, of course, they won’t. They’ll have convincing away wins over Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, but will also struggle for a draw at home against teams like Bolton and Swansea. (*sigh*)

Liverpool have sadly become the Axl Rose of football teams: forever trying to revive former glories, and… failing. It sucks to be a fan of this team, and I say that from experience.

Thanks to the fact they run off the smell of an oily rag, Everton is the team that everyone secretly admires. This is especially so for Australians, because it is the club where national hero Tim Cahill plies his trade.

The odd thing about Everton is that almost every year they flounder near the bottom of the table until Christmas, but then suddenly find a rich vein of form and end up around 6th by the end of the season. I am therefore quite sure over half of Manager David Moyes’ time is spent wondering what sort of crazy s**t his players get up to in the off-season.

Tottenham, Stoke, Sunderland, Fulham, Bolton and Aston Villa
… will have respectable upper-mid-table finishes this year. That’s pretty much the best they could hope for. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Newcastle, Blackburn, West Bromwich Albion, Wolves, Wigan
At the end of each season, the three lowest-ranked teams on the table get dropped into the lower division for next season. This is known as “relegation” (or, if you’re a fan of Wigan, “inevitable”), and these teams will battle through the season trying to avoid it.

Their relegation battles will see these five teams collectively chew through as many managers through the course of the season – half of them to heart troubles. The other half will be fired by their club’s board, because we all know that’s a sure-fire way to instil confidence in your team mid-season.

Yes, Wigan will be relegated. Nobody will care.

Swansea, Norwich, Queens Park Rangers
Along with relegation comes promotion, wherein the two best teams from the second division get elevated for the following season. The third and final spot is decided by a complex ritual featuring a shaman, some goats blood and a member of the House of Lords dressed like a unicorn.

These three teams won through to the top flight through this system last season, and will work their balls off to stay in it (with about a 33 per cent chance of success).

QPR, who are the one team most-likely to survive, has just been bought out by the dude who owns AirAsia. That’s really awesome, because if there is one thing that this league desperately needs, it is a fledgling team with a cashed-up owner hoping for big things… (*sigh*)

So, there you have it. All you need to know about the English Premier League. Did I mention the fact that the same f**king teams win all the time?

P.S. Yes, the guy who manages Arsenal is called Arsene. Seriously

Most commented


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    • Macca says:

      07:46am | 22/08/11

      Villa, mid-season. Not after narrowly avoiding relegation last year and having (again…) sold their best two players to top 4(5?) clubs. In saying that, Agbonlahor’s strike Saturday night, wow.

      Chelsea won’t challenge this year. Terry is past his prime, Drogba and Essien are mere shadows of their former selves, and their only major signing was an 18 year old Tree from Belgium with a chest the size of a small family sedan.

      Liverpool has been growing recently and should overtake Arsenal this year. But it will be a Manchester premiership again, likely on the Red-side

    • Macca says:

      08:19am | 22/08/11

      Villa, Mid-table*

      Also, the EPL is still exciting, not because of the actual premiership, but because of all the battles for European competitions and relegation. It’s the only competition in the world where the battle for 17th attracts so much attention.

    • Kebabpete says:

      09:22am | 22/08/11

      Nice review. I wish more people in Oz would learn a bit about the league and cup competitions before they start going on about it. Its frustrating how many arm chair experts there are out there that don’t know the difference between the Carling cup and FA cup. Or the difference between the cups and the league.

      You may have to come back and edit this though because I can’t see Arsenal as a top 4 contender this season. As a fan it pains me to say it but unless we spend on some quality and experience we are screwed. There is no way we can compete with the top teams with what we have now. There is a phrase thrown around by all Arsenal fans… ‘Arsene Knows’. Because of all the crazy ideas and tactics we’ve doubted over the years he has actually come out in front. I think the problem though now is that… ‘Arsene No Longer Knows’.

    • Punters Pal says:

      09:44am | 22/08/11

      Pretty good summary, Stephen. Mancester United look pretty good things again and their biggest challenge to them will come from their cross city rivals. City like to be known as “massive club”, but this time they could be close to a real deal. Still, with UEFA fair financial play rules coming in (basically, in order to play in European competitions, you have to balance your books), they will have trouble ahead to be financially responsible. Chelsea are too old, Arsenal too young and inexperienced, but Liverpool could plausibly finish third this year. They finally have a decent manager, but are still fragile in areas.

    • Kebabpete says:

      12:03pm | 22/08/11

      You haven’t seen the Etihad sponsorship deal for the stadium then? Apparently worth GBP400M this will offset the ridiculous transfer fees and salaries. Coincidence that Etihad owner is the Sheikh’s brother? I think not.

    • Punters Pal says:

      12:41pm | 22/08/11

      Yes, I am aware of it. UEFA are examining all related party deals and if the sponsorship value is well above the market value, then the market value will be accepted. Otherwise it would just shuffling cash from one pocket to another. Man City have serious problems ahead, if they want to play in Europe in couple of years.

    • fml says:

      10:02am | 22/08/11

      Come on City!

      If city clear up their defensive woes they will win the league this year, too many good players. Too many years of mediocrity and now we have our comeuppance.

      Aguero, Dzeko, Silva, and soon hopefully Nasri. Top squad plenty of depth.

      Also with your Chelsea comparison, Chelsea barely won anything before Ambramovich, now they are considered to have history! bleh!

    • Aitch B says:

      10:17am | 22/08/11

      I used to be a fan of the EPL but now that Westham are in Championship I’m a fan of that…. sadly!

    • Horthy says:

      12:34pm | 22/08/11


      Irons play Notts next week, and better bloody win.

    • Matt F says:

      01:27pm | 22/08/11

      Don’t worry Aitch B - As a Newcastle fan i was in your shoes very recently. You’ve got the team to jump straight back up. Being in The Championship is actually not bad. The fact you go from a losing team to a winning team is a refreshing change. Though as fun as it is you only want to do it once and move on. Very much like a one night stand!

    • Daniel King says:

      07:17am | 30/08/11

      @Aitch B

      Nothing wrong with the Championship, at least you don’t know the final top six before the season starts.

      Come on you Rams

    • Matt F says:

      10:19am | 22/08/11

      Man U should win easily followed by Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal. Evertons chairmans’ comments that they are so broke that banks won’t lend them money anymore aren’t helpful but they have’t lost any players so should still be top half. I won a nice bit of cash with their loss to QPR. God bless their predictably poor starts! Wigan have a poor squad that’s actually gotten weaker. N’Zogbia and Cleverly are gone and their only major signing is El Habsi who was there on loan last season anyway. The only reason they might survive is because the 3 promoted teams don’t look too good, though surely they can’t keep finishing 15-17 forever? Same with Blackburn to be honest.

      Being a Liverpool fan is tough? That Champions League win a few years ago must have been really hard for you to take!

      You should try being a Newcastle fan. Trophyless for over 40 years and going from briefly being title challengers/Champions league contenders in mid 90’s and early 2000’s (famously throwing away a 12 point lead in the 2nd half of the 95-96 season) to relegation a few seasons back. We seem to go through 2+ managers a season for no reason other then because we can. At least we can always count on beating Sunderland!

    • Rowdy says:

      05:28pm | 22/08/11

      Agreed on the magpies Matt F…..I am a huge fan and with the club having some of the most fervent fans in the league, we still seem to manage to shoot ourselves in the foot. Hopefully mr Ashley will loosen those tight purse strings prior to September to add depth otherwise it could be a long year. At least we beat the mackems!!! C’mon the Toon!!! Howay the lads!

    • Thomas Anderson says:

      10:36am | 22/08/11



      I’d watch out for Man City this season, they were hungry last time around, and with the new signings, I truly think they will be hard to stop.

      Good one about Liverpool and Swansea! Gotta give it to Livo though, as you noted, they do turn up to the big matches. Just gotta learn to beat shitty teams too, and they will be good hahaha.


    • Ben C says:

      10:37am | 22/08/11

      While everyone else is bickering amongst themselves, I’ll be watching Manchester United take out the Premiership again. Yeah, I’m another non-Mancunian.

    • Thomas Anderson says:

      11:39am | 22/08/11


    • Ben C says:

      12:45pm | 22/08/11

      Haha Thomas, I’m not sure if Andre Villas-Boas is your saviour. Chelsea should pip Man City to 2nd spot.

    • Thomas Anderson says:

      02:46pm | 22/08/11

      He is as close as we can get to having Mourinho back lol. And with him, our golden age.

    • Ben C says:

      03:13pm | 22/08/11

      That’s true, if Chelsea give him time to build his team, then they’ll be hard to beat in years to come.

      How long will AVB last at Stamford Bridge?

    • Thomas Anderson says:

      04:35pm | 22/08/11

      Abramovich is pretty impulsive, so probably just the one season, unless he gets the premiership.

      TBH, the team needs a bit of a re-vamp. Lamps, I love you to death, but you can’t score goals like you used to anymore :(

    • Mahhrat says:

      11:30am | 22/08/11

      Did you hear that Arsenal were expanding their merchandising range with supporter bras for the women?

      It backfired spectacularly though after most were sent back for refund - they had great support, but no cups!

    • Thomas Anderson says:

      01:23pm | 22/08/11

      Aaron Lennon takes it on his chest and brings it down, passes it to Bassong who runs with it before laying it off to Huddlestone, Defoe spots a window and makes a run, Huddlestone sees him and makes the pass and Defoe puts it away nicely.

      “Right lads,” says Palacios, “let’s get one more Plasma before the police get here.”

    • Mark says:

      11:39am | 22/08/11

      I enjoy it because, even with the predictability and the huge money, the EPL and most other European leagues are an increasing rarity in elite world sport: they’re still actually a competition.  No socialist agendas, no artificial levelling, no salary caps to hinder strong clubs, no primary school-style system that lets everyone win a title in clockwork-like order.  You get the best squad you can, play every team at home, and every team away.  If you’re not good enough you get sent to a lower league and someone else gets a shot.  If you can’t manage your club it dies.  Pure competition.

    • fml says:

      12:17pm | 22/08/11

      The European fair play laws could be seen as a socialist move. It is an artificial leveling.

    • Punters Pal says:

      01:51pm | 22/08/11

      Yes, the idea of spending no more than you earn, it is such a socialist idea. There are only that many oli barons in the world who are happy to piss their wealth up their wall on their vainity projects. The European fair play laws are nowhere as levelling as salary caps or drafts. It is just a measure to ensure that clubs don’t go broke with their unrestrained spending.

    • S.C.O.B says:

      12:09pm | 22/08/11

      EPL has become just a tedious and predictable, corporate marketing opportunity.  Post match corporate manager-speak is as dumb as post match player-speak sterilised by media presentation workshop cliche.  It is now, primarily and above all else, a business.  My love “wayned” when I realised the stupidity of cheering the equivalent of the Commonwealth Bank.  EPL now stands for Every Player Loaded and has little to do with sport and fans of sport. The many layers of marketing has left no football underneath (‘their plans have worked nyah hah haha’ ).  So enjoy cheering for electrical white goods and financial services - just remember you are not football fans just corporate marketing putty.

    • SBB says:

      01:48pm | 22/08/11

      @S.C.O.B everytime you turn on the tv or step into a supermarket you are also corporate marketing putty. Don’t be so naive. The EPL is one of the most exciting, competitive sport competitions in the world. Most elite sportsmen are rich, and deservedly so. If you want to enjoy something that doesn’t have marketing involved go for a bushwalk or something. I don’t get what your problem is?

    • Daniel King says:

      07:15am | 30/08/11

      @S.C.O.B 100% agree.  When i was a kid growing up in England we used to laugh at and mock the predictability of the SPL, now the EPL is just as dull.  Sure there is good football from the top 6-7, the rest just play to save their EPL $$ rather than achieve anything tangible.  At least in the past i wouldn’t have been to predict the final standings at the start of the season year after year after year. 

      I bet most of the people on here only really know English football as the EPL, i weep for you.

    • Bruno says:

      12:53pm | 22/08/11

      You’re all a bunch of bandwagon jumpers and hangers on.

      There’s only one football team worth its salt and thats FC PORTO.

    • AFR says:

      04:23pm | 22/08/11

      Mmm…. did someone say Oporto? i’m off to get a Bondi Burger.

    • Stevo says:

      02:21pm | 22/08/11

      Premier League, you’re having a laugh. It’s just a factory in which all but the top few clubs are chewed up and spit out to make money for the top few teams. This is so they can play in the European cups against teams from Spain, Italy, France and Germany that do the same things to their respective domestic leagues.

      Football league is where it’s at, real football, real fans. No prawn sarnies in the fizzy pop league.

    • S. Morris says:

      02:28pm | 22/08/11

      Succinctly explained Stephen. I spent too much money and time on Arsenal before I moved to Melbourne. Which coincided with Arsene’s inability to see that his dogma is flawed and that Arsenal are now only slightly better than mid-table fodder. I’m glad to be out of it, both england and the all pervasive and corrosive EPL - the ‘prem’ as it’s known. Ever wondered why the english are poor at other sports? The ineffectual and corrupt FA and it’s profits from the EPL and the media suffocation of all other sporting interests.

    • Sing a Song says:

      03:23pm | 22/08/11

      Stephen I’m with you champ, LOVING the EPL, can’t get enough of it. Your right, I wish people would please stop trying to compare the A League with the EPL. The EPL teams have no budget or salary cap, it’s a league where if the owner of a team is not a billionaire then the team has no chance of winning. Where as with the A League there is a salary cap and it’s tiny, so it doesn’t matter if you have 20 billion or 2 million, everyone is on a level playing field to a certain extent so there can never be any comparison. Both leagues are different and that’s what I love about them both.

    • S.L says:

      03:40pm | 22/08/11

      I have a soft spot for Sheffield United because the owner has a financial stake in the mighty Mariners. Knowing how bad they are doesn’t help though! In the Premier League anyone with an Aussie gets my vote.
      Man U again? Yep I agree!
      Still I can’t see why everyone thinks Rooney is the be all and end all of strikers!  Watch out for that new guy in Man City…..........

    • Nikki Heat says:

      06:16pm | 22/08/11

      Womens Soccer is the way to go ahead for football in Australia inf australia wants to become famous champions in football on the world stage.
      The Bundesliga, Spanish League and Italian Leagues are stronger and better football leagues than EPL English Football which is dominated by Manchester and London Football clubs. The PSL is better than EPL.

    • Chris p says:

      08:44pm | 22/08/11

      The EPL is fantastic viewing as a neutral there is no shortage of competitive games, awesome goals, individual brilliance, unrivaled atmosphere and drama

      Also there’s nothing better than watching teams stacked with world class players in every position compared to a salary capped league where you have a couple decent players and the rest a bunch of dribblers not to mention a much lower standard of play.

    • Brock says:

      10:00am | 23/08/11

      Stephen, I’m keen to make you care about Wigan Athletic.
      I would be honored to offer you bookie odds on Wigan once again beating the drop.
      Moses, McCarthy, Rodallega, Al-Habsi, Caldwell… I imagine the depth of your research for this article didn’t go much deeper than reading the season preview’s done by some of your distinguished colleague’s but these are the names you should have discovered when you considered Wigan.

      Wigan have been a favourite for relegation in each of their 7 season’s in the top flight yet they continue to confound the critics.
      The club continue to provide young ‘unfancied’ player’s with their first taste of the Premier League and develop them to the point where they can make a move to bigger clubs (Valencia at MAN U, Palacios at TOTTENHAM, Nzogbia to ASTON VILLA). Each year the transfer of their ‘big names’ motivates some in the press to declare their relegation a certainty, ignoring Wigan’s historical habit of replacing their stars.

      Wigan is one of the most successful clubs in the EPL when it comes to the transfer market and that continues to sustain their existence in the top flight.

      The only thing predictable about the EPL is journalist’s continued habit to focus only on the ‘glamour’ teams at the top of the table, whilst failing to do due diligence on the other 15 odd teams in the competition.

      Pull your head in mate.

    • Scott says:

      12:55pm | 23/08/11

      Stephen, I have to agree with Brock here, Either you wrote this at 4pm on Friday afternoon with your mind on Friday night out at the pub (where you probably watched AFL) or you are that very typical Aussie EPL supporter who has chosen their favourite (BIG 4) EPL team based on whether you like red or blue.

    • oscifecemig says:

      06:32am | 12/01/13

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