Premier League Power Rankings: Southampton surging, Manchester United sliding – Week 8

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This season just keeps getting worse for Manchester United, and so far Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City are taking full advantage of their struggles by pulling away at the top. Plus, a few surprise packages are still hanging around.

One of those is Southampton, who are flying high, while their isn’t much movement further down as the midtable mediocrity crew cancel each other out.

Week 8 saw the highest number of goals, 34, as offenses finally exploded and plenty of teams look in dire straits at the back. Find out how it affected the Premier League Power Rankings below.

(MORE: Premier League Power Rankings archive)

By now you should know the drill. Every Wednesday we put our neck on the line to analyze the strength of each Premier League team, forget about the official league standings (here they are in case you actually do want them) that doesn’t mean squat.

The Power Rankings take into account the strength of schedule, injuries, suspensions, playing well but still losing and plenty of other variables. The W-D-L 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.



Arsenal: A big win against Norwich showcased the Gunners’ attacking talents, with Aaron Ramsey coming off the bench to shine and Mesut Ozil running the show. Wenger’s side left it late to wrap up that win but they are loaded with attackers. Now they just need to stay healthy to keep the charge going. (6-1-1)
source:  2
Chelsea: The Blues went behind against Cardiff but looked strong in the second half as they surged back, with Eden Hazard scoring twice and Samuel Eto’o getting his first. Oscar hoping off the bench shows their strength, plus a big UCL win and goals for Torres helps. Mourinho is getting settled at Stamford Bridge. (5-2-1)
source:  3 UP 1
Manchester City: Rejoice! They finally broke their away day voodoo against West Ham, by confidently beating the Hammers 3-1. David Silva and Sergio Aguero turned on the magic, and Pellegrini’s men suddenly look like world beaters. (5-1-2)
source:  4 DOWN 1 Tottenham: Spurs are looking solid and dependable as they ground out yet another clean sheet in a solid win away at Aston Villa. And in Andros Townsend they’ve got a star winger who could possibly replace Gareth Bale. Maybe it’s too early for that, but Tottenham have a strong squad assembled. (5-1-1)


5 UP 3
Southampton: The Saints are the big movers this week as Mauricio Pochettino’s men really should have beaten United at Old Trafford in the 1-1 draw. Southampton have come a long way in a short time, but after a win at Anfield and beating plenty of bottom half PL fodder, they look superb. Young talent, high-pressing and full of confidence... how long can they keep this up? (4-3-1)
source:  6 DOWN 1
Liverpool: The Reds are having a few growing pains here and there and they came up a little short at Newcastle. Grabbing a 2-2 draw against the spirited Magpies who were down to 10-men actually turned out to be a good result. But too many defensive lapses and giving the ball away cheaply hampered Liverpool. (5-2-1)
source:  7 Manchester United: Moyes’ United were outplayed by the Saints and they got lucky. Defensively they were struggling, as both Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand were out injured. The lack of depth for Moyes is worrying, especially as UCL action hots up. Problems persist as the slow start continues. (3-2-3)
source:  8 DOWN 2
Everton: Roberto Martinez’ men gutted out the win against Hull, but it certainly wasn’t pretty. Another good defensive display was made all the better thanks to a terrific finish from Pienaar with his first touch off the bench. Great start carries on. (4-3-1)
source:  9
Swansea: A resounding win at home to Sunderland showcased what the Swans are all about, pouncing after long-spells of possession to punish the opposition. They resemble more of a counter-attacking team this season, and with Bony getting amongst the goals more regularly, Laudrup’s team will keep threatening. (3-1-4)
source:  10
Aston Villa: A spirited yet pretty toothless display from Villa against Spurs summed up their season so far. Poor going forward but much better at the back than last year, a home game against Everton this week will show how far they’ve come. (3-1-4)
source:  11 Hull City: A battling display perhaps deserved more against Everton, and Hull are looking just fine in the PL. They held their own and sub Yannick Sagbo smashed home a great effort, but Spurs away this Sunday will not be easy to navigate. Scrappers who never give up, that’s the Tigers. (3-2-3)
source:  12 Norwich City: A poor loss at Arsenal showed up all of the Canaries weaknesses, as the Gunners tore their slow defense apart. They managed to grab a goal back and make things interesting, but ultimately their lack of guile going forward has, and will continue to, cost them. (2-1-5)


13 West Brom: The Baggies were the better team for most of the second half vs. Stoke, and should have had a penalty when Youssouf Mulumbu was brought down. Steve Clarke’s men are another team that are solid, but lack quality going forward. Need to keep improving. Tricky trip to Anfield coming up. (2-4-2)
source:  14 UP 3 Newcastle: Newcastle are looking back to their best with a display full of energy, passion and drive vs. Liverpool gaining them a vital point after going down to 10-men. That fighting spirit should see them raring to for the derby against Sunderland on Sunday, can Pardew’s men deliver a win away to pile more misery on the Mackems? (3-2-3)
source:  15  UP 3
Fulham: What a difference a few weeks make, as Martin Jol’s men recorded back-to-back wins. They absolutely hammered Crystal Palace on Monday night, with Pajtim Kasami and Steve Sidwell scoring screamers. That scrappy win against Stoke before the break could be the turning point when all’s said and done. (3-1-4)
source:  16  DOWN 1
West Ham: It was always going to be hard against Man City, but the Hammers made life hard for themselves with a poor defensive display. Add in a lack of belief going forward and you’ve got a recipe for trouble. Record signing Andy Carroll won’t be fit anytime soon, so ‘Big Sam’ has some big problems. (2-2-4)
source:  17 DOWN 3
Stoke City: Another game, another blank in the ‘goals for’ column for the Potters. How can Mark Hughes’ side get the creative juices flowing? Maybe bring in the likes of Brek Shea to mix things up… Anyway, Stoke have a solid foundation to build from, and that’s about all you can say so far. (2-2-4)
source:  18 DOWN 2
Cardiff: Things are starting to slip away from Malkay Mackay, especially with some unrest behind the scenes. All that nonsense aside, the Scotsman is seeing his side start games well, then peter off as Chelsea’s class showed the Bluebirds up. Fitness or concentration an issue? Massive game away at Norwich this week. (2-2-4)
source:  19
Crystal Palace: Who will lead the Eagles now? That’s the big question on everyone’s mind as Ian Holloway walked away from the early-season strugglers on Wednesday following the capitulation vs. Fulham. So many new faces have arrived, and with 30 games to go… Can anyone save this sinking ship? (1-0-7)
source:  20 Sunderland: Deja vu… “Another week, another defeat for Sunderland.” Gus Poyet has got a huge job on his hands with the Black Cats and he saw that on his debut with a poor second half in the 4-0 loss to Swansea. Are the Mackems ever going to win a game? A Tyne-Wear derby should get things going. (0-1-7)

Conte: My Chelsea will never play for a draw, home or away

HULL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01:  Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea reacts to his team scoring during the Premier League match between Hull City and Chelsea at KCOM Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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Antonio Conte knows what he’s doing — he’s playing the game made popular the world over by his predecessor and Sunday opponent, Jose Mourinho, and so many others who went before him.

[ MORE: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Where other managers shy away from the controversy and the spotlight brought upon themselves by the psychological warfare waged by so many of the giants of the managerial profession, Conte has embraced the added attention he’ll now face when Chelsea host Manchester United on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

While Mourinho hasn’t been quiet in the build-up to his return to Stamford Bridge — how could he, given the considerable demand for comment? — he has mostly kept the cheap shots to himself and attempted to treat the affair like any other. Of course, it’s not that for him; for the Chelsea fans; for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who made the decision to fire Mourinho 10 months ago; and now, for Conte, who’s suddenly thrust onto the other side of the battlefield ahead of Mourinho’s grudge match — quotes from Goal.com:

“No, I think it is always right to play for a win. I try to transfer these thoughts to my players always. If you play at home or away, it must be the same.

“You must start the game with only one target: to win. Not to play for a draw. I don’t like this. It is not football. I don’t like this.”

“I think it is important to win, but for me also, it is important to win in the right way. Because, sometimes, it happened to me. I won in the past with other clubs, but I wasn’t satisfied with the performance.

“When you win is important, but it is important to also play good football, to play with a good intensity, to show always the will to win, the passion. For me, that’s important.”

The obvious inference here is that Mourinho’s teams have always been set out to play in a defensive manner — often times aiming for, or, at the very least, achieving 0-0 draws — something the Portuguese did earlier this week, away to Liverpool.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup: Liverpool, Arsenal go joint-top ]

Conte didn’t ask to be the anti-Mourinho when he was named Chelsea’s new boss — not directly so, at least — but it comes as part of the territory when taking over from a mountain of a manager like Mourinho. Cool as ever, Conte is relishing his new role.

Introducing Zabivaka, Russia’s 2018 World Cup mascot

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 21: Official Mascot Wolf was chosen as Official Mascot of FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia and Nazario Ronaldo during 'Vecherniy Urgant' (Evening Urgant) TV show on Channel 1 at Ostankino on October 21, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
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MOSCOW (AP) Russia has chosen a cocky wolf wearing sporty goggles as the mascot for the 2018 football World Cup.

The wolf was chosen in online voting over two other mascot candidates — a cat and a tiger wearing a space suit.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup: Liverpool, Arsenal go joint-top ]

The announcement was made early Saturday at the end of an hour-long broadcast on state Channel One television. More than 1 million Russians voted in the contest, according to the broadcast.

World Cup matches are to take place in 11 cities in June and July 2018. The venues are in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Kazan, Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Saransk, Volgograd, Nizhny Novgorod and Yekaterinburg.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 21: (L-R) Wolf, the winer of FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia Official Mascot, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Vitaly Mutko, TV host Ivan Urgant and Nazario Ronaldo attend at 'Vecherniy (Evening) Urgant' TV show on Channel 1 during at Ostankino on October 21, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
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Aguero looking vulnerable as Man City evolves under Guardiola

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City shows dejection after the final whistle during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Everton at Etihad Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester City’s spine of goalkeeper Joe Hart, center back Vincent Kompany, midfielder Yaya Toure and striker Sergio Aguero has anchored the team since 2011 in the most decorated period in its history.

[ MORE: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

One by one, it is being dismantled by Pep Guardiola.

Hart has been sent out on loan to Italy.

The injury-hampered Kompany no longer appears first choice.

Toure has been ostracized.

And the seemingly unthinkable is happening: Aguero is coming under pressure for his place.

Aguero started on the bench for the English Premier League game against Everton on Saturday after playing two matches for Argentina during the international break. More surprisingly, he stayed among the substitutes for the Champions League match at Barcelona on Wednesday, when Guardiola preferred to play midfielder Kevin De Bruyne up front.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup: Liverpool, Arsenal go joint-top ]

Aguero has been untouchable, a guaranteed starter since joining from Atletico Madrid in July 2011. Suddenly, possibly the most popular player among City fans – and a scorer of 102 league goals in his first five seasons at the club – is vulnerable and seemingly dispensable, even if he is likely to regain his place for the Premier League match against Southampton on Sunday.

When asked if Aguero was being phased out, Guardiola said on Friday the player’s future was at City.

“When Sergio decides to leave Manchester City, it will be his decision,” Guardiola said. Then, echoing comments he made about Hart in August before allowing him to leave, Guardiola added: “I appreciate him (as) a football player. I appreciate (as) a man what he did here.”

It’s not just the recent selection decisions that hint at a sense of unease between Guardiola and Aguero.

Guardiola has said publicly on at least two occasions this season that he wants more from Aguero than just goals, just like he wanted more from Hart than simply making saves. After Aguero’s hat trick in the Champions League win over Borussia Moenchengladbach, Guardiola said: “I cannot teach him (about his talent in the penalty box) but he has to know that behind, the rest of the team wants to help him and that is what I want to convince him.”

While on international duty with Argentina this month, Aguero was quoted as telling Argentine media that Guardiola “is very picky about everything, (and) it’s good.

“The good thing is that I’m getting used to him and automatically going straight into pressing the centre backs.”

[ MORE: Sunday’s PL preview — Mourinho back at the Bridge; City-Saints ]

Aguero, who is contracted to City until 2020, has 11 goals in 10 appearances this season, and 19 in his last 20 dating to last season. There are few better, attainable strikers around and it will be intriguing to see how the situation pans out, especially with Brazil forward Gabriel Jesus due to arrive in December to provide competition up front.

Guardiola said on Friday he had no regrets about his decision to drop Aguero for the Barcelona game, which City lost 4-0 after having goalkeeper Claudio Bravo red-carded. That made it four games without a win for Guardiola, and a failure to beat Southampton would equal the longest streak without a victory in his coaching career.

In an answer that lasted more than 6 1/2 minutes on Friday, he defended his tactics at Camp Nou and praised the personality of his young players like John Stones and De Bruyne.

Guardiola repeated he will not change his style.

“I think about that, yes,” he said. “But after that, the solution is not better than what I believe. So I cannot. Do you know why as well? Because in seven years (at Barcelona and Bayern Munich), I won 21 titles. … So it’s three titles per year playing in that way.

“No, no, I’m not going to change. First, it’s going to happen that (if) it’s not going well in the future, next season isn’t going well in that way, I will go home.”

La Liga & Serie A roundup: Messi wins it late for Barca; AC Milan shock Juve

VALENCIA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 22:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates with his team mates as Neymar Jr. and Luis Suarez reacts on the pitch after being hit by objects thrown from the seats after scoring his team's third from the penalty spot during the La Liga match between Valencia CF and FC Barcelona at Mestalla stadium on October 22, 2016 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup: Liverpool, Arsenal go joint-top ]

Valencia 2-3 Barcelona

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez led Barcelona back from 2-1 down to take all three points at the Mestalla Stadium and reclaim the top spot in La Liga. There’s lots to unpack here, beginning with the nasty tackle that’ll keep Andres Iniesta (knee ligament damage) out of action for up to two months. Then there was the controversial fashion in which Messi gave Barca an early lead.

Valencia hit back twice before Suarez drew the visitors level again, and Messi converted from the penalty spot in the 93rd minute to seal the victory, at which point Neymar was hit by a bottle thrown onto the field by someone in the stands. In the end, Barca are back on top, until Real Madrid are allowed to have their say on Sunday.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Espanyol 3-3 Eibar
Real Sociedad 3-0 Alaves
Granada 0-0 Sporting Gijon

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Celta Vigo vs. Deportivo La Coruña — 6 a.m. ET
Sevilla vs. Atletico Madrid — 10:15 a.m. ET
Malaga vs. Leganes — 12:30 p.m. ET
Villarreal vs. Las Palmas — 12:30 p.m. ET
Real Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:45 p.m. ET

AC Milan 1-0 Juventus

The kids are (a whole lot more than) alright at AC Milan. 18-year-old midfielder Manuel Locatelli unleashed a stunning strike in the 65th minute, as Milan shocked the world by upsetting the five-time (and six-time, presumably) defending champions, Juventus, at the San Siro. Then it was 17-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma’s turn to play his part, in the form of a stunning save to deny Sami Khedira an equalizer with the last kick of the game.

Juve remain top of the Serie A table, but it’s Milan who now sit second, just two points behind them.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sampdoria 2-1 Genoa

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Udinese vs. Pescara — 6:30 a.m. ET
Torino vs. Lazio — 9 a.m. ET
Atalanta vs. Inter Milan — 9 a.m. ET
Cagliari vs. Fiorentina — 9 a.m. ET
Crotone vs. Napoli — 9 a.m. ET
Empoli vs. Chievo — 9 a.m. ET
Bologna vs. Sassuoo — 12 p.m. ET
Roma vs. Palermo — 2:45 p.m. ET