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What matters most to football supporters? Is it style or substance? Winning or entertainment?
It’s a question that goes to the core of what being a fan is really about. Does the end justify the means for the loyal supporters who follow their team up and down the country?
Legendary modern-day managers like Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have changed the fabric of the game, popularising fundamentally polarised styles of play on their relentless pursuit of success.
Tiki-taka and gegenpressing are now common football parlance and some fans revel the ‘way’ their team operates as much as their trophy haul.
The age of vigilance propagated in Italy in 1990s is over but the culture wars around football philosophy rage on, with some favouring high-intensity counter-attacking over monopolisation of the football and a more tempered build-up.
So, who really plays the best football according to Premier League fans?
With the new season only days away, the 31st since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, BT Sport commissioned a survey of nationally representative supporters to uncover insights into their beliefs about what will happen in the upcoming campaign.
Over 4,000 participants were asked multiple choice questions about their clubs and to predict where each team will finish in the table.
They were also asked about their team’s biggest rival, who they believe plays the best football and which club they perceive to the ‘biggest’.
Both clubs received 34% of the vote. The result is testament to how evenly matched they have been since the arrival of Klopp and Guardiola and suggests that there are a similar number of proponents of both styles of play despite the stark difference in approach.
Only 7% believe Man United play the best football, with Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea picking up 5% of the vote. Just 4% opted for Antonio Conte’s Tottenham, while 3% think their north London rivals Arsenal have the best style of play.
Overall though, Premier League fans are divided over the attractiveness of Man City’s playing style.
The participants were asked to react to the following statement: “though Man City have been the most successful Premier League team in recent years, their style of play is not exciting”.
More from our Premier League poll:
Of the 4,000 polled, 34% agree, with 8% strongly agreeing. Conversely, 15% strongly disagree.
Predictably, 50% of Man City fans strongly disagree with the statement, while perhaps more surprisingly 15% of Man United supporters also strongly disagree.
The debate will doubtless continue in pubs and on terraces up and down the country, but what is beyond doubt is that for many the parameters that define success for a football club includes style of play.
BT Sport will show 52 games from the upcoming Premier League season.