Week 4 – Premier League Power Rankings: Arsenal surging, Man City sinking


Okay, now we’re getting somewhere with these rankings after a pulsating week of Premier League action.

With Champions League action now in full-flow and the PL’s elite juggling their enormous squads to met the demands of domestic and European success, the strongest teams are coming to the fore.

This past week we saw debutants across the league after making their switch on transfer deadline day before the international break. And plenty of them shone with Marouane Fellaini, Gareth Barry and Mesut Ozil all slotting seamlessly into their new teams.

A few shock results played out as a few of the big boys stumbled in Week 4… find out if it affected their Premier League Power Ranking this week.

By now you should know the drill, but every Wednesday we put our neck on the line to analyze the strength of each Premier League team. Forget about the official league standings, that doesn’t mean squat.

(MORE: Premier League Power Rankings archive)

The Power Rankings take into account the strength of schedule, injuries, suspensions, playing well but still losing and plenty of other variables. The W-L-D bracket shows each PL team’s current record and you can now see how many spots each team has moved, up or down, from week-to-week.

Please feel free to debate the Week 4 Power Rankings… that’s what they’re here for.



1 UP 2 Manchester United: Okay, so it wasn’t vintage stuff from United against Palace, but with Wayne Rooney and RVP building a good understanding and the defense looking solid, David Moyes’ side finally look like scoring goals. Good response from the Liverpool defeat. (2-1-1)
source:  2 UP 3 Arsenal:Many may chuckle at the Gunners being so high but after watching Mesut Ozil live at the weekend, I was blown away. If they can keep all of their key players fit and Giroud stays in top form… who says the Gunners can’t be title contenders this term? (3-1-0)
source:  3  DOWN 2
Chelsea: Mourinho’s ‘young eggs’ are having a little wobble at the moment and Chelsea have a tough game against West London rivals Fulham on Saturday evening. Samuel Eto’o looked rusty in the 1-0 loss to Everton and all eyes will be on the Blues as they take on FC Basel. (2-1-1)
source:  4  – Liverpool: The Reds almost recorded their fourth-straight win to start the season but Swansea equalized late on. The news of Coutinho out injured will hurt Liverpool but they still look likely to score and Brendan Rodgers’ men face Southampton at home on Saturday. Home win. (3-0-1)


5 DOWN 3 Manchester City: City just aren’t clicking in the Premier League, especially away from home. That being said, a win against rivals Manchester United on Sunday will help their confidence. They look great at the back, but lacked creativity in their 0-0 draw at Stoke. Work in progress. (2-1-1)
source:  6 Tottenham: Spurs completed another shutout win against Norwich, with new signing Christian Eriksen stealing the show to help feed Gylfi Sigurdsson for the goals. AVB has built a strong squad, but Europa League and League Cup games coming up will stretch it to the limit. (3-1-0)
source:  7 Everton: A sensational win against Chelsea on Saturday hammered-home exactly what the Toffees are good at. Forcing the issue and protecting what they have. Gareth Barry looked great in midfield and Roberto Martinez’ side are unbeaten. (1-0-3)
source:  8 Swansea: The Swans may have beaten Liverpool on another night, poor old Jonjo Shelvey… anyway, they looked good against the Reds and ahead of the Europa League trip to Valencia, confidence is building in South Wales. Michu and Wilfried Bony still struggling as a partnership though. (1-2-1)
source:  9 UP 1 Stoke: The Potters probably should have beaten Man City on Saturday, and that’s why they continue their climb up the rankings. Mark Hughes’ side are hard to beat, but they also seem to have extra creativity going forward. However, a tough trip to Arsenal is coming up. (2-1-1)
source:  10  DOWN 1 West Ham: Sam Allardyce’s men looked solid and nothing more against Southampton on Sunday. With Andy Carroll still out and Stewart Downing and Joe Cole missing, the Hammers are missing key attacking pieces but their defense is dragging them through. Steady. (1-1-2)
source:  11  UP 1 Southampton: They shaded West Ham for the majority of the 0-0 draw but the Saints have worryingly only scored four goals in their last nine league games. Going forward they ripped the Hammers apart but found Jussi Jaaskelainen in top form. Frustrating times. (1-1-2)
source:  12 DOWN 1 Norwich: The Canaries were dominated by Tottenham at White Hart Lane and the gulf in class was clear for all to see. Norwich aren’t too bad at the back, but despite all their spending on new strikers this summer, I still find it hard to see where the goals will come from. Home game with Villa up next. (1-2-1)


13 UP 2 Newcastle: Great few weeks for Newcastle, as they recorded back-to-back wins thanks to a hard-fought win over Aston Villa at Villa Park. Alan Pardew has finally got his entire squad back fit and the Magpies shouldn’t be languishing towards the bottom of the table this season. (2-1-1)
source:  14 Fulham: The Cottagers should heave beaten West Brom at home on Saturday, but a stoppage-time equalizer will frustrate Martin Jol as his new signings are still jelling. Berbatov came close but with Chelsea this weekend, Fulham could be at the wrong end of the table when October rolls around. (1-2-1)
source:  15 DOWN 2
Aston Villa: That opening day win against Arsenal seems an age away, as Villa have now lost three-straight games. Paul Lambert’s men have gone down in tight games but small defensive errors continue to cost them. The trip to Norwich on Saturday is huge. (1-3-0)
source:  16 Cardiff: Not much separating Cardiff from the pack above them in mid-table, perhaps just that cutting-edge up front. The Bluebirds fought back well to grab a point at Hull and could’ve had all three if they had their shooting boots on. Five points from four games is great. (1-1-2)
source:  17 UP 1 Hull: Almost a mirror-image of Cardiff, as both sides looked solid in the 1-1 draw at the KC. Steve Bruce’s men also lack that dynamism up front, but in midfield Huddlestone and Livermore look like two fantastic buys for the Tigers. They face a tricky trip up the East Coast to Newcastle this week. (1-2-1)
source:  18 DOWN 1
West Brom: The Baggies keep battling and finally scored their first goal of the season in the final seconds to snatch a great last-gasp draw at Fulham. Could that be a turning point for the West Midlands side? Steve Clarke and his new signings will certainly hope so. (0-2-2)
source:  19
Crystal Palace: Ian Holloway’s side were hard done by against Man Utd, with a disputed penalty decision on the stroke of half time taking the game away from Palace. They defended well and had a few half chances, that should give them renewed impetus for the game against Swansea at Selhurst Park. (1-3-0)
source:  20 Sunderland: The Black Cats were dominated for the first half but after the break they gave Arsenal a scare. If Jozy Altidore’s strike would’ve stood, Sunderland could have grabbed a morale-boosting point… but they ended up losing 3-1 as Di Canio’s men struggle on. (0-3-1)

‘Ravens’ challenge soccer orthodoxy in Belarus

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MINSK, Belarus (AP) Less than three years ago, Alexander Skshinetsky’s soccer career seemed over.

The former under-21 international found himself unemployed after his career stalled, and was working on construction sites when an offer came. Would he consider joining an amateur team that had been playing seven-a-side soccer but now wanted to go pro, founded by a small group of fans staking thousands of dollars of their own money to build a club from scratch?

Two seasons and two promotions later, the 26-year-old midfielder is a key player in one of European soccer’s most unlikely success stories. In only its third professional season, Krumkachy Minsk is playing top-flight soccer, beating established names and challenging the economic orthodoxy in one of Europe’s most closed-off countries.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high in MLS Playoffs ]

Krumkachy – “Ravens” in Belarusian – has soared into the country’s top league with a shoestring budget but an enthusiastic and growing fan base of hipsters, families and others turned off by the stagnation of soccer in the ex-Soviet nation. Before a recent run of losses, it was even challenging for Europa League qualification.

The secret has been finding talented players on the verge of leaving the game, or even those who have already quit, “people who have been underestimated and put down,” in the words of co-founder Denis Shunto, who set up Krumkachy with friends in 2011. “We get those guys and we can really make them into a team.”

After starting out in recreational competitions, Shunto and his friends decided to aim higher. Belarusian soccer has a three-tier league system packed with clubs backed by various government agencies and state-run factories in the country’s Soviet-style economy, a set-up which prefers predictability over ambition and can give rise to conflicts of interest. With a spot open in the third tier, but without a state patron, Krumkachy scraped together a few thousand dollars to apply. Each subsequent step up the pyramid brought predictions of imminent financial collapse.

“Everyone said we wouldn’t have the money, we couldn’t take part,” said Skshinetsky, the midfielder. “We played for free in the second division, and in the first division it wasn’t much. Maybe $100 for a win in the first division and salaries maybe $150 (a month).”

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

On a freezing Friday night in Minsk, the crowd was small and the game scrappy. Goalkeeping errors helped to hand Krumkachy a 2-1 win which all but ensured the club’s top-flight survival for 2017 in the Belarusian league’s calendar-year system. Financial survival is always a trickier question.

“We’ve got the smallest budget (in the league) and we’re still putting money in ourselves,” said Shunto, who wonders if the approach of going without government funding may be “too romantic.”

At Friday’s game, commercial tie-ups were prominent and Krumkachy’s shirts were covered in a myriad of small logos from various businesses which have chipped in as sponsors, while opposition Granit Mikashevichi bore only the logo of its backer, a state-run quarry. Consumerism may be the norm in most European leagues, but in Belarus’ state-dominated economy, it’s the mark of the plucky underdog.

After ending a nine-game wait for victory, the players came over to celebrate with the sparse crowd. An hour later, the reserve players were still sharing the field with fans and their children having a kickabout.

“It’s an atmosphere like home, very warm. It’s been helping the guys not to give up,” said Vasily Khomutovsky, one of Krumkachy’s two co-coaches.

At a recent away game, “a woman with two children who went there, with two small kids 7 and 10 years old, she made each player a little souvenir by hand and signed it, something different for each player,” Khomutovsky said.

There’s a family atmosphere within the club, too, with Shunto’s brother serving as a backup goalkeeper and Skshinetsky’s wife in charge of fitness training.

[ MORE: Power rankings — Going to the playoffs edition ]

Vladimir Harlach, one of the team’s supporters, said Krumkachy reminds him of AFC Wimbledon, the English club founded by fans after owners relocated its previous incarnation to another town, and which has since shot up several divisions.

“That’s a bit different, there was history,” Harlach said. “Here, it’s from scratch. History is being written in front of our eyes. You could compare it to other countries 100 years ago, when (soccer) was all being created.”

Krumkachy’s average home attendance of about 1,500 is tiny by European standards, but enough to put it comfortably above all but the biggest clubs in Belarus, as well as higher than that of FC Minsk, the city government-run club whose stadium Krumkachy is using.

Some at the club wonder whether European qualification might be possible next year, another improbable step up, but the top spot in Belarus appears far out of reach. Able to outspend rivals with cash from occasional Champions League appearances, BATE Borisov has just sewn up its 11th straight title.

Khomutovsky welcomes the comparison to Leicester, a team which was promoted to top division in England, survived one season, then won a wildly unlikely title the following year.

“I hope next year,” Khomutovsky said, “we do what we can to become the Belarusian Leicester.”

MLS Cup Playoffs Weds. preview: Toronto, LA host openers

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco, right, celebrates after scoring his team's second goal against the New England Revolution during first-half MLS soccer game action in Toronto, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP
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Here we go, sports fans.

Major League Soccer starts its playoffs with a pair of knockout round games on Wednesday and another two on Thursday.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

Philadelphia Union at Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. ET

The Union are back in the playoffs for just the second time in playoff history, the same amount as Toronto. The difference is that Toronto has made the postseason in back-to-back season and isn’t entering the second season on a brutal cold streak.

Philly has lost three-straight and five of seven, making the playoffs on goal differential and — as Brotherly Game points out — has the lowest points-per-game of a playoff team since 2006.

That’s probably not going to fly at the new, loud BMO Field, where TFC’s supporters will finally get a home playoff match. Sebastian Giovinco is close to full fitness, Jozy Altidore has been on fire, and Michael Bradley isn’t exactly a player who shirks the big game spot light.

But it’s going to be players like Drew Moor and Clint Irwin who keep TFC calm under the bright lights. They’ve been here before. In fact, Moor has actually been at BMO in the playoffs, when Colorado trumped FC Dallas for a 2-1 win at MLS Cup 2010.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high in MLS Playoffs ]

Real Salt Lake at LA Galaxy –10:30 p.m. ET

Before the season began, LA looked like it had an embarrassment of riches that could challenge for one of the best records in MLS history. Between Giovani Dos Santos, Robbie Keane, Ashley Cole, Nigel de Jong, Steven Gerrard, and Gyasi Zardes — let alone the rest of the crew — the Galaxy were terrifying.

CARSON, CA - SEPTEMBER 11: Robbie Keane #7 of Los Angeles Galaxy celebrates his goal with Giovani dos Santos #10 to take a 4-1 lead over the Orlando City FC at StubHub Center on September 11, 2016 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Dos Santos and Keane (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

About 700 miles northeast was a team expected to do, well, not much. Real Salt Lake had its mainstays in Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando, but had the club done enough to make up a 10-point playoff deficit from 2015?

Injuries and defections stopped the Galaxy from reaching its potential, while RSL rode a hot start into the playoffs. Both teams finished their seasons in cold fashion; In Real’s case, ice cold.

The Galaxy only lost one game at the StubHub Center this season, and it’s realistic to think that trend will continue on Wednesday. But there’s something about RSL and the playoffs — and the potential absences of not just Zardes but Keane and Gerrard — that lead us to believe something strange could be coming by the time Thursday morning hits the East Coast.

USMNT’s Zardes nearing return for LA… but not this week

CARSON, CA - FEBRUARY 09:  Gyasi Zardes #11 of Los Angeles Galaxy attemps to break away from Leiton Jimenez #30 of Club Tijuana at StubHub Center on February 9, 2016 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
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Gyasi Zardes waits on X-rays, and it’s not just a matter for LA Galaxy concern.

Yes, the MLS side is chasing its sixth Cup and has as many as two playoff matches coming in the next five days.

But Jurgen Klinsmann has regularly called upon the 25-year-old attacker for the United States men’s national team who, in case you haven’t heard, have two of the toughest World Cup qualifiers on their slate in the next few weeks.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high in MLS Playoffs ]

There’s good news and bad news. First, the good, from MLSSoccer.com:

Gyasi Zardes, returning from a broken foot this past August, happily took to the field with his teammates in a sign of a potential return in time for the postseason. The offensive favorite spent a little under an hour with the team, not quite completing a full training session, but definitely close to returning to his usual fitness.

Now the less good: Zardes cannot return until his next scheduled X-ray on the aforementioned broken foot.

That X-ray comes next Thursday – well after Wednesday’s game and any weekend matches.

Will a fit Zardes instantly reclaim a spot in Klinsmann’s 23? Wingers have had strong performances in his stead, and the coach’s take on that position is a bit unknown as we anticipate the United States and Mexico in Columbus on Nov. 11.

Juventus CEO: agent to earn $30 million for Pogba transfer

VERONA, ITALY - JANUARY 31:  Paul Pogba of Juventus celebrates the victory after the Serie A match between AC Chievo Verona and Juventus FC at Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi on January 31, 2016 in Verona, Italy.  (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images
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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus CEO Giuseppe Marotta has revealed that Paul Pogba‘s agent will be paid 27 million euros ($30 million) for the player’s record transfer to Manchester United.

Pogba returned to United in August for a world-record fee of $116 million.

Marotta was quoted by Italian media as telling Juventus’ shareholders meeting Tuesday as saying “27 million (euros) will be paid to (Pogba’s) agent Mino Raiola. So the total net gain for Pogba was 72 million ($78 million)” after other fees are taken into account.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high in MLS Playoffs ]

Marotta says that Pogba joined Juve from United in 2012 for a bargain price of 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million).

Marotta adds that Juan Cuadrado‘s two-year loan from Chelsea costs 5 million euros ($5.4 million) per season and if Juventus wins Serie A this season it will be obliged to buy Cuadrado’s full rights for an additional 20 million ($22 million).