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Ranking the Premier League’s lineup card tweets

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There are burning issues in the sport. This is not one of them.

Houston Astros v Arizona Diamondbacks
not twitter but still a lineup card
Photo by Darin Wallentine/Getty Images

A while back, The Brotherly Game, the MLS Soccer League Of Soccer’s Philadelphia Union website, did a comprehensive review of all 22 MLS teams’ lineup card tweets, in an attempt to find the best one. Since Arsenal don’t play till Monday, I figured this weekend might be as good a time as any to do the same for the Premier League, and see how the teams in England rate as far as their social media savvy.

The first thing I found is that English teams, by and large, don’t seem to think that anybody who isn’t familiar with their team might be interested in how their team lines up. 16 of the 20 teams in the Premier League do not provide any formation information at all, and of that 16, 12 just do a straight-up list of players, with GK at the top and moving forward up the pitch from there. So the Premier League mostly assumes, to be charitable, that anyone who is receiving a lineup card tweet has a working knowledge of their team already.

But what of people like me, who only really follow Arsenal and only know the “big” players from a couple other teams? What about a new fan, or someone who is still learning what formations are? Well, the Premier League may not be the place for you, if lineup card tweets help inform your knowledge of the game, anyway. Let’s take a look at the various teams and their cards, shall we?

THE WORST

In every list, there has to be a bottom as well as a top, right? Well, this list has a clear last-place finisher, and unlike the league itself, in this list, it’s clearly Burnley FC. I mean, look at this:

C’mon, Burnley. No indication of who’s captain? No formation information, even a parenthetical (4-2-3-1) or whatever? At least slap some color on that thing, or put it in a card, or something that looks like it isn’t “OH CRAP IT’S AN HOUR BEFORE GAME TIME AND WE FORGOT TO TWEET THE LINEUP”. You’re in the Premier League. You get £85 million basically just for showing up and keeping the lights on. Spend some of that money on a social media person.

ALMOST THE WORST

Leicester City did the almost unthinkable last year, winning the Premier League despite being Leicester City. And this year, they do the unthinkable with their lineup tweet:

I mean, look at that hot mess. the only thing it has over Burnley’s is a graphics card. Otherwise? Nope. Players in a single line, in no real order that I can discern? And the names underneath, the order of which does not correspond with the picture? Little tiny font for the subs? No game location/time info?

What’s the point of any of it? Might as well save a few pounds and use Burnley’s social media approach.

THE USELESS ANIMATED GIF

Dear Hull City,

Thank you for trying something different. I appreciate your willingness to stand out from the pack, and to try to create a social media presence that is unique. But, and I hate to be this guy, a lineup tweet with animated gifs that are just images of uniform backs? Not very helpful.

THE SEMI-USEFUL ANIMATED GIF’S

There are two teams that do something different than the other 18. They’re not the worst, but they’re also not great. Those two teams, Spurs and West Brom, both do animated GIF’s that cycle through each player’s image. Which is great, I guess, but again you’re given no sense of the formation in which they’ll line up or anything like that.

In West Brom’s case, they get extra demerits for having their players walk up to the camera, and also for having them listed, but not having the gif’s appear in the same order that they’re listed.

THE LISTERS

As mentioned, the vast majority of PL teams just provide a straight-up list, with GK at the top, of that day’s starting XI and subs. They are all some variation of this:

And they’re all...fine. Again, there’s no formation information - it’s assumed you know that it starts at GK and works forward up the pitch from the back, but there’s no indication of where a player is generally deployed. They also don’t generally give any indication of when or where the game is being played, which is odd - no kickoff time, no stadium name. Occasionally you’ll get the date of the game, but that’s about it.

But you at least get the information, and you get who the captain is (in this case, although not every list card indicates a captain) and who the subs are, so it does the job. And it’s a better presentation than Burnley’s, which admittedly isn’t hard to do. These are the teams using the list format for lineup cards:

Burnley
Manchester United
Liverpool
Stoke City
Southampton
Bournemouth
West Ham
Watford
Crystal Palace
Swansea City
Middlesbrough
Sunderland

FORMATION, DONE BADLY

Now we’re getting to the good ones. But first, we have to deal with the good idea that is poorly executed. In that vein, I bring you Everton FC:

The germ of a really good idea is here, for sure. A formation-based lineup card? Great! Player images? Also great! Mash it all together in a space far too small for the size of each player’s image? Whoooooooooops. It’s so close to being so awesome, but it’s just a little too visually cluttered with the player images. Make them like 10% smaller and this would be dynamite. Also, mapping faces to names isn’t automatic - are they listed in formation order?

But, I give them points for trying something different, and for actually putting date/time/location info on their tweet. Just, maybe next time, space it out a little better.

WHO ARE YOU, ANYWAY?

Manchester City has apparently decided that all their starting players are interchangeable, faceless automatons who you shouldn’t really get attached to:

The subs, though? You definitely should know them, apparently.

NOW WE’RE GETTING SOMEWHERE

The two teams we haven’t mentioned yet are Chelsea and Arsenal. They both take a similar approach:

One minor nitpick with Arsenal’s is that it goes the wrong way - I’d rather see GK at the bottom, like Chelsea’s. Otherwise, both of these teams get it pretty much exactly right - you can see positions, you know where players line up, and in Chelsea’s case, you even get full names. Still no time/date info, but again, those are minor things compared to some of the anonymous lists or Burnley-esque messes elsewhere in the league.

Thing is, as much as I like those last three, and find the list ones to be fine, there exists a better way to do lineup tweets. What is that mystical better way, you ask? Let Ajax show you.

Apart from the lack of date/time information, this is a pretty ideal way to present a lineup - the perspective and depth of dimension in the image really gives you a good sense of how the team will line up, it’s easy to read, and it’s simple and clean.

I have now thought a lot more about twitter lineup cards than I ever thought I would. But at least now I’ve developed a taxonomy and a prioritized list, so it’s time well spent, right?