Premier League Power Rankings: Chelsea impress, Liverpool the real deal – Week 9

2 Comments

After week 9, there’s been plenty of movement at the bottom of ProSoccerTalk’s rankings, but towards the top most of the heavyweights are looking steady and assured.

Big wins for Arsenal and Chelsea have consolidated their title aspirations, as the latter shrugged off a well-drilled Manchester City outfit to seal a vital three points late on at Stamford Bridge. Manchester United grabbed a comeback win, but put in yet another shaky display and Liverpool’s iimpressive strike  partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge did the business once again.

(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.

RANKING

source:

1
Arsenal: Not the most vintage display form the Gunners, but they gutted out a victory against newly promoted Palace thanks to a PK and a late goal from Giroud. They struggled to get their passing game going, but wins like this when you don’t play well are exactly what the doctor ordered. Massive test vs. Liverpool this week. (7-1-1)
source:  2
Chelsea: The Blues went toe-to-toe with Man City on Sunday in a real cracker, as Fernando Torres proved to be the difference maker following Joe Hart’s late mistake. Chelsea dominated early on, but a second half relapse affected them badly. That said, their squad depth is superb and in October it was six wins from six in all comps. for Jose Mourinho’s men. (6-2-1)
source:  3
Manchester City: What looked like being a thoroughly deserved point away at Chelsea turned into a defeat in the blink of an eye. Manuel Pellegrini won’t be happy with that, but his side played well and are still looking like Chelsea’s biggest title rivals at the moment. Aguero is razor sharp and should tear Norwich to pieces this weekend at the Etihad. (5-1-3)
source:  4 UP 2 Liverpool: The Reds looked tremendous going forward and with Suarez and Sturridge on top form in the 4-1 win vs. West Brom, goals are flowing and life is good at Anfield. If they beat Arsenal this Saturday they go top of the PL… the showdown at the Emirates will be a true indicator as to how good Brendan Rodgers’ side are. (6-2-1)

source:

5 DOWN 1
Tottenham: Another 1-0 win for Spurs, another PK winner for Roberto Soldado and all is well at White Hart Lane… except it’s not. Manager AVB called out Tottenham fans for “negativity” following the victory, and the defensive style is vastly different than previous years. But Spurs keep winning and keeping clean sheets. (6-1-1)
source:  6 DOWN 1
Southampton: I was at St. Mary’s to see the Saints completely dismantle Fulham in the first half. They went in 2-0 up but it could have been five or six. An exciting core of young players, a manager who’s style is getting results, how far can they go? Apparently, “the sky is the limit”…  that’s what Argentine boss Mauricio Pochettino told me afterwards. (5-3-1)
source:  7 Manchester United: David Moyes’ men got a win, but only just. They had to rally from 1-0 down, and 2-1 down against Stoke to grab a victory at Old Trafford as their defensive struggles continue and the Red Devils look sluggish and uneasy across the pitch. At least they’re slowly climbing up the table. (4-2-3)
source:  8
Everton: The Toffees are absolutely flying, but had USMNT ‘keeper Tim Howard to thank (and his beard) for a massive PK save at the weekend, that set up Lukaku and co. to beat Villa. Suave, solid and pacey, this Everton side will get better and better. (5-3-1)
source:  9
Swansea: A disappointing draw at home vs. West Ham for Swansea came off the back of Europa League action at the Liberty. Michael Laudrup’s men can’t get the balance right between midweek soccer and the rigors of PL, but it’s a good problem to have. Once Michu and Bony get going as a partNErship, everything will be alright. Huge, huge derby game vs. Cardiff on Sunday, anything but a win will be frowned upon. (3-2-4)
source:  10 UP 1
Hull City: Yes they lost at Spurs, but they had four starters missing and still put in a sterling display at White Hart Lane. The Tigers could have easily grabbed a point, and a shocking PK decision against them cost Steve Bruce’s side a point. I’ll say it again, they should be just fine this season. (3-2-4)
source:  11 DOWN 1
Aston Villa: I really can’t work out what Villa are all about this season. One minute they beat Man City, Arsenal and Norwich away… then they get obliterated by Everton. Benteke needed that early goal from the spot, a big miss from him, but the Villans should pull further up the table in due course. Winnable game away at West Ham this weekend. (3-1-5)
source:  12 Norwich City: The Canaries worry me. They outplayed Cardiff and just couldn’t score to save their life in the 0-0 draw. Gary Hooper and Ricky van Wolfswinkel have done the business in European competitions, but they’ve come from weaker leagues in Scotland and Portugal and may find it hard to adjust to the PL. Is a relegation battle on? (2-2-5)

source:

13 West Brom: The Baggies were unfortunate, because they came up against Suarez and Sturridge in top form. James Morrison’s PK gave them some hope of a comeback, but there was no repeat of their Anfield heroics of the last few years. Will be hoping to beat a beleaguered  Palace side at home this week. (2-4-3)
source:  14 Newcastle: Alan Pardew’s side got off to a slow start, but then got better as their North East derby with Sunderland went on. A late stunner from Fabio Borini won it for the Mackems, but Newcastle with huge defensive worries at least put in a shift and probably should have grabbed a point. Tough match at home to Chelsea this week could pile the pressure on for Pardew. (3-2-4)
source:  15 UP 1
West Ham: The Hammers just can’t score but at least they’re great at the back. Like Norwich their strikers aren’t firing, but Big Sam hasn’t really got any fit. Kevin Nolan needs to be pushed further forward to try and grab a few goals. Home game against Villa on Saturday is massive. (2-3-4)
source:  16 UP 1
Stoke City: A spirited yet unsuccessful display at United perhaps deserved a point. The Potters were surprisingly undone by aerial balls into the box, which is usually their forte. Peter Crouch back amongst the goals will please Mark Hughes, but losing against his old side United won’t. In-form Southampton visit the Britannia Stadium this week, another one of ‘Sparky’s’ old clubs. (2-2-5)
source:  17 DOWN 2
Fulham: One of the worst displays I’ve seen from Fulham in recent history in their loss to Southampton, and Martin Jol admitted afterwards that “we could’ve been hammered today.” You have to applaud the Dutch managers honesty… but when will new owner Shadid Khan start demanding more from a talented bunch of players? At home vs. Manchester United this weekend… (3-1-5)
source:  18 UP 2
Sunderland: Sheer relief for Black Cats fans, as the first win of the season arrived. Sunderland are off the bottom, Gus Poyet’s men won a massive derby game at the death and hope has returned to the Stadium of Light. Can the Uruguayan boss lead his side up the table as they close the gap quickly? A trip down the East coast to Hull could be fruitful this week. (1-1-7)
source:  19 DOWN 1
Cardiff: The Bluebirds have nothing going on up front, and they battled for a point without many style points against Norwich. This Sunday’s South Wales derby against Swansea is huge, a bad loss may see a knee-jerk reaction from controversial owner Vincent Tan. That would be a big mistake. Work to do for Cardiff. (2-3-4)
source:  20 DOWN 1
Crystal Palace: They battled and matched Arsenal for 45 minutes, then a moment of madness from Adlène Guedioura just after the half changed the game. 1-0 down against Arsenal isn’t easy, but Palace rallied before succumbing losing to a late sucker punch. A new manager is desperately needed if they’re going to drag themselves off the bottom. West Brom away this weekend. (1-0-8)

MLS attendance up, TV ratings lag as US mulls future

AP Photo/Jay LaPrete
3 Comments

NEW YORK (AP) Major League Soccer’s attendance is up and fan interest is booming, even if television broadcasts are far less popular and some young Americans would rather play in Europe.

[ MORE: Caleb Porter out as Portland Timbers head coach ]

MLS averaged 22,000 in attendance for the first time in its history this season, ranked among the top seven leagues in the world. The league is set to add a second Los Angeles franchise next year, announce two expansion cities next month and at some point finalize David Beckham’s long-pending Miami club.

But viewers averaged under 300,000 for nationally televised regular-season matches, fewer than the average for a New York Yankees game on their regional sports network. Several top young Americans, such as Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, have chosen to forego the MLS to play in Germany and test their mettle in a more demanding environment.

And worst of all, the United States – whose roster was filled with MLS stars – failed to qualify for next year’s World Cup, ending a streak of seven straight appearances in soccer’s showcase.

“We need to use this failure as a wakeup call for everyone associated with the sport at all levels to ensure that we have the right processes and mechanisms and development programs and leadership and governance in place to learn from this missed opportunity to ensure that it never happens again,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said this week. “Part of the maturation of becoming a soccer nation is recognizing that qualifying for the World Cup is not a birthright. It’s something you need to earn, and we are unfortunately in the company of some great soccer nations, like Italy and Holland and Ghana and Chile – Copa champions – that have also not qualified.”

MLS playoffs resume next week after the international break with the first leg of Conference Championships. Columbus – whose owners are threatening to move to Austin, Texas, in 2019 – hosts Toronto, while Houston is home against Seattle.

“MLS and soccer in the United States have made great advances in many areas. But its promoters have found that the abundance of existing legacy sports leagues that have the highest quality of athletes on the planet creates a ceiling on professional soccer in the United States,” said Marc Ganis, president of the consulting firm SportsCorp. “It has not, and perhaps never, will supplant any of the major legacy sports unless and until the quality of play and players increases significantly and the U.S. men’s team in particular is more competitive and, in fact, wins some of the major international tournaments.”

Momentum of playoff runs was interrupted because of World Cup qualifying, and the culmination of the league’s season competes for attention with the NFL and college football among the wider American sports audience.

“Long-term demographic things like CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and stuff with the NFL says maybe there is a long slow decline around some of that, but when you’re starting from where they’re starting, that’s going to take a generation,” Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey said. “We’ll grow because most of the immigration to the U.S. is from soccer-playing countries and the country is going to grow.”

Launched with 10 teams in 1996, two years after the U.S. hosted the World Cup, MLS expanded to 12 but cut back to 10 after the 2001 season. There has been steady growth since expansion started in 2004. Next year’s total will be 23, already well over the norm for a first division, and the league is planning to settle at 28.

Infrastructure could not be more different than in the early days. The league has 14 soccer specific stadiums, two more renovated for the sport and one built with both the NFL and soccer in mind. Three more soccer stadiums are under construction.

Average attendance is up 60 percent from 13,756 in 2000, boosted this year by 48,200 for Atlanta in its opening season. MLS trails only the Germany’s Bundesliga, England’s Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Mexico’s Liga MX, the Chinese Super League and Serie A, with Italy’s first division ahead by only 22,177 to 22,106.

But that has not translated yet into big television ratings.

ESPN averaged 272,000 for 30 telecasts this regular season on ESPN and ESPN2, and Fox averaged 236,000 for 33 broadcasts on FS1 and Fox. In addition, Univision is averaging 250,000 viewers for its Spanish-language MLS telecasts.

But the Premier League attracts a larger audience, averaging 422,000 on NBC, NBCSN and CNBC, even though many matches are on weekend mornings.

“We’re not the Premier League,” Garber said, pointing out last year’s MLS Cup drew 1.4 million viewers on Fox. “The fact that we’re able to generate ratings growth across all of our partners here and in Canada, and dramatic growth in Canada, is a positive. So we actually, we and our partners, feel pretty darn good.”

Player payroll has increased as MLS keeps adding what it calls Targeted Allocation Money. While several older American players have returned to MLS from Europe, many of the teens viewed as the future of the U.S. national team have gone abroad as they emerge from the MLS youth academies, which have been mandated by the league since 2007 and produced more than 250 players with first-team MLS contracts.

Pulisic, at 19 already the leading American star, left Hershey, Pennsylvania, to sign with Borussia Dortmund at age 16, able because of his grandfather’s Croatian citizenship to play in Europe before he turned 18. McKennie left FC Dallas’ academy when he turned 18, signed with Schalke and scored in his U.S. debut this week.

“I didn’t want to become one of those guys that started in MLS and said, man, I wonder if I could have made it to Europe,” McKennie said. “I wanted to spread my wings and see what I could do over here.”

Forward Josh Sargent decided against Sporting Kansas City and is waiting until he turns 18 in February to sign with Werder Bremen.

“I think I’ve just always wanted since I was a little kid to play in Europe,” he said.

Tyler Adams, who also made his U.S. debut this week, played his first MLS game with the New York Red Bulls last year at age 17 and became a regular this season. Garber says “Tyler Adams probably is playing more minutes today for the Red Bulls than he would if he was not in Major League Soccer.”

Adams is happy but thinking ahead.

“Obviously a goal of mine is to play Champions League one day, and obviously the MLS is working its way to becoming one of the top leagues in the world,” he said. “Maybe one day I find myself in Europe. You never know.”

Sometimes big contracts only stall a career. Matt Miazga left the Red Bulls to sign with Chelsea in January 2016, saw little playing time and didn’t get in games regularly until late that autumn during a loan to the Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem.

“If your only desire is to go to Europe, there are flights leaving every hour on the hour from JFK and LAX and everywhere in between,” said retired American defender Alexi Lalas, now a Fox analyst. “But getting to a place in Europe where you are making good money, where you are playing consistently, where you are learning, where you are valued as a player and as an American player, where you are able to adapt and adjust and live in the other 22 1/2 hours that we often don’t talk about, that’s whole `nother story, and there’s not a lot of flights leaving that have that on the other end.”

With the U.S. soccer community in turmoil following the World Cup failure, some have called for MLS to guarantee playing time for young Americans.

“Our coaches universally believed that that was not the best way to ensure we had the highest-possible product quality to be able to have competitive games and to drive the growth of our fan base,” Garber said.

AP Sports Writer Tim Booth contributed to this report.

Bartra error emphasizes Dortmund’s latest Bundesliga woes

Warren Little/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Christian Pulisic sat out Friday’s 2-1 Dortmund defeat against Stuttgart. Coincidence? Perhaps.

However, the club’s struggles are apparent as Dortmund’s winless run extended to four matches and their gap from Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich could be up to nine points by the end of the weekend.

[ MORE: Chris Coleman steps down from Wales, expected to take Sunderland job ]

BVB was without several of its top talents for the match, including U.S. Men’s National Team star Pulisic and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but it’s Dortmund’s defending that continues to be the side’s biggest issue.

Stuttgart struck after five minutes when Chadrac Akolo broke the deadlock off of an embarrassing blunder by Marc Bartra and the Dortmund defense.

Bartra attempted a routine back pass to goalkeeper Roman Burki during the early moments of the match, but his ball back proved to be way too strong and deflected off of Burki and into the path of Stuttgart forward Akolo (video below).

Dortmund atoned for the former Barcelona man’s mistake just prior to halftime when Maximilian Philipp equalized, but it took just six minutes into the second stanza for Josip Brekalo to restore the Stuttgart advantage.

Moyes: Chicharito could miss two weeks with hamstring strain

Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
Leave a comment

David Moyes has given Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez assurances that he’ll have the opportunity to compete for a starting role with the Hammers, but the Mexican international will have to wait a bit for a chance.

[ MORE: North London Derby takes center stage Saturday morning ]

Hernandez, 29, is currently nursing a hamstring strain, leaving his status for this weekend against Watford in doubt.

“I think everyone knows he [Chicharito] has got a hamstring injury,” Moyes said during Friday’s press conference. “It could take a week, it could take two weeks.”

Moyes didn’t mince words recently when speaking about Chicharito and other players within the squad, essentially pointing out that no player will be awarded a starting role simply because of their stardom.

Hernandez has scored four goals in 13 matches this season for West Ham, who currently sits 18th in the Premier League. The Hammers have won just two matches to start the 2017/18 campaign and sit on nine points.

Alessandro Nesta steps down with NASL side Miami FC

Twitter/@LemonCityLive
Leave a comment

Miami FC quickly put itself on the U.S. soccer map in two short seasons, and much of the club’s success can be attributed to manager Alessandro Nesta.

[ MORE: Chris Coleman steps down with Wales, expected to take Sunderland job ]

The former Serie A defender has managed the club in its first two years of existence, but Nesta’s time in South Beach is coming to an end.

Nesta revealed on Friday that he won’t be returning to the NASL club in 2018, as he prepares to fnd a “new challenge” in his managerial career.

With NASL’s future as a league very much up in the air, Nesta could be seeking a more stable position entering 2018, especially given that his name has been thrown around with several MLS jobs over the last few months.