Premier League Power Rankings – We have a new team at the top… Round 23-24

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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.

(MORE: Premier League Power Rankings archive)

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!

RANKING
Up/Down

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1 UP 2
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)
source:  2 DOWN 1
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)
source:  3 DOWN 2
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)
source:  4 UP 2
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)

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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)
source:  6 DOWN 2
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)
source:  7 UP 2 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)
source:  8
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)
source:  9 UP 1
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)
source:  10 DOWN 3
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)
source:  11
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)
source:  12 UP 4 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)

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13 UP 2 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)
source:  14 DOWN 2
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)
source:  15 UP 2
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)
source:  16 DOWN 3
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)
source:  17 DOWN 3
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)
source:  18
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)
source:  19
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)
source:  20
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)

‘Nothing is impossible’: Bonucci brings hope to AC Milan

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MILAN (AP) Nothing is impossible. That’s AC Milan’s new unofficial slogan following Leonardo Bonucci’s surprise transfer from defending six-time Serie A champion Juventus.

[ MORE: Neymar reportedly tells Barca teammates he’s off to PSG ]

Presenting fans to Bonucci via Weibo on Friday, Milan CEO Marco Fassone recounted how Italy’s top defender moved to a rival club.

“It started by chance and it seemed impossible but Leo interrupted me right away and said, `Nothing is impossible. When there’s desire to do things you can get them done.”‘

Milan has been on a spending spree following the club’s sale to a Chinese-led consortium for $800 million in April, and Bonucci is the top acquisition, so far.

“Leo doesn’t require introductions,” Fassone said. “It’s an extraordinary reinforcement for us. … He completes a mosaic sought after by (Milan chief sport officer Massimiliano) Mirabelli – a mix of younger players and experienced leaders who will make the road ahead easier.”

Other recent signings by Milan included forward Andre Silva from FC Porto; midfielders Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti (Atalanta), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Lucas Biglia (Lazio); and defender Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal).

Bonucci thanked Kessie for letting him wear his preferred No. 19 shirt, and pointed to Milan’s seven European Cups and Champions League titles as a reference point for a club that did not even qualify for continental play the last three years and hasn’t won Serie A since 2011.

“Milan deserves to be among the elite again in Italy and Europe,” Bonucci said. “When you are united you win. The strength has to be that of the squad whereas singular players alone can do nothing. We can get back to the top and that’s what this club deserves.”

Bonucci’s transfer fee reportedly topped the 40 million euro ($45 million) mark, and the center back was signed to a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros ($11 million) per season, including bonuses – making him the highest-paid player in Italy.

Meanwhile, Juventus is reportedly near to signing prized winger Federico Bernardeschi from Fiorentina for a reported fee of 40 million euros ($45 million). The Gazzetta dello Sport reported Juventus will sign the 23-year-old Bernardeschi to five-year contract worth 4 million euros ($4.6 million) per season.

Vertonghen: “We need to level up” like rest of PL contenders

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Tottenham put up a heck of a title fight in 2016/17 as the club attempted to chase down Premier League champions Chelsea, but Spurs have been inactive this summer as Mauricio Pochettino‘s group gears up for next month.

[ MORE: Striker Morata signs five-year contract with Chelsea ]

The London side finished second in the PL a season ago — a record-high for the club during the modern Premier League Era.

[ VIDEO: History of the North London Derby ]

However, Pochettino and Co. have made no moves in the transfer market this summer, while its competitors — Chelsea, Manchester United, etc. — have all made significant roster additions to bolster their lineups.

Defender Jan Vertonghen says that Spurs must compete with the rest of the PL’s elite in the transfer market if the club is to finally realize its goal of finishing atop England’s top flight.

“The way our rivals are strengthening this season, we need to be aware of that and we need to level up as well,” Vertonghen told ESPN FC.

“I’m not saying with new players, but we need to take our levels up and I think we can. I’m the oldest outfield player in the team and I feel very fit. The younger guys can improve even more. It can definitely be our year and we want it to be our year.

“Luckily we almost kept everyone from this year. Obviously the window is not closed yet but if we can keep these guys, we can do the same thing again. It’ll be a bit harder because we play at Wembley! [The pitch] is a lot bigger but the training pitches have already been adapted.

While Spurs certainly benefit from having one of the strongest young groups of players in England, the club’s lack of spending is a bit concerning, especially after its recent loss of Kyle Walker — who joined Manchester City for a record fee.

Zouma signs new Chelsea contract, is immediately loaned to Stoke City

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Kurt Zouma‘s long-term future is secure at Chelsea, but his short-term future will be away from Stamford Bridge.

The France international centerback signed a new six-year contract with Chelsea and was promptly sent out on a season-long loan to Stoke City. Zouma made just three starts and nine total appearances last season as he came back from a torn ACL suffered in February 2016.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

“It is fantastic Kurt has chosen to commit his future to Chelsea,” Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo said in a statement. “He has shown his talent since joining us three years ago, and has returned from a serious injury with a fantastic attitude.

“Now he has the opportunity to play regularly in the Premier League and we will be monitoring his progress closely while he is at Stoke.”

The move to Stoke will give Zouma a new experience, playing for a mid-table side in the Premier League, and it will be interesting to see where he fits in at centerback, battling with American Geoff Cameron and Englishman Ryan Shawcross.

Even with John Terry leaving the club, Zouma was likely to be second-choice in the back three for Chelsea and if he wants to make France’s squad for the 2018 World Cup, he’ll have to play regularly.

Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea

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Chelsea FC will have another Spanish international leading the front line, with Diego Costa likely on his way out of town.

The club announced that Alvaro Morata has completed a transfer from Real Madrid, signing a five-year contract at Stamford Bridge. The BBC reports the transfer fee at nearly $78 million.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

“I am so happy to be here,” Morata said in a statement. “It’s an incredible emotion to be part of this big club. I am looking to work hard, score as many goals as I can and to win as many trophies as possible.”

Morata emerged as an option to replace Costa after Romelu Lukaku decided on joining Manchester United over his former club Chelsea. Morata, who was a Manchester United target at first, then turned his sights on London after becoming disillusioned in Madrid, playing second-fiddle to Karim Benzema.

Despite not being first-choice up top, Morata scored 15 goals in 26 La Liga games and another three in the UEFA Champions League, which Real Madrid went on to win over Morata’s former club Juventus. Morata started for Juventus the last time the club had been in the Champions League final.

Despite being just 24, Morata is emerging as one of the world’s top forwards. He has nine goals in 19 games for the Spanish National Team and now is the right time for him to experience the challenge of the Premier League, where the games come thick and fast and the pace of the game is a step up from what he’s experienced in Spain and Italy.

However, the tactical knowledge he’s learned in both places should help him in England, where he can position himself between the opposing centerbacks.