a definitive guide to what’s in yours

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Every football fan thinks his club is special. Everyone has lasting qualities, a style of play, a way of doing things, a personality. The less romantic truth is that it is often nonsense.

Many fans cling to happy memories of their team’s most successful period. They often believe that what worked then should be the model forever despite the evolution, circumstances or appointment of Sam Allardyce. Clubs can trade on a few years of entertaining football forever despite the decades of bleak tricks that followed.

Most also believe their team is particularly vulnerable to spells, injustice, or cooking a meal from a promising position. This is mostly confirmation bias, a strangely heartwarming way of seeing an unfair sport / world.

Yet identity exists in football and differs from club to club. The modern term is “DNA”. The ruling classes of the game would say it is a cohesive strategy that informs how teams play from the youth level. Getting it right means teams can grow and managers change with little difference in the long run.

For fans, the things that last are popular history. The kit looks a certain way. Managers set the tone at their opening press conference. Inordinate love for a certain type of player.

The weight given to such beliefs overlooks the brutal realities of modern football. Even the most romantic of fans would ultimately prefer their team to win all the time. Most fans would sell their all-time top scorer for a period of sustained Premier League relevance, regardless of style.

Nevertheless, let’s start an audit of the DNA of the Premier League. What does each team think of themselves, how well are they currently adjusting to this mold and is their manager a proud exponent of history or a Philistine who just doesn’t have “the club?” “?

In alphabetical order:

Arsenal

Assumed DNA

Genetically modified, as anti-vaccines fear. From uncompromising offside dealers to The IT Crowd aesthetes who “still try to walk” in the mid-90s.

Current DNA

Spoiled by Wenger’s early glory, traumatized by later Wenger’s drift and at this point he would take over George Graham’s football if it meant returning to the Champions League. An identity crisis which partly explains the feverish mood of their noisy online fanbase with each bad pass of form.

Current managerial aptitude

Suitably cosmopolitan, has ties to Arsenal in common with Graham if not Wenger or Herbert Chapman. Do well, but not really dispel the feeling that the club has a persistent lack of leadership.

Aston Villa

Assumed DNA

A team of testers, with a little creativity in the middle, thrives widely and ideally with one of their own involved. Always a mixed bag, which tends to complicate matters. I won a European Cup, you know!

Actual current DNA

Stuck in a post-grealish crisis and disproportionately haunted by their longer-than-expected fate at second level and the nadir crush of a squad that drove them there.

Current managerial aptitude

It seemed perfect until about three weeks ago. Made a point of prioritizing “culture” which went well but not enough to keep Dean Smith in a job.

Brentford

Assumed DNA

A strong anti-dickhead mentality. No one is bigger than the club which could cause problems in the top flight as a small club. Polite but no pushovers and a pub on every corner.

Actual current DNA

Nose-bleeding data-driven moneyballers. Very “living their values” now, although they try to dispel the nagging concern, they are the Wigan / Oldham / Reading of this generation, brief outperformers who will never reach the same heights. The pubs are still there, but now a mile from the stadium.

Current managerial aptitude

Great, as long as Thomas Frank doesn’t start having ideas above his post.

Brighton

Assumed DNA

Phoenix, who was born from the ashes of an existential threat, then ascended even higher with the help of spreadsheets. A generally solid group that turns around twice a year to play at Palace.

Actual current DNA

You can’t spell DNA without Dan (Ashworth), football’s answer to true DNA discoverer Johann Friedrich Miescher, whose big English plans paid off in 2018 and last summer. Trying to allay the nagging worry that they are the Stokes of this generation, enjoying a long but ultimately unforgettable spell in the top flight.

Current managerial aptitude

Ideal for the moment, very out of step with the Skint / Goldstone Ground / horrible place with the era of the athletics track.

Burnley

Assumed DNA

Burnley

Actual current DNA

Burnley

Current managerial aptitude

Perfect

Chelsea

Assumed DNA

Fluid, complicated, ruthless. Don’t care how they win, but won’t tolerate tiki-taka. Clearly transformed by all the beautiful money, but the glamor of the location and the staff predates Abramovich, as does the ease of being hated.

Actual current DNA

Taking advantage of their triennial fate of being the best team in the country. The youth system as a means of buying to rent so that the rich get richer at the expense of the poor. Fans stubbornly maintain a connection to the past and still regularly sing a song about being in Division 2 over 30 years ago.

Current managerial aptitude

Thomas Tuchel wins, so he’s great. Franck who?


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