It was another weekend full of drama and passion across the PL, as the Gunners finally silenced plenty of doubters with their resounding win over Liverpool.
We have big wins for Manchester City, Manchester United and Newcastle, and the South Wales derby delivered a massive rivalry to the PL for the very first time.
The teams at the bottom are struggling, as Norwich City and West Ham join Fulham in getting dragged into the relegation battle. Can those sides climb back up the rankings this week? Who knows… that’s the beauty of it.
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 resounding win against Liverpool sees the Gunners good run continue. They were majestic at times at the Emirates as they proved to everyone they could turn it on when it matters. A massive trip to Manchester United awaits this weekend. The Gunners haven’t won at Old Trafford in PL since 2006… with Flamini and Wilshere doubtful I think that run will continue. (8-1-1)
Manchester City:The Citizens have had a great week as they pummeled Norwich 7-0 for their biggest ever PL win and then smashed five past CSKA Moscow to seal their first-ever trip to the Champions League knockout stages. Manuel Pellegrini’s men look fired up going forward, still a little suspect at the back. (6-1-3)
Chelsea:What is going on away from home? Jose Mourinho keeps shuffling his starting XI and against Newcastle they were bullied and out-worked by the home team. Juan Mata, David Luiz and Fernando Torres were woeful… is January the right time for a clean sweep of Chelsea’s squad? (6-2-2)
Tottenham: The whole head injury incident with Spurs’ goalkeeper Lloris put a dampener on a well-earned point at Everton. But the lack of goals from AVB’s men really does concern me. When will we see the real Roberto Soldado? And can one of Tottenham’s midfielder stand up and make a play? (6-2-2)
Liverpool: The Reds came up short against Arsenal, massively so, and with Glen Johnson and others missing in defense they look weak at the back. Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge will only get you so far, they needed supply from midfield and that didn’t happen. Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva were over run in the middle. Not all doom and gloom, but a reality check. Very winnable game at home to Fulham this Saturday. (6-2-2)
Manchester United: Well, well, look who’s making a charge. A comfortable 3-1 win over Fulham thanks to a first half obliteration was enough to send United four games unbeaten in the league. A massive test of how far they’ve come under David Moyes awaits as Arsenal head to the Theater of Dreams. Can Rooney and RVP rip the Gunners apart? Expect plenty fireworks on Sunday. (5-2-3)
Everton: The Toffees ground out a good point at home to high-flying Spurs and could’ve grabbed all three points if their finishing would’ve been a little better. All round, a solid display that shows they can mix it with anyone on their day. Crystal Palace away this weekend… easy three points for Martinez’ men? (5-4-1)
Southampton: The Saints probably should have beaten Stoke on Saturday, but that bizarre goal from Asmir Begovic after 12 seconds definitely set them back. Their inability to finish off the teams around them is worrying me, but their unbeaten streak continues as Pochettino’s men have staying power. Another win could be on the cards as Hull City head to St. Mary’s. (5-4-1)
Hull City: Another week, another 1-0 win at home for the Tigers. They certainly aren’t pretty, but boy they get the job done. Steve Bruce’s side made Sunderland look better with 9-men than they were with 11 at times, but a scrappy own goal and another resolute defensive display sees Hull keep picking up points. (4-2-4)
Swansea City: Yeah, the Swans didn’t really turn up for the big South Wales derby against Cardiff did they? (Read my account of the day the derby arrived in the PL) That said, they looked dangerous in the first half and Michu spurned two great chances to put the visitors ahead. Cardiff wanted it more, and Michael Laudrup was upset after. A game at home to Stoke this weekend could see them out battled again. All is not well for the Swansea faithful right now. But things will work themselves out… right? (3-2-5)
Newcastle United: The Magpies pulled off a memorable win against Chelsea at a soaking St. James’ Park, it was a display full of guts, endeavor and clinical finishing. Loic Remy looks the real deal up front, and with players coming back from injury, Pardew’s men can be comfortable in mid-table this season. Spurs away on Sunday, see this as an upset? (4-2-4)
West Brom: The Baggies continue their climb up the table as they dispatched of Crystal Palace with relative ease despite a second half wobble. In windy conditions at the Hawthorns, both sides struggled to get the ball down but Saido Berahino scored a great goal off the bench as WBA had that extra cutting-edge. Chelsea away is tough this weekend. (3-4-3)
Aston Villa: A dour draw at Upton Park wasn’t pretty, but Villa will take it after another inspired display from Brad Guzan in goal. This young side is looking pretty resilient this season and the only worry is where the goals will come from. Cardiff at home will be a battling affair between two physical sides. (3-2-5)
Stoke City: Getting a freak goal go your way in the first minute of a game should see you build on it and grab a vital three points. Stoke failed to do that against Saints. The Potters don’t look dangerous going forward, maybe Juan Agudelo’s pace will liven things up when he arrives in January? They need it. Solid enough at the back, just goals an issue once again. (2-3-5)
Cardiff City: The Bluebirds deserved their win on Sunday in the South Wales derby, as the players really put in a display for Malky Mackay. With Craig Bellamy and Peter Odemwingie they have real pace and can hurt teams on the break. Gary Medel is the man who holds it all together. The Wales side will fancy getting a win on the road at Villa. (3-3-4)
Norwich City: Another week, another goalless game for the Canaries. They got absolutely battered by Man City right from the start, it could have been more than 7-0. Chris Hughton may start fearing for his job very soon if this trend continues. Can they stop the rot against West Ham in front of the NBC cameras this weekend? (2-2-6)
West Ham: Same story for West Ham as they can’t score for love nor money. Kevin Nolan and Matt Jarvis aren’t strikers and this system just isn’t working for Big Sam. They load the midfield and are hard to break down, but nobody is making runs forward. They need a win away at struggling Norwich. Big time. (2-4-4)
Sunderland: You have to admire their bravery for fighting back with just 9-men against Hull for over 45 mins. But the Black Cats just keep shooting themselves in the foot and Gus Poyet must stop the indiscipline quickly. Man City at home doesn’t look promising on Sunday.(1-1-8)
Fulham: They were just awful against Manchester United in the first half, as the Cottagers terrible display from the game against Southampton carried over. What is wrong with Martin Jol’s men? Just when you think they’ve turned the corner, this happens. Dimitar Berbatov needs to lead this side, otherwise they’ll be in a relegation battle. Liverpool away this week… (3-1-6)
Crystal Palace: The Eagles are hurting, the sooner they get a manager, the better. They are a working their backsides off for no reward. At least they’re at home this weekend against Everton, if they play like they did against Arsenal, then they could nick a point, maybe all three. (1-0-9)
STREAM: CONCACAF tripleheader concludes with USMNT
Los Catrachos were creamed 6-0 by the U.S. on Friday, and return home hoping a wounded Costa Rica remains vulnerable. Honduras is dead last on goal differential, but three points would be huge and put them level with Los Ticos. Costa Rica won its first two matches before falling to Mexico on Friday.
El Tri has two wins and a draw from their first three Hex matches, and will be without Rafa Marquez on Tuesday. A win guarantees Mexico the top spot heading into the next round of matches in June. The Soca Warriors surprised some with their 1-0 win over visiting Panama on Tuesday. Mexico is a different class.
Despite its miserable start, the U.S. can find itself as high as second with a win and help from Honduras. The injuries remain plenty for the Yanks, who are without Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood, Sebastian Lletget, and John Brooks. Panama has allowed just a single goal through three Hex matches, but also has only managed one.
Iran is on the verge of qualification for Russia 2018 after Persepolis star Mehdi Taremi bagged his ninth international goal in a 1-0 home win over China.
Iran leads Group A by four points, but second-place South Korea and third-place Uzbekistan kept pace with 1-0 home wins of their own. Hong Jeong-ho scored in South Korea’s win over Syria, while Odil Ahmendov’s 65th minute free kick was enough to push Uzbekistan past Qatar.
The goalkeeping was… less than ideal.
Over in Group B, shutouts were the name of the game for high-powered hosts as well.
Japan stayed atop the group with a 4-0 win over Thailand, as a trio of players with Premier League experience — Maya Yoshida, Shinji Kagawa, and Shinji Okazaki — joined Gent’s Yuya Kubo on the scoreboard.
Saudi Arabia is level with Japan on points thanks to Yahya Al-Shehri’s post-halftime goal in a 1-0 win over Iraq, while Australia saw off United Arab Emirates thanks togoals from Burton Albion’s Jackson Irvine and Ingolstadt’s Mathew Leckie.
That leaves Australia three points behind Saudi Arabia and Japan in the race for two of three automatic spots. The Socceroos hosts the Green Falcons in June before an August trip to Saitama in a pair of matches which will decide who goes directly to Russia and who has to win a pair of playoffs: One against the Group A’s third-place team and another against CONCACAF’s fourth place side.
New Zealand took the next step in collecting Oceania’s berth in the intercontinental playoff with a 2-0 win over Fiji in Wellington. PEC Zwolle winger Ryan Thomas bagged a brace for the All Whites.
New Zealand will next face either Tahiti, Solomon Islands, or Papua New Guinea over two legs in late August and early September for the right to battle the fifth place CONMEBOL team for a World Cup berth. That could be Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, or even Colombia.
Tahiti hosts Papua New Guinea at 1 a.m. EDT Wednesday, and will be the odds-on favorite to face New Zealand with a win.
Larin, 21, has started the MLS season off in red-hot form and the report suggests the Toffees have bid $4 million for his talents. They’ll likely have to up that offer for the Canadian national team star.
What is Larin all about?
With Romelu Lukaku seeming to be heading towards the exit door this summer as his contract saga rumbles on, it’s not outlandish to state that Larin has a very similar style to the prolific Belgian international. Of course, he has yet to test himself in the PL and Lukaku’s boots would be a big pair to fill if Larin did arrive at Goodison Park as some kind of replacement in the coming months, yet when you watch Larin play there are so many similarities between the pair.