Week 1: Premier League Power Rankings – Don’t doubt the Champions


Well folks, it’s that time of year again.

The Premier League season has begun and there have already been a few upsets here and there on the opening weekend (ahem, Villa) but plenty of results went as expected.

This time of year also means we will be rolling out plenty of new series’ at ProSoccerTalk, and here is the latest.

Premier League Power Rankings.

In case you’re new to our Power Rankings and don’t know how they work, here’s a quick refresher. Basically, each Tuesday we will put our neck on the line each by ranking each Premier League team by how good they really are. Forget about the official league standings. That doesn’t mean squat.

The Power Rankings take into account the strength of schedule, injuries, suspensions, great displays but still losing and plenty of other variables that the black and white of an PL standings table do not.

So please feel free to debate the Week 1 Power Rankings… that’s what they’re here for.

source:  1 Chelsea: A comfortable win at a canter against newly promoted Hull City won’t have impressed José Mourinho too much, but positive signs were there as Oscar and Hazard linked up well. (1-0-0)


2 Manchester United: Everyone has written David Moyes’ men off… then they go and hammer Swansea and the doubters disappear. Great start for United. (1-0-0)
 source:  3 Manchester City: A resounding home win over 10-man Newcastle was to be expected. Manuel Pellegrini’s side will grow into themselves this year. great defense plus added offensive weapons equals success. (1-0-0)
 source:  4 Tottenham: Not the most inspiring display against a poor Palace side. But Andre Villas-Boas side have a new midfield solidity I really like. Just above Arsenal and Liverpool early on. (1-0-0)


5 Liverpool: Created chances galore against Stoke, but they nearly paid the price for their wastefulness in the 1-0 win. If Suárez does stay a concerted push for Champions League is on the cards. (1-0-0)
 source:  6 Arsenal: They need new signings, and they need them now. Poor performance against Villa where everything went wrong. Two penalties conceded and a red card. But hardly vintage Arsenal before that. (0-1-0)
 source:  7 Everton: An exciting start to the season. Not many teams go to Norwich and get something but they had to work for this. Great going forward, suspect at the back. Roberto Martinez’ tactics used at Wigan are certainly surfacing again. (0-0-1)
 source:  8 Swansea: A hiding from the reigning Champions on opening day isn’t a true reflection of the Swans. But they do need some extra cover in defense before the end of the window. New striker Wilfried Bony is a fine player. (0-1-0)
 source:  9 Southampton: A great opening day win at West Brom for the perennial slow starters. With Italian international striker Pablo Osvaldo joining for a club record $22 million on Monday, the Saints are marching up the rankings. (1-0-0)
 source:  10 West Ham: An routine win for the Hammers against a Cardiff side devoid of ideas going forward. Sam Allardyce’s men were direct and their wingers gave the Bluebirds plenty of issues. Solid start. (1-0-0)
 source:  11 Fulham: Bit of a smash and grab win for Fulham at the Stadium of Light on opening day. But they’ll take it. Martin Jol’s men have quietly added some good players, Scott Parker will be a good buy. (1-0-0)
 source:  12 Aston Villa: The Villans played really well at the Emirates. They rode their luck at times and Brad Guzan was in tremendous form to thwart Arsenal, but a confidence boosting win to start the season always helps. (1-0-0)
 source:  13 Norwich: They had a real go against Everton but looked a bit short in midfield and were over run by Fellaini and Barkley. Chris Hughton may need to strengthen there. (0-0-1)
 source:  14 Newcastle: Poor display from Alan Pardew’s men against City. But what can you do when your 2-0 down and down to 10 men at the Etihad at half time? Regroup and go again for the Magpies. (0-1-0)
 source:  15 West Brom: Bit of a blah performance from Steve Clarke’s side. The Baggies were out-possessed by Saints and were definitely second best. Another top striker is needed at the Hawthorns. (0-1-0)


16 Stoke: They could have snatched a late point at Anfield but Walters fluffed his lines. The Potters will be solid as always, but I struggle to see where the goals will come from. (0-1-0)
source:  17 Sunderland: It will take time for Paolo Di Canio’s 10 new signings to gel. They looked great in spells vs. Fulham but gave up a sloppy goal and paid the price. Another team who will struggle to score. (0-1-0)
 source:  18 Hull: Despite going 2-0 behind in the first half, acquitted themselves well and stuck to the task. Hull won’t be anything special, but with two solid banks of four they can grind out 1-0 wins at home and pick up draws on the road. (0-1-0)
 source:  19 Cardiff: I worry for Cardiff. They’ve spent big money this summer but I’m not sure if it’s on the right players. Against West Ham there was no cutting edge. Another forward is needed. (0-1-0)
 source:  20 Crystal Palace: Ian Holloway’s men battled hard at Selhurst Park against Spurs, but apart from a few flurries near the end they didn’t look like threatening. The Eagles need a top striker. (0-1-0)

MLS (afternoon) roundup: NYCFC come back vs. NE; FCD, POR stalemate

Photo credit: NYCFC / Twitter: @NYCFC
Leave a comment

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Ismael Tajouri scored two goals and Sean Johnson had five saves to help New York City FC play the New England Revolution to a 2-2 draw Saturday.

The 23-year-old Tajouri, who has appeared in four MLS games, has three goals in the last two matches while filling in for the injured David Villa.

Yangel Herrera threaded a pass between two defenders to Tajouri, who turned and blasted a rising left-footer into the net to cap the scoring in the 76th minute.

Diego Fagundez bent a shot from well outside the box off the post to give New England (1-1-1) a 1-0 lead in the 11th. Tajouri tied it early in the second half, first-timing a cross from Saad Abdul-Salaam past a diving Matt Turner from near the penalty spot and Juan Agudelo’s header in the 63rd put the Revolution back in front. Cristian Penilla played a perfect cross from the left side to Agudelo who finished from the top of the 6-yard box.

NYCFC (4-0-0) is off to its best start in history and has won a franchise-record five in a row, dating to the 2017 playoffs.

FRISCO, Texas (AP) Roland Lamah scored his third goal in two games and Jimmy Maurer had a career-high five saves in FC Dallas’ 1-1 tie with the Portland Timbers on Saturday.

Lamah, who had two goals and an assists in FC Dallas’ 3-0 win over Seattle on Sunday, opened the scoring in the 36th minute. Jacori Hayes evaded two defenders and then tapped it to Lamah, who rolled a left-footer past a diving Jake Gleeson into the net from the top of the penalty arc.

Sebastian Blanco side-netted a left-footer from the top of the box to tie it in the 47th.

FC Dallas (1-0-2) is unbeaten in its last nine home matches.

Lawrence Olum, who was shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior in the 44th minute, drew a red for a hand ball in the 75th for Portland (0-2-1).

Report: PSG pressing Conte to leave Chelsea this summer

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

First, Paris Saint-Germain (reportedly) wanted Mauricio Pochettino; then it was (reportedly) Diego Simeone; now it’s Antonio Conte who’s (you guessed it — reportedly) been targeted for, and pitched, an exit from Chelsea this summer.

[ MORE: Conte, Pirlo could spearhead Italy managerial team ]

According to a report from the Guardian, PSG executives have held talks with Conte’s agent in recent days and/or weeks, as the winners of four of the last five Ligue 1 titles prepare to move on from current manager Unai Emery this summer.

The belief in the French capital is that Conte, who’s made no bones about his frustrations at Chelsea dating back to last summer, would be a far more realistic target for that reason. According to the report, PSG are willing to offer Conte an annual salary in the neighborhood of $14 million. The Italian is currently paid nearly $13.5 million per year at Chelsea.

Conte has been at odds with the Chelsea hierarchy, largely, over the lack of funds made available to him to rebuild the squad in the transfer market.

“I have great ambition but I don’t have money for Chelsea. The club knows very well what is my idea, what is my ambition. That is very clear. When you decide to work with this type of coach, you must understand that you take a coach with great ambition. Not a loser but a winner. And that ambition must always be shared.”

[ MORE: Man City, Man United reportedly chasing Neymar ]

Talks are said to have been “positive” between Conte’s representative and PSG.

PSG’s motivation to fire Emery stems from the Spaniard’s failure to impress in European competition — two round-of-16 exits from the Champions League, one either side of the massive spending spree of last summer which resulted in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe moving to the Parc des Princes.

Int’l friendlies: Sweden fall to Chile; Canada win Herdman’s debut

Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A roundup of Saturday’s (less-than-stellar) slate of international friendlies…

[ MORE: France blow a lead, lose to Colombia; England top Holland ]

Sweden 1-2 Chile

Sweden, who’ll be at the 2018 World Cup, fell 1-0 behind Chile, who won’t be joining them in Russia, when Arturo Vidal hit a simply stunning, off-balance volley into the upper-90 from the edge of the box in the 22nd minute. Ola Toivonen brought Sweden back to 1-1 just a minute later, but Marcos Bolados broke Blagult hearts in the 90th minute, when he pounced on a bouncing rebound and hammered the ball into an open net.

[ MORE: New USMNT kits for 2018 World Cup ]

Northern Ireland 2-1 South Korea

Speaking of World Cup-bound sides falling to those who failed to qualify themselves, South Korea went ahead away to Northern Ireland after just seven minutes, but watched helplessly as Kwon Chang-Hoon’s opening goal slipped away from the Taeguk Warriors.

Min-Jae Kim scored a mostly unavoidable own goal in the 20th minute, and Paul Smyth slipped through a sea of South Korean defenders to fire home a wonderful winner in the 86th minute.

Canada 1-0 New Zealand

Among the national teams not currently preparing for this summer’s tournament, but instead building toward qualification in 2022, there’s Canada, who knocked off New Zealand in Murcia, Spain, to begin the John Herdman era with a victory on Saturday.

Tosaint Ricketts scored the game’s only goal, a 54th-minute volley from the Toronto FC forward, courtesy of a long, searching ball out of the back from defender Dejan Jakovic.

Herdman took over the Canadian men’s post in January, when he stepped down as head coach of the women’s team, which he led to two straight appearances in each the World Cup and Olympics during eight years on the job.

Come September, the Canucks will be competing in the CONCACAF Nations League, a 34-team tournament featuring all but the six nations to have competed in the Hexagonal of World Cup qualifying. The top 10 finishing sides will qualify for the 2019 Gold Cup, alongside the Hex combatants. Canada will face the U.S. Virgin Islands in September, followed by Dominica in October, Saint Kitts and Nevis in November, and finally French Guiana in March 2019.

Elsewhere in int’l friendlies

Israel 1-2 Romania
Togo 2-2 Ivory Coast
Georgia 4-0 Lithuania
Zambia 0-2 South Africa
Kenya 2-2 Comoros
Kosovo 1-0 Madagascar
Armenia 0-0 Estonia

Beyond the glitz, France has problems to solve before World Cup

Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images
1 Comment

PARIS (AP) France’s attacking soccer can be compared to an All-Star basketball game: showy moves, flashy individual skill and outstanding finishing.

Up front France boasts Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele, two of the world’s three most expensive players, and the 2016 European Championship’s top scorer in Antoine Griezmann.

When everything comes together, it’s a joy to watch but, behind the glitz, France has significant problems to resolve before its World Cup campaign begins on June 16.

As Euro 2016 runner-up, France will rightly be considered among the favorites in Russia. But rivals will marvel at the ease with which Colombia pierced France’s feeble defense and overran its tentative midfield on Friday. Trailing 2-0, Colombia rallied to win 3-2 in a tactical master class of positional switches and pressing which flummoxed France coach Didier Deschamps.

France showed similar frailties against World Cup winner Germany in November, twice squandering the lead in a 2-2 draw. Both times, France fluffed chances because of some complacent finishing – trying to score highlight-reel goals – and was then ruthlessly punished.

It is particularly worrying for Deschamps, who places high importance on tactical discipline, commitment, leadership and risk-free defending. Those were hallmarks of France’s triumphant teams at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 tournaments – with the combative midfielder Deschamps as captain – but they were missing against Colombia on Friday.

“We have to do more in terms of attitude, energy and playing with more heart,” France captain Hugo Lloris said. “We have to give more.”

In adding that Colombia “maybe has less talent but is a real team” Lloris highlighted the glossy veneer and soft underbelly of his side.

Striker Olivier Giroud criticized a lack of “aggression and determination,” adding it was important to understand why France was missing such “crucial values.”

Deschamps has another friendly, away to Russia on Tuesday, before he names his 23-man World Cup squad. He will then have three matches left to iron out evident flaws in his side, including a lack of leadership, lapses of concentration in defense, and a misplaced sense of superiority when dominating games.

“When things are going well, we’re capable of doing very good things. When things get tense we’re a lot more vulnerable,” Deschamps said. “It’s also a question of character, perhaps we are too self-satisfied and the highest level doesn’t forgive that.”

France’s second-half capitulation against Colombia was not just tactical; it was also because Les Bleus had no leader to spark a response.

France’s long-standing captain is goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. While there is no doubt over Lloris’ position as No. 1 – the Tottenham goalie is among the most consistent in the Premier League and has nearly 100 international caps – his position on the field works against him in communicating with his team.

Lloris has long been considered too soft-spoken and lacking enough of a vocal presence. Deschamps complained his side lacked aggression against Colombia, and he may question why he’s sticking with Lloris as captain when he is anything but aggressive, both in his body language and communication.

France plays such scintillating attacking football that its defenders must sometimes be tempted to put their feet up and admire it. Unfortunately, at times they seem to do just that.

Deschamps is still trying to decide on his best center back pairing: Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane alongside either Barcelona’s Samuel Umiti or Arsenal’s 50-cap veteran Laurent Koscielny. He went with Varane and Umtiti against Colombia and it was thoroughly unconvincing.

Forward Luis Muriel regularly got behind Varane, and Umtiti clumsily gave away a late penalty, from which Colombia made it 3-2.

But bringing Koscielny back in won’t solve everything, either. While he is a fine reader of the game, and one of the best ball-playing center halves around, Koscielny has a habit of giving away penalties and his man-marking can be poor.

Right backs Djibril Sidibe and Benjamin Pavard are attack-minded but so are left backs Layvin Kurzawa and Lucas Digne. Against Colombia, Sidibe and Digne raced forward almost at will, leaving gaping holes behind them for Colombia to exploit.

With N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi, the last position Deschamps should worry about is midfield.

However, Pogba has fallen out of favor at Manchester United and looks out of form. Against Colombia, Deschamps paired Kante and Matuidi as holding midfielders in a 4-4-2 formation, but they were at times completely overrun when Colombia countered on the break.

A 4-3-3 formation – Kante holding with Pogba and Matuidi either side – appears to offer more protection. But Pogba’s tactical indiscipline means he often drifts out of position and, while he’s among the world’s most expensive players, Deschamps may be better off using him as a substitute.

Instead, Deschamps could opt for a 4-3-3 with Bayern Munich’s Corentin Tolisso, who is far more disciplined and a crisp passer with a good eye for goal. He scored 14 for Lyon last season, including long-range strikes, and has found the net several times for Bayern. Tuesday’s match against Russia could prove important for Pogba’s chances of starting France’s World Cup opener against Australia.