In the past seven days we’ve seen two Premier League matchdays take place and there’s been so many surprises that’s it hard to keep track.
Manchester United’s continuing fall from grace has been the main storyline, but Everton’s terrific displays, Chelsea’s struggles and a revival from basement boys Crystal Palace and others is also worth nothing.
There’s been so many changes in the rankings this week, as teams begin to position themselves accordingly for the busy festive period on the horizon.
By now you should know the drill. 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.
Let’s get to it!
Arsenal: First slip up of sorts for the Gunners, as they were outplayed by Everton for most of their 1-1 draw. Flamini isn’t their best player but certainly the most important and they looked a much better outfit when he came off the bench. Mental toughness will be huge for Arsene Wenger’s team over Christmas. Massive test away at City this week, can they take points from Pellegrini’s men at the Eithad? If Ozil Cazorla and Ramsey are on form, yes. (11-2-2)
Liverpool: The Luis Suarez show continues to take center stage at Anfield, my word this man is something else. Five goals in his last two games (and another two efforts which were deflected in as own goals) shows how much of a menace he really is. Brendan Rodgers’ men need him now more than ever with Daniel Sturridge out. Huge test away at Spurs, do we fancy Suarez to keep his red-hot form going? (9-3-3)
Manchester City: Away from home, City have been feeble this season and they dropped more points and could’ve easily lost in their 1-1 draw with the Saints. Eight points from eight games away from the Etihad says it all. Luckily this week they’re at home, but they do host league leaders Arsenal. This will be an intriguing battle which will see City try to make up some ground on the Gunners as Pellegrini’s title credentials will be on full view. Will Aguero and Negredo continue up top? Or will he pack the midfield? (9-2-4)
Everton: The big movers this week, the Toffees impressed me, amongst many others, at the Emirates. Ross Barkley is a future superstar in midfield and the solid defense ushered by Tim Howard means they always give themselves a chance to win games. They left Arsenal with a 1-1 draw after a pulsating clash as they Toffees came racing out of the traps. But they need to score more goals as they create so many chances. This weekend against Fulham they need to do something similar. (7-7-1)
Chelsea: Defensive lapses and conceding boat loads of goals, this isn’t a Jose Mourinho team is it? Oh, it is… that’s awkward. A shocking 3-2 defeat away at Stoke on Saturday highlighted the Blues weaknesses and Moruinho admitted afterwards that he doesn’t like what he’s seeing from his defense after they leaded six goals in two games last week. Inconsistency has riddled Chelsea all season, will they bounce back against Palace? (9-3-3)
Tottenham: A return to form, of sorts, as Spurs won back-to-back games away from home 2-1 and showed steely determination by coming from behind to win both. Andre Villas-Boas was delighted and his side face Liverpool at home this week knowing a win could see their top four hopes given a massive boost before the Christmas break. Roberto Soldado, Andros Townsend and others were benched, there’s no way AVB should change his settled side. (8-3-4)
Newcastle: A poor defeat away at Swansea was followed up by the Magpies first win at Old Trafford since 1972, when they beat Manchester United thanks to Cabaye’s second half strike. Newcastle were solid, organized and rode their luck a little in the win. But Alan Pardew’s team has a real chance of pushing on and challenging the top four. They face Southampton at home this weekend, in a game the ‘Toon Army’ will expect them to win. (8-2-5)
Southampton: Speak of the devil, or, the Saints in this case, Mauricio Pochettino’s men make the long trip North to Newcastle knowing they’ve stopped the rot following three-straight defeats. Injuries haven’t been kind to the Saints but they dominated Man City at St. Mary’s and an in-form Daniel Osvaldo (his goal vs. City is an early contender for goal of the season) could see them push into the top six once again. (6-5-4)
Swansea City: A good week for the Swans overall as they beat Newcastle 3-0 and drew with Hull to move back into the top 10. Michael Laudrup’s men have a massive Europa League game coming up against St. Gallen this week as their squad will once again be stretched to the limit. Can the South Wales club push on from their promising start to December? (5-4-6)
Manchester United: What is up with United? We could write a novel on David Moyes’ trials and tribulations so far and we’re not even halfway through the season! Two 1-0 home defeats to Everton and Newcastle, their first successive home losses since 2002 in the league, have everyone questioning Moyes again and his side just don’t look confident or able to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Attacking impetus is badly needed, so expect plenty of new names to come in during the January window. (6-4-5)
Hull City: The Tigers are plateauing out after a good start to the season but they’re still sat comfortably in midtable. A narrow defeat away at Arsenal and then a solid draw at Swansea proves they are extremely difficult to to beat. Stoke at home this week is a massive chance to get back into the top 10. (5-3-7)
Norwich City: Superb win away from home vs. West Brom for the Canaries and two wins from their last three has seen them surge up the standings. Gary Hooper is back scoring and defensively, Chris Hughton’s side look much more solid. Home game v Swansea is a chance to keep the good run going. (5-2-8)
Aston Villa: Villans had a mixed bag after they beat Southampton away with a great display of counter-attacking play before losing at basement boys Fulham. Paul Lambert’s side haven’t got much strength in-depth and Christian Benteke’s lack of form is worrying. Man Utd at home this weekend… Can they pile more misery on Moyes? (5-4-6)
Stoke City: The Potters grabbed just their second win in 10 league games by beating Chelsea late on thanks to Assaidi’s wonder-goal. Mark Hughes’ side have been battling away and now have just one defeat in six games. A trip to Hull could see them build on an impressive win. (4-5-6)
Crystal Palace: Can Pulis really save Palace? Of course he can. Two wins in a row at home have seen the Eagles join the pack above them and there’s real hope in South London. A tough trip across the capital to face Chelsea awaits this weekend. But now could be a good time to play them. Hope. (4-1-10)
West Brom:The Baggies are dropping back, and alarmingly so after no win in five games and three defeats on the spin. Steve Clarke’s side are now just two points off the relegation zone and I think it’s safe to say West Brom could get dragged into the battle for survival this season. Hold on to your hats. (3-6-6)
Fulham: Two spirited displays in Rene Meulensteen’s first two games in charge saw the Cottagers finally ended their run of seven-straight defeats as they beat Aston Villa 2-0 on Sunday. Dimitar Berbatov is back hungry and ready to lead Fulham out of trouble. Promising times are back, for now, down by the bank of the Thames. (4-1-10)
Cardiff City: The Bluebirds were very poor against Palace and the lack of goals they’ve scored this season, just 11, should be worrying for Malkay Mackay. No win in five shows theirs struggles and a big home game v West Brom is coming up in the Welsh capital this weekend. Home win? (3-5-7)
West Ham: Chants of “Allardyce Out” are already beginning to emanate from the stands at Upton Park, as the Hammers poor run of form continues. Still no recognized striker staring most games means no attacking nous and bland soccer has taken over. Four defeats in their last five has seen Big Sam’s men plummet and a relegation battle is on. (3-4-8)
Sunderland: Gus Poyet lifted everyone at Sunderland when he arrived as the new manager… now he has to do it again. The Black Cats have now lost three of their last four and despite spirited displays in narrow defeats to Chelsea and Spurs, silly defensive mistakes are costing the Mackems. At the moment they’re playing like a side destined for the drop. (2-2-11)
“Nobody remembers the losers” — Simeone admits he’ll consider his future at Atleti
“I am thinking that I have to start thinking. It’s a logical question for you to ask after a defeat like the one we’ve suffered today.
“We had the chance to become champions, we didn’t take that chance. We need to continue working, I have to think things out on my part – that’s what I’m doing now.
“What is clear to me is that nobody remembers the losers. We have to get over this and heal our wounds.”
With so much turnover in the Premier League already this season and few jobs open, where would Simeone go? He’s a football junkie, not someone we’d expect to “take a year off”, and his passion for Atleti still makes it feel unlikely he’d leave the club at all.
That said, he’s conducted some monumental reorganizations around the Vicente Calderon, and the energy it takes to do such a thing may have him considering whether he should try his luck at another locale (especially if Antoine Griezmann and other big stars find new homes).
A league superstar scored a hat trick, but so did a new face. Two surging and surprising clubs drew in Colorado, and two stumbling powers went head-to-head in New England.
Montreal 3-2 L.A. Galaxy
The big names came out to play in Quebec, as Didier Drogba, Giovani dos Santos, Ignacio Piatti and Steven Gerrard all played part in a thriller. Drogba was the key, setting up a goal before scoring at the very end of stoppage time to lift the Impact past the Galaxy. Then again, you could make a pretty valid argument that L.A. goalkeeper Brian Rowe was the key, because… dude:
The Sounders have seen a lot of penalty calls against them this year, but this one will make fans think there’s a conspiracy against them. With a 1-0 lead, a Seattle clearance pegged Erik Friberg in the gut, catching him in a clear act of ball playing hand. Lee Nguyen converted the penalty, and Femi Hollinger-Janzen scored late to give the Revs a much-needed win and sink Seattle further down the “Why?!?” rabbit hole.
Colorado 1-1 Philadelphia
There wasn’t much brewing until late between the two conference leaders, who kept hold of their No. 1 seeds after Sam Cronin and Brian Carroll traded goals in the final five minutes of play in Colorado.
New York Red Bulls 3-0 Toronto FC
Bradley Wright-Phillips scored the fastest hat trick to start a match in Major League Soccer history, while the reigning MVP had to leave the game with a non-contact injury. Gonzalo Veron saw red for RBNY, but it did not help TFC get back in the game. To make things worse for TFC, Will Johnson made a PK only to miss when forced to retake for encroachment.
Columbus 4-3 Real Salt Lake
Hola, Ola. Ola Kamara scored a hat trick around a Justen Glad own goal as the hosts scored four uninterrupted goals as the Crew and RSL played a pair of busy halves in Ohio. Joao Plata had a goal and an assist for the visitors, while Jordan Allen and Luke Mulholland also got on the board.
Elsewhere Vancouver 1-1 Houston — RECAP Chicago 1-1 Portland
Sporting KC 0-1 DC United —RECAP San Jose 0-0 FC Dallas
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Christian Pulisic, whose name was known to only the most ardent of U.S. national team supporters six short months ago, is the fastest rising star in American soccer these days, but you’d never know it just listening to him talk.
Speaking after the USMNT’s 4-0 victory over Bolivia here at Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday — having made a big bit of history of his own in the process (WATCH HERE) — Pulisic seemed to have just walked off the field following just another ordinary game — something you’d be easily tricked into thinking he’d done 500 times thus far in his career.
USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has something of a theory to explain Pulisic’s meteoric rise, from making his Borussia Dortmund debut three months ago, to scoring his first international goal on Saturday: the youngster is fearless — perhaps because he’s not been around the block enough to know any better, but without fear of conscience in the face of any challenge nonetheless.
“I think he is a wonderful kid. He’s grounded, he knows that he has a long way to go, but he has no fear, and this is very important — not having fear, especially when you play in our region (CONCACAF), where it becomes really physical. What you’re going to see next Friday will be very, very physical.”
On that lack of fear, Pulisic says it’s something that was instilled in him at a very young age, playing soccer and living an ordinary childhood in his hometown of Hershey, Penn., before it became clear that his future was to be anything but ordinary. Fear does seem a foreign concept to the now-three-times-capped USMNT starlet when asked how he’s made the transition from Dortmund Under-19s, to Dortmund first team, to USMNT impact-maker, so seamlessly.
“It’s just what I learned since I was a little kid. My dad taught me no matter what — I would play against these bigger players — to just be myself. I knew that I was good enough, that I had the ability, so I never shy away from any moment and I don’t think anyone should.”
The challenges for a 17-year-old earning his stripes on a team chock-full of established stars such as Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Tim Howard and on and on, are innumerable. From trying to impress Klinsmann and earn a share of first-team minutes, to “making friends” with the senior members of the squad, Pulisic is just doing his best to fit in and prove he can contribute at next week’s 2016 Copa America Centenario — the USMNT’s last major tournament before the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“The guys have taken me in, they’re all really nice, and it’s helped me a lot that I’ve been with them a few weeks now. It’s getting more and more comfortable. I’m making more friends. Normally, you’d hang out with some of the younger guys — kind of work your way up. You really have to earn your respects on the field. Off the field, they’re all nice guys.”
And yet, with all of that said, an air of naiveté hangs over Pulisic as he talks of becoming the youngest goalscorer in USMNT history (17 years, 253 days), the 17-year-old that he is. Does the magnitude of such an accomplishment register an hour after that record-breaking strike?
“Honestly, no. I’m just living life, living in the moment. It’s cool — stats and stuff are cool — but I want to win this tournament coming up. That’s the overall goal, so I don’t really care too much about being the [youngest] goalscorer.”
Yes, the United States should beat Bolivia at home, and soundly, but that doesn’t make Saturday’s 4-0 win in Kansas City any less fun.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s men throttled Bolivia, picking up the biggest win over a South American foe in national team history while writing in the U.S. men’s record book from an individual standpoint as well.
Christian Pulisic became the youngest goal scorer in USMNT history, and the Americans will be feeling pretty good after improving to 7-1-1 in their last nine games before the start of the Copa America Centenario on Friday in California.
So who showed well? See below:
Brad Guzan — 7 — Called on only once or twice, but made the saves. Always hard to know what to score a goalkeeper who doesn’t have much to do. We’ll go with 7.
Matt Besler (off HT) — 7 — Filling in at left back wasn’t a problem for Sporting KC’s center back, and he even pulled off a nifty attacking trick or two.
John Brooks — 6 — Made up for a horrible giveaway by charging into the play to score the Yanks’ second goal. Out of position on a late chance that Guzan handled well.
Geoff Cameron — 7 — This team is so much better when he is healthy. Have to wonder if the Confederations Cup berth would’ve been assured with him last summer.
Michael Orozco (off HT) — 6 — Wasn’t noticed much, and that’s good for him.
Bobby Wood —7 — Lively and active, even if his finish was off.
Gyasi Zardes (Off, 64′) —7 — If he wasn’t fighting his first touch, might’ve scored 3 or 4. Two is pretty good, though, right? He’d be a center forward, but Klinsmann needs to know the man up top can handle his first touch better.
Clint Dempsey (Off, 73′) — 6 — By no means bad. Is it too far off to say he’s doing the American version of the waning years of Cuauthemoc Blanco’s Mexican prime?
Fabian Johnson (On, HT) — 6 — Slow to get back on Bolivia’s only scoring chance.
DeAndre Yedlin (On, HT) — 6 — Like Orozco, had very little to do on the right side.
Christian Pulisic (On, 64′) — 7 — He’s a mouth-watering prospect, and became the youngest goal scorer in USMNT history.