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

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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.

RANKING

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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)

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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)

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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)

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”