Your guide to watching the best Premier League matches
College Contributor Network
So it's a typical Saturday or Sunday morning, and you're gearing up to watch some Premier League action over a brunch of hot tea and cakes (or not), before the necessary hours of weekend football-watching. But, with all of the options now available to us, our own busy schedules, and the many concurrent BPL matches, how do you choose which ones to watch?
I once heard an economist say that choice makes people unhappy, because with choice, we experience second-guessing and regret. Fear not! We're here to make sure that you never second-guess yourself and never regret your choice of which matches to watch on a Premier League weekend. Follow these rules and you will never... scratch that, you will rarely miss that match, that moment of the season that every true BPL fan had to have seen.
For some matches, not most, there are these imposing, formidable people wearing orange jumpsuit-like costumes in the stands to keep the peace. Whenever a goal is scored in these matches, the camera will flash to these peacekeepers, who make a solid wall of orange between seas of other colors: white and red, red and blue, blue and white.
One side of the orange wall is going nuts and trying to provoke the other side, while the disappointed members of the stands shake their heads in disbelief and clench their fists in anger. Sometimes, matches matter beyond soccer. Sometimes they're a big deal for a community.
These are derby matches, territorial battles that were historically fought just as much off the pitch by supporters as on the pitch by players. When Everton defender Phil Jagielka scored in stoppage time with a searing shot from outside of the penalty area this past Saturday, the away supporters' section at Liverpool's Anfield Stadium went absolutely nuts. Even though the goal only provided the Toffees a draw, the players and supporters knew that a draw against the cross-town rival Reds at their stadium was infinitely better than a loss. This was the Merseyside Derby.
A few hours later and about 200 miles south, a similar scene occurred when Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain rocketed home the match-tying goal from close range in the 74th minute against hated foe Tottenham Hotspur. The Emirates Stadium exploded and so did Chamberlain. See his face after he scored and understand what sheer unbridled joy and passion looks like. Understand devotion to a club. This is the North London Derby.
In that match, Arsenal's star Chilean midfielder, Alexis Sánchez, did not play until the 63rd minute, which was surprising, but perhaps attributable to his never before having played in a North London Derby. This is just speculation, and the prolific Sánchez did make it onto the pitch eventually, but manager Arsène Wenger may have decided that the emotions in this match would be so high that only players accustomed to its raucous energy should start.
Who knows? The point is, watch these matches:
Liverpool-Everton. Arsenal-Tottenham. Chelsea-Arsenal. Manchester City-Manchester United. Manchester United-Liverpool. Newcastle-Sunderland. Birmingham-Aston Villa. Swansea City-Cardiff City. Southampton-Portsmouth. West Ham-Millwall.
Many of these clubs are not currently in the BPL, but it doesn't matter. The rivalries are still fierce.
Big 5 Clashes
These are the meeting of the giants, the matches in which the best players in the world are on display for viewing pleasure, and anything can happen. Unfortunately, some of these matches turn into dull, timid games of chess between defensive-minded managers.
The 1-1 draw between Chelsea and Manchester City turned out that way, but even that match had plenty of excitement. Ex-Chelsea great Frank Lampard showed that he still has top-flight class with a goal against his club of 13 years (MLS will be lucky to get him next season). When Lamps scored for Manchester City, he wouldn't even celebrate, because of his loyalty to Chelsea.
Similarly, Chelsea's current rock-solid maestro in the middle, Cesc Fàbregas, has said that he still has feelings for his old club Arsenal. Chelsea fans still aren't completely comfortable with Fabregas, even after his strong start to the season, because he used to tear up the league with the crosstown-rival Gunners. Big Five clashes do not generally decide championships, and they aren't always objectively thrilling, but they are consistently intriguing and almost always absolutely worth watching.
The current Big 5 is: Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, and Arsenal.
The Underplaying Giants
There's a chance that you either love or hate all of the Big 5 teams. If you love one of them, you hate the rest. If you don't love any of them, there's a good chance you hate all of them. It's kind of like being (United States of) American: You're either all the way in or all the way out.
This is our love-of-the-underdog tendency shining through, and it means that we should pay attention to the matches of the teams we hate, especially when they aren't in good form, so that we can revel in their losses and laugh in their faces, from thousands of miles away.
This season, many fans may enjoy watching defense-less Manchester United matches as the Red Devils flounder and rely on scoring lots and lots of goals to keep pace with all of the goals that are going to be scored against them.
Liverpool supporters may enjoy watching Everton if the Toffees continue to underperform, and everyone in the world will revel in Danny Welbeck's utter futility as Arsenal struggles to remain elite this season.
It may be sadistic to celebrate others' failures, but it's also tempting, and as Oscar Wilde said: "The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it. And I hate Arsenal."
Okay, he didn't say the second sentence, but you get the idea.
If you really love the Premier League and good soccer, you'll check out some of the smaller clubs who are currently overperforming to see if they're the real deal and, well, to watch good soccer. Check out Southampton, Swansea City, West Ham, and Leicester City.
The only way to make a Premier League season truly incredible, and truly yours, is to have a team that you follow religiously and watch every week. This isn't necessary to be a fan of the league, but it makes things more intense.
You start to become an expert on things that never matter in any conversation you ever have -- except when you go to your team's official bar in a city like New York or Boston and everyone there is wearing the same jerseys and you can talk to them about everything you've been watching and thinking about the league and your team. You find your brethren, and it doesn't matter how long you've been a supporter. It's all about loving the club.
You must make your team choice wisely and for the right reasons, whatever that means to you, and when you've found your club, you'll just know. With that bit of sentimental true love-esque BS advice, let's apply all of this divine wisdom to the next few weeks of BPL Action.
Saturday, Oct. 4 -- Sunday, Oct. 5
There are no derby matches this weekend, but Sunday's action makes our mouths water with delightful anticipation. The Manchester United-Everton match is huge with European qualification implications, but it is also at 7:45 AM EST. Tough for East Coasters.
Later that morning, Chelsea-Arsenal is a quasi-derby between two teams loaded with talent that hate each other and is the must-watch match of the week. Fabregas facing Arsène and Welbeck floundering against Chelsea's stifling D makes for must-watch television.
The Tottenham-Southampton matchup would also be worth watching at any other time, but this weekend is all about Chelsea-Arsenal.
Of Saturday's matches, Liverpool-West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City-Newcastle are both intriguing because of how well West Brom and Swansea are playing. There will likely be displays of good attacking soccer, and if the two squads keep winning, they could, magically, make a splash into the top six.
Saturday, Oct. 18 -- Monday, Oct. 20
The Manchester City-Tottenham matchup has promise to be a great one, although Man City should end up winning without too much trouble. Everton-Aston Villa is probably the most intriguing match of the week, as both teams need a win to stay on track.
Chelsea-Crystal Palace is once again a London rivalry but does not reach the level of a heated derby match, and the Blues should win easily. Look for Hull City to be a surprisingly tough foe for Arsenal and for West Brom to possibly provide some excitement at home against Manchester United.
Jake Montgomery is a senior at Harvard University majoring in English. Raised in Philadelphia and a lover of the beautiful game since '06, he is a huge fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Georgetown and Harvard basketball, Chelsea FC, Neymar, Steph Curry, Shabazz Napier, and Kanye West. Follow him on Twitter: @TheFloorGeneral