After two matchdays in quick succession across the Premier League, it’s been a hectic last week in England’s top-flight, as top teams have tumbled, managers have been sacked and the relegation battled has got even tighter.
That can only mean one thing: it is time for your new PL Power Rankings.
We have a new leader at the top of the standings, as Chelsea go out on their own after becoming the first team to beat Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. While last weeks joint-leader Arsenal and Man City fall down to second and third respectively.
There’s plenty of fluctuation in our rankings this week, as the games come thick and fast in the PL.
Each week 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!
Chelsea: We have a new leader! As Jose Mourinho’s tactical masterclass saw Chelsea become the first team to win at Man City this season. Okay, a disappointing home draw to West Ham happened before that, but when teams park the bus, that will happen. City were torn apart by Chelsea, who looked solid as a rock. Ominous form from the Blues, up next: Newcastle. (16-5-3)
Arsenal: The Gunners keep on rolling, after a 2-2 draw away at Southampton, then they beat Palace 2-0. Top by two points ahead of Chelsea and Man City, Arsene Wenger’s side won’t give up top spot without a fight. However the lack of a top striker arriving in January may seem them relinquish their spot at the summit. Tough trip to Liverpool this week. (17-4-3)
Manchester City: City didn’t turn up against Chelsea in their 1-0 home defeat, with Fernandinho a big loss. No need to panic for Manuel Pellegrini’s men, but they do need to kick on now and prove that was a blip. Norwich away should yield three points this weekend. (17-2-5)
Liverpool: It was almost a perfect week for the Reds, but then Kolo Toure played a silly pass across the box to drop two points vs. West Brom. Following their emphatic 4-0 derby win over Everton last Tuesday, Brendan Rodgers’ side looked jaded against WBA. Can’t afford that this weekend, as Arsenal head to Anfield. (14-5-5)
Everton: We spoke about their drubbing at Anfield, but Robert Martinez’ team responded by beating Aston Villa 2-1 at Goodison Park. Look, the Toffees should be in a rebuilding year but are still challenging for a Champions League spot. Magnificent effort. Huge game at Spurs this Sunday. (12-9-3)
Tottenham: And Spurs are up next, as they fall in our rankings after a 5-1 loss to Man City when their defense capitulated and they then battled to a 1-1 draw away at Hull. Sherwood’s side will be okay and should finish in the top six, but is that top 4 dream fading away? (13-5-6)
Southampton: A very decent run of results from the Saints has seen their bright start revitalized. Four games unbeaten now, with a 2-2 draw with Arsenal followed up by a smashing 3-0 win away at Fulham. Saints should have beaten the Gunners and the likes of Lallana and Rodriguez are flying. Stoke at home next. (9-8-7)
Manchester United: Just when things look to be going right for United, they falter. On Saturday the lost away to Stoke City 2-1 in their eighth loss of the PL season. Manager David Moyes tried to put a positive spin on things, as even the returning RVP and Rooney, plus Mata’s arrival has failed to wake United up from their nightmare. Fulham at home next, must be a big win. (12-4-8)
Sunderland: Ha’way the lads! I was at St. James’ Park on Saturday as the Mackems destroyed North East rivals Newcastle 3-0. That followed their dogged 1-0 midweek win over Stoke and now Gus Poyet’s men are rolling away from the relegation zone. Massive home game vs. Hull City this weekend. (6-6-12)
Newcastle: The Magpies lost Yohan Cabaye on deadline day which was a massive blow. Newcastle have failed to score in their last two games, losing 3-0 at home to bitter rivals Sunderland and drawing with Norwich. On top of that Joe Kinnear has resigned as director of football, as the Magpies season threatens to unravel. A trip to Chelsea is not what they needed. (11-4-9)
Aston Villa: The PL’s resident Jekyll and Hyde side have been steady in the past few weeks, with a thrilling 4-3 win over West Brom and then a narrow 2-1 loss at Everton in their past two games. Benteke is looking back in form, which is good news for the Villans. A home game vs. West Ham this Saturday is hugely winnable. (7-6-11)
Crystal Palace: Tony Pulis has totally transformed the Eagles. They are tough to beat, especially at home, and have players like Puncheon, Jerome and Chamakh who can make a difference. A big win at home vs. Hull was followed by a spirited 2-0 defeat to Arsenal. HUGE home game vs. WBA on Saturday. (7-2-15)
Stoke City: The Potters beat Man United last Saturday, their first ever PL win over the Red Devils. It was a determined display as Adam smashed in two and Stoke outlasted United in the swirling wind. However Mark Hughes’ side did lose to Sunderland before that, and are still in a relegation battle. Away game at Saints this weekend. (6-7-11)
Norwich City: Bad week for the Canaries who drew at home to Newcastle then lost away to Cardiff. They failed to grab a new striker in the January transfer window, something they badly needed as Hughton’s side are still struggling for goals. Norwich could well be in the bottom three after this weekend, as a trip to Man City looms large. They did win at the Etihad last season… (6-6-12)
West Ham: There are plenty of Happy Hammers around this week, as four points from an away trip to Chelsea and home game vs. Swansea is a tremendous return. Two clean sheets will please Big Sam, plus Andy Carroll is back in form. Although his red card has upset the apple cart a little. A win away at Villa could drag them out of the drop zone. (5-7-12)
Hull City: The Tigers continue to slide, despite a promising home draw with Tottenham on Saturday. Before that they lost away at Palace in a game where Steve Bruce’s men were out battled. But with Shane Long bagging his first goal and Jelavic looking sharp next to him, Hull will be fine. Sunderland away is a monster clash this Saturday. (6-6-12)
Swansea City: Turmoil at the Liberty Stadium, as manager Michael Laudrup was sacked after a poor run of form sees the Swans just two points above the drop zone. Current player Garry Monk has been put in charge, and they now have the huge South Wales derby vs. Cardiff at home to deal with. Sink or swim time. (6-6-12)
Cardiff City:Following a massive comeback win over Norwich last weekend, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer is seeing his side take shape after some big signings in January. Kenwyne Jones could be their talisman. A chance to do the double over South Wales rivals Swansea and jump level with them in the standings this Saturday. Can the Bluebirds pounce (5-6-13)
West Brom: Probably quite harsh that the Baggies are still this low, but they have only won once in their last 10 games and don’t look like they will score at all. Pepe Mel has got one heck of a job on his hands, but the 1-1 draw vs. Liverpool should give them plenty of belief. The Baggies face Palace this weekend. (4-11-9)
Fuham:The Cottagers looked to have done the best business in the window, as Kostas Mitroglou, Johnny Heitinga and Lewis Holtby arrived. But a 3-0 hammering by Saints and an FA Cup exit to League One Sheffield United tells the story. Tough times ahead by the Thames. Trip to Man United this Saturday. (6-1-17)
Seven unheralded stars of this Premier League season
Look, it’s been a crazy year in the Premier League. Leicester City is top by five points, Chelsea is a bottom-half side, and not one of the league’s top three scorers hails from a team in last season’s Top Four.
So it follows that among the league’s other statistical leaders — advanced and traditional — are some surprisingly shining stars.
Or at least they aren’t mentioned a ton. We plan to rectify that here. By no means do we claim these statistical leaders without fault this season, but hats off to the good they’ve done (or, in some cases, the pain they’ve felt).
Most saves in a starring role
You wouldn’t know it from the goal totals these past few weeks, but Stoke City’s Jack Butland has been playing otherworldly between the sticks. His 87 saves lead the Premier League, and the Potters would be in the thick of a relegation battle if he hadn’t shone as brightly.
Eleven players have played every minute of their side’s Premier League campaign this season (a 12th, Gareth Barry, has played all but one). Four of those 11 are goalkeepers, and six more are defenders. The only midfielder? Bournemouth’s South African standout Andrew Surman(above).
Top thief, too
Surman is also the league leader in interceptions with 92. The next seven players on the list, headed by Chris Smalling, are all defenders.
The most under-appreciated of the underdogs
Leicester City has been fantastic, and people are quick to name Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy as big parts of the table-topping effort at King Power Stadium. Then, perhaps they’ll say something about goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel or defender Wes Morgan.
But how about the Premier League’s leader in tackles. Midfielder N'Golo Kante (right) has 115 tackles, 12 more than second-best Yohan Cabaye of Crystal Palace.
An all-expense paid journey to the massage parlor for…
Five players have been fouled more than 50 times this year, and you need to be around the ball a lot for that to happen. The four also-rans are Southampton’s Sadio Mane, Swansea City’s Andre Ayew, Everton’s Ross Barkley and Mahrez, but the man who deserved to skip to the head of the ice bath line is from Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha has been fouled 59 times. And that’s the amount of times the foulers were caught in the act.
He hasn’t been heralded like a year ago, and most witnesses would tell you the midfielder’s been playing much worse. No, touches don’t equal success, but Cesc Fabregas‘ 2,027 credited touches are 74 more than the next player despite the fact that he’s the only player in the top four to have started less than 25 matches. He’s also completed 83 more passes than the closest competitor (Surman).
Advanced stats site Squawka uses an algorithm to generate statistics on who just might be the most complete player in the Premier League.
It’s certainly not foolproof, but the best player per-90 minutes would likely surprise you: Mousa Dembele of Spurs (Minimum 15 matches).
As for who’s produced the most when numbers are averaged out over the entire game, one man rises to the top: Ross Barkley.
His new buyout clause is said to be as high as $53 million, and Carvalho hopes his commitment calms his supporters.
“Sportinguistas, I say to you that I am very happy with the deal which I signed up to 2020 and that you will have total effort on my part to be champions.”
Sporting is tied with Benfica atop the Portuguese table, second on goal differential. The club leads third-place Porto by six points, and is still alive in the Europa League. Bayer Leverkusen is up next.
Perhaps it’ll be different for the players who were a part of January camp — stars Lee Nguyen and Steve Birnbaum chief among them — but Klinsmann says the late start of the MLS season can affect fitness for the critical qualifiers home and away to Guatemala.
That means there’s a better chance to see in-form Championship midfielder Danny Williams (above) or Pachuca’s Omar Gonzalez then, say, Orlando City’s Brek Shea or Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman.
“We are basically looking all over the place. We monitor all the players in Europe. We monitor all the players in Mexico, and obviously we can’t wait until MLS starts as well. It’s really kind of crucial that we see everybody getting in the best shape possible, everybody getting into a rhythm and making statements.
“Then you say, ‘Is the roster you see at the end of March the same one as Copa America?’ Probably not. The end of March comes early for MLS players. The European players are in the full swing, and also Mexican players because they started already a month ago with Liga MX. So we’ll be monitoring everyone.”
We’ve already covered the obstacle that is the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL Olympic qualifying playoff occurring at the same time as the Guatemala matches, but this is still good news for players in England, Germany and other European locales seeking caps in March.
In one case, Benteke put himself in a prime spot only to lash his shot wide of the post. Instead, he’s now at 11 appearances without a goal (despite ripping nine shots against the Irons).
From the BBC:
“I don’t believe in the easy goal. He has to carry on like this. It’s not the nicest moment in his career but he has to work hard. He wants to score and we need him to score. We will work on it in the days, weeks and months.”