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

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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

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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)

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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)

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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)

3 things to look for in the Manchester derby in Houston

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Manchester City and Manchester United square off in Houston, Texas on Thursday in what will be the first-ever Manchester derby played outside of the UK.

[ MORE: Daley Blind chat to JPW ]

This game is never a friendly but with it being a preseason match-up in the International Champions Cup, we may not see as many challenges flying as we usually do when Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola lock horns. Maybe…

Here’s a quick look at three intriguing storylines heading into the game.


New kids on the block

This will be our first chance to see Kyle Walker, Ederson and Bernardo Silva in Man City shirts as Pep’s team kick off their preseason games. Walker is a big upgrade on City’s previous full back options and his pace and power will give them a new dynamic and balance. Ederson is now the go-to goalkeeper for Guardiola, even though he said Claudio Bravo will stick around and Bernando Silva is a true luxury player capable of slotting in wherever needed in attack. All three will have plenty to prove with big price-tags hanging around their necks, but perhaps Ederson is the most intriguing because the goalkeeper position has been a huge problem area for City and we know what to expect from Walker and Silva. First impressions can shape your future at a club and Ederson will be well aware of that.

Kompany vs. Lukaku

One big man against another, there’s no love lost between Belgium teammates Vincent Kompany and Romelu Lukaku. This battle will set the tone for the upcoming clashes this season and it is a pivotal one. Kompany can handle Lukaku’s power and aerial ability, but can he handle his pace in-behind? If United can set Lukaku free, there are still doubts over Kompany’s fitness and if the 31-year-old has lost a yard of pace over the years. A supreme defender, Kompany knows this is a massive year for him to stay fit as he will try to lead City to PL glory and then Belgium to World Cup glory next summer with Lukaku by his side. On Thursday in Houston it should be a titanic battle if they come up against one another.

3-4-3 system from United?

I spoke with Man United’s utility man Daley Blind earlier this week and he told me that preparations for a 3-4-3 system is going well. When this alternate formation is deployed, Blind will likely slot in as the left-sided center back with Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof alongside him. Mourinho usually keeps it simple and plays a 4-2-3-1 formation, but now is the time to experiment and given the recent success of teams playing with wing-backs (Chelsea for most of last season, then Spurs and Arsenal towards the end) why not see if his team can do it?

United have been working on it in training and have already played that way against LA Galaxy in preseason. With United’s fans urging them to be more attack-minded, maybe Mourinho, like Wenger, could change his ways. If United do play wing-backs it will be interesting to see how City’s attackers cope with having to track back and having players in the space they’d usually roam free in.

Seattle’s wild four-goal comeback caps crazy MLS night

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The Seattle Sounders stole the show as Major League Soccer go back to work on Wednesday following a break for the 2017 Gold Cup.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

Seven games took place in MLS on Wednesday, with the Sounders trailing 3-0 at home against D.C. United with 50 minutes on the clock.

They then scored four goals in 27 minutes with Cristian Roldan scoring the game-winner and the Sounders survived a late red card for Nicholas Lodeiro to grab a big win. It was in fact the first-time in MLS history that a team had fought back from 3-0 down to win in regulation. Majestic.

Watch the highlights of that crazy comeback above, while below is a brief recap on what else happened across MLS on a wild evening of action.

Other scores around Major League Soccer
New York City 2-2 Toronto FC – Stoppage time penalty kick grabbed a point for TFC at Yankee Stadium
LA Galaxy 0-1 Vancouver Whitecaps – Big road win for the Caps who move up to 4th in the West thanks to Tchani’s header
Montral Impact 2-1 Philadelphia Union – Blerim Dzemaili was the hero as he scored a spectcular winner in Quebec
New York Red Bulls 5-1 San Jose Earthquakes – A pummeling for the struggling ‘Quakes as Royer scored twice late on
Portland Timbers 1-4 Real Salt Lake – Portland finished with nine as Adi floored Beckerman, who also saw red. Two goals for Plata
Minnesota United 0-0 Houston Dynamo – The Dynamo could’t get it done on the road against the stubborn Loons

Alvaro Morata: Chelsea “the best club” to join

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Spanish international Alvaro Morata has arrived in London for his medical as he is set to become the most-expensive signing in Chelsea’s history.

[ MORE: Morata’s rank in PL strikers ]

The reported overall fee Chelsea have agreed to pay Real Madrid varies from $85-97 million when you calculate the add-ons, but one thing that’s for sure is Morata is eager to get going in west London.

Morata, 24, flew in from the U.S. overnight, as he was on Real’s preseason tour of the USA, and will now agree personal terms and undergo a medical before linking up with Antonio Conte‘s team who are currently on their preseason tour of China and Singapore.

“This is the best club,” Morata told Sky Sports. “Antonio Conte is one of the best coaches in the world and I’m so happy to work with Antonio.”

He was then asked how close he came to joining Manchester United, who chased Morata all summer, but the Spaniard said he had no idea how close that deal was and that “the most important thing is I’m here playing for Chelsea. Finally I’m here.”

Chelsea now have a predatory forward to replace Diego Costa who will surely leave this summer and re-join Atletico Madrid after falling out with Conte.

Having Chelsea’s boss commit his future to the Blues with a new two-year deal he signed on Tuesday clearly played a big factor in Morata joining, as the man who took him to Juventus in 2014 helped him to develop into a true center forward.

Morata’s movement, power, aerial ability and clinical finishing means he will slot perfectly into this Chelsea team and he’s already saying all the right things.

Jose Mourinho gives update on Man United’s transfer plans

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Jose Mourinho has already made two signings and spent over $135 million this summer.

But he wants more. He always wants more.

[ MORE: Daley Blind chats to JPW ]

With United back in the UEFA Champions League this season, the Portuguese coach said he wanted to add four new players to his squad to get them ready to challenge for the Premier League title and European silverware.

Speaking ahead of the Manchester Derby in Houston on Thursday against Manchester City in a preseason friendly, Mourinho revealed just how tough its been to get deals over the line this summer.

“Everybody knows because I said it, I would like four players and asked for four players,” Mourinho said. “I’m ready to go from four to three because the market is difficult, because some clubs they think the market is different from others.

“We are not a club that is not ready to buy and buy and buy non-stop. We are not a club that is ready to pay what clubs wants us to pay, so I am ready to go from four to three. With these three, I just give a better balance to the team, to the squad and better conditions to compete.”

United were just valued as the most valuable soccer team on the planet by Forbes, jumping ahead of Barcelona and Real Madrid and only the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees are more valuable than the Red Devils in the sporting world.

Mourinho can’t play the pauper card here, even if he tried to when stating his “surprise” that Kyle Walker cost crosstown rivals Man City close to $65 million.

The truth is, he’s probably put all his eggs in one basket with the signing of Romelu Lukaku for $96.5 million and that’s okay. United needed a center forward to be the focal point of the team after Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s serious knee injury, so they got what they needed and Victor Lindelof will also be a starter in central defense.

Those two players both improve United’s team drastically.

Now, it’s quite clear that Ivan Perisic, an out-and-out winger, and Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic were the final two players Mourinho wanted to get on board. The deal for Perisic appears to be dead in the water with Inter Milan not budging on their $56 million asking price, while holding midfielder Matic will surely arrive at Old Trafford after Tiemoue Bakayoko signed for Chelsea.

Even then, does Mourinho really need another winger with Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata around? Perisic should be no more than a luxury buy if they can get him for the right price, while adding Matic to the engine room will be vital to providing balance to their slightly top-heavy squad.

After putting down a world-record fee last summer for Paul Pogba and spending big on Lukaku this summer, Mourinho won’t have many people feeling sorry for him.