A couple years ago, I did a review of the lineup tweets for every team in the Premier League, in an attempt to find the best one. Many people, of course, rely on Twitter for “quick hit” news like this, seemingly even more so now than two seasons ago. I figured that I’d check back in with the Premier League, if see if teams’ tweeting has kept up, stylistically, as social media as a whole has evolved.
As with last time, there’s
a ton of meticulously researched, peer-reviewed science nothing but my aesthetic opinion behind all this, but I do a fair amount of work with information in my day job, and I have fairly strong opinions about how data should be presented visually. If you’re designing something to present data, it should be clear, it should be easy to grasp at a glance, and it should convey all the information that you are trying to convey. In short, try not to make the consumer of your information guess at or have to interpret anything.
It’s with those guidelines in mind that I looked at all the lineup tweets from this past weekend. I am not going to rank them 1-20, but instead group them, because there’s a lot of thematic similarities in these tweets, and let’s face it, there’s only so many ways to put out a lineup, right? One notable - and welcome - difference from last time is that there’s no animated tweets this time around, clubs seem to have thankfully gone away from that style.
Anyway, let’s dive in, shall we?
I will, however, declare a favorite (SPOILER ALERT: it’s not Arsenal!).
I mean, one way to do it is, technically, not to do it, right? I could not find a lineup tweet from West Ham for their game this weekend. So either West Ham fielded zero players, which, given that it’s West Ham, is a distinct possibility, or their social media team screwed something up. They were actively tweeting the game, and asking for supporter input, so it’s not like they don’t have a presence - they just, for whatever reason, didn’t tweet out a lineup.
THE “LET’S JUST MAIL IT IN, NOBODY WILL REMEMBER THIS” TWEET Step forward Liverpool (if you can be bothered), who basically just tweeted out their lineup in text form , with no graphics whatsoever. While this is good for accessibility and readability - it’s compatible with screen reader software and will probably still load when a reader is stuck with dodgy wi-fi or no connection, unlike a graphic-heavy tweet - it’s also, in 2019, suuuuuuuuuuper boring.
(I was looking at an unofficial account, turns out Liverpool’s a Lister)
A lot of teams just tweet out a list of the starters and subs, which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but still isn’t my favorite style. The following teams tweet out lists, and following this, um, list of listers, I’ll go into some of the details of the pluses and minuses of this approach:
That’s more than half of the league who employ the simple list version of a lineup tweet. It’s basically becoming the default, probably because it’s easy and straightforward, but it also shows a certain lack of style, or panache, or fun, or whatever.
Most of the listers are also incomplete, from an information standpoint. Easily half of them don’t list shirt numbers, which for someone who doesn’t follow a team would be pretty helpful information to know. Manchester United probably set graphic designer brains on fire with their tweet, which does list shirt numbers, but doesn’t bother to list them in the same font as the player names.
Southampton and Newcastle both get bonus points for being the only listers to use player first names. Tottenham combined the Liverpool-style text only tweet with a graphic, which is kind of the best of both worlds, readability-wise.
Did you catch what a lot of the listers didn’t list on their team tweets? Things like venue and match kickoff time. Most of the listers display the opponent’s crest and don’t actually write the words that make up the opponent’s team name, which isn’t the worst thing in the world but it also creates a little bit of a search as you try to find the crests.
Some listers also display a photo of a player from the team alongside the list, which is great, but none of them actually tell you - via caption or something like a differently colored name in the list - who you’re looking at, which is not.
Of all the listers, I think Newcastle’s is my favorite. They pack a lot of information into one graphic (the only thing missing is KO time), but it’s still easy to digest, presented clearly and cleanly, and done with a distinct, unified style throughout.
Then there’s Norwich City. The ginormous font of the starters takes up a lot of real estate that could be doing other things (there’s literally nothing else on the graphic but names and a couple tiny crests), and the background of what appears to be a closeup of the transition in colors on their shirt does it no favors at all. The rest of the listers are just sort of boring, template-looking things that leave no impression at all.
THE “LINEUP AS THEY LINE UP” CROWD
The seven remaining teams all do a variation of my favorite thing. They actually lay the team out in formation on a pitch, so you can see approximately where the players are going to be playing, which is a great thing for those of us who only follow one team closely and may not know the way another team lines up or, um, formates? Is that a word? Anyway, these seven teams all do the same thing with varying degrees of success.
I’ll list these in my order of preference, from least favorite to most:
Leicester City: good job good effort, but you have some work to do. Showing the player pictures in formation is great, But listing them backwards from the way you built out the formation is...not. The first name on the list is Kasper Schmeichel, and the top picture on the formation is Jamie Vardy. If you’re going to go this route, maybe subtitle the pictures with the names. There are a lot of assumptions being made with this graphic, and a lot of conversion work that the reader has to do, and that’s not what a good graphic should be about.
Bournemouth: This is more like it. Names under faces, formation, positional accuracy...this is pretty solid, until your eyes get seared by the TEAM NEWS font that screams mid-90’s. The only other nit I would pick with this tweet is that the goalkeeper’s at the top - that just doesn’t seem right to me, for some reason, it feels backwards.
Burnley: same issue as Bournemouth with the graphic oriented the wrong direction for my taste, but otherwise a pretty solid, if minimalist, effort.
Wolves: Speaking of the 90’s, a very distracting background and ugly-ass font on what is otherwise a pretty solid effort. I like the fact that they include team news in their lineup tweet graphic, as well. It’s never going to be comprehensive in such a small space, but the summary of team changes and recent results between Wolves and their opponent on the day is a really nice touch.
Watford and Everton: Essentially the same tweet. Shirts with names, no pictures (I give Watford bonus points for making the shirts have the names on the back, not subtitled), positional lineup, just the basics but clearly presented. I give Watford the edge between these two though, because they used replica shirts to announce the lineup (they didn’t just subtitle a plain numbered shirt, like Everton did), and because Everton’s color scheme of blue on blue on green is not super easy to read, where yellow on black stands out.
Which leaves us with just one tweet left. It’s my favorite of all the tweets in use this season, and it’s from a team I picked in our season preview to have the worst season in Premier League history. Step forward Sheffield United!
Everything about this tweet is fantastic. The sideways orientation of the formation is a refreshing look. It’s got all the info you need (time, date, venue), pictures of the players with their name, and the crispness and clarity of the tweet is enhanced, not ruined, by the subtle background dot pattern.
They may struggle to do much successfully on the pitch this season, but at least at the Twitter lineup thread part of the game, Sheffield United is knocking it out of the park...what? Yes, I know that’s a baseball metaphor, but what do you expect - there’s no analog to “home run” in soccer. Anyway, nice job Sheffield United - maybe those boring list teams can learn a thing or two from you.