Premier League Power Rankings: Manchester City get a second chance – Week 36

Leave a comment

Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City… who you got?

As we head into the final two weeks of the Premier League season, everything is still to play for at the top and bottom of this remarkable league.

Steve Gerrard’s slip cost Liverpool against Chelsea and now Man City are in the driving seat to win the title, while Sunderland have jumped out of the bottom three and Norwich have slipped into the dreaded drop zone.

Being in form at this point of the season is when it really matters.

(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

source:

1 UP 1
Manchester City: The Citizens now have their destiny in their own hands as three wins against Everton, Aston Villa and West Ham means they will the title on goal difference if Liverpool win out and fail to overturn a -8 goal differential. A trip away to play Everton is, on paper, their toughest test to come. Can City hold their nerve? (24-5-6)
source:  2 DOWN 1
Liverpool: Brendan Rodgers was outsmarted by Jose Mourinho and Liverpool’s title hopes now rely on Man City slipping up between now and May 11. Steven Gerrard’s slip cost the Reds dear and now they face Crystal Palace away and Newcastle at home knowing they must win both to give themselves a fighting chance of winning the title. (25-5-6)
source:  3
Chelsea: A mixed week for the Blues, as they beat Liverpool away to keep their slender chances of winning the PL title alive but then lost in the second leg of their UCL semifinal to Atletico Madrid. Jose Mourinho has enjoyed a tumultuous season back in the Stamford Bridge hot-seat. Norwich at home should be an easy 3 points for the Blues as they aim to not lose at home for three-straight matches. (24-6-6)
source:  4
Arsenal: A four point lead over Everton with two games to go, the Gunners looked to have sealed a UCL berth for the 18th straight season. Hats off to Mr. Wenger. Now it is about getting the job done as they host West Brom on Sunday. If they get the point they need, the focus will then switch to the FA Cup final. (22-7-7)

source:

5 UP 1
Tottenham: Spurs ground out a win away at Stoke but it was far from easy at the Britannia. Danny Rose headed home but was then taken off as things boiled over. Tim Sherwood’s side can no longer finish in the top four but look to have secured a Europa League spot. (20-6-10)
source:  6 UP 3
Southampton: The Saints secured a morale boosting 2-0 win against Everton as Mauricio Pochettino’s men have eighth placed all sewn up baring a monumental collapse in the goals for and against column. Tremendous season for the South Coast club but can they keep hold of their young stars? Swansea away up next. (14-10-12)
source:  7 DOWN 2
Everton: Robert Martinez’s men simply didn’t show up against Saints and looked a little jaded. They’ve had a wonderful season and know that anything less than a win over Man City will all but hand the fourth and final UCL spot to Arsenal. Can the Toffees do their Merseyside neighbors Liverpool a big favor? (20-9-7)
source:  8 UP 2
Manchester United: Ryan Giggs looked the part as United manager in that smartly pressed suit, didn’t he? Whether or not he gets the job long-term, Giggsy put smiles back on the faces of the Old Trafford faithful as they smashed Norwich 4-0. Now United host Sunderland and if they win their last three matches, they could finish sixth if Spurs slip up. (18-6-11)
source:  9 DOWN 2
Stoke City: The Potters were hard done by against Spurs as Ryan Shwacross was harshly given a second yellow. Mark Hughes’ men battled with 10-men and they are in fine form to finish the season. What can we expect from Stoke next season? This weekend we can expect an almighty scrap against Fulham. (11-11-14)
source:  10 DOWN 2
Crystal Palace: Tony Pulis’ Eagles had their wings clipped by title-chasing Man City on Sunday as their winning spree came to an end. On Monday they host Liverpool as Palace will have a huge say in the PL title race. Can they cause a huge upset? (13-4-19)
source:  11 UP 5 Sunderland: The Black Cats are surging up the rankings as they lifted themselves out of the relegation zone for the first time since February 10 after beating Cardiff on Sunday. Gus Poyet’s men now head to Man United full of confidence and are three games unbeaten. (8-8-19)
source:  12
Hull City: Steve Bruce’s side showed plenty of spirit to drag themselves from 2-0 down and draw away at Fulham but how did they get into the situation? Hull have prided themselves on having a water-tight defense for most of the season but that hasn’t been the case recently. A point away at Aston Villa will secure their PL status. (10-7-18)
source:  13 UP 1
Swansea City: The Swans needed that 4-1 home win against Villa, big time. Jonjo Shelvey scored a wondergoal and Garry Monk has steered their ship back on course after a shaky season. Can they win three on the spin by beating Saints on Saturday? (10-9-17)
source:  14 UP 5
West Brom: Pepe Mel bagged his first win as West Brom boss in their 1-0 win over West Ham and the Baggies are almost clear of the bottom three. They need a big performance against Arsenal on Sunday. (7-15-13)
source:  15 DOWN 2
Fuham: Poor old Felix. Just went you thought the Cottagers were going to climb out of the bottom three, wham. Hull’s two late goals hit Fulham hard and they must now travel to Stoke before they host Palace on the final day of the season. Should they win both, it may still not be enough. (9-4-23)
source:  16 DOWN 5
West Ham: The Hammers are plummeting down the standings and are still not clear of relegation with teams below them having a game in hand. Tottenham at home poses a tough test for the Irons, as their boss Sam Allardyce is coming under increasing pressure from the home fans. (10-7-19)
source:  17 DOWN 2
Newcastle: Speaking of pressure, it is now mounting on Alan Pardew as Newcastle have lost six in a row and are looking shambolic. Magpies fans have finally turned on their boss and they simply must beat Cardiff on Saturday. (14-4-18)
source:  18 DOWN 1

Aston Villa: Another team struggling to get over the finishing line is Villa and they are in now danger of going down. If they don’t beat Hull on on Saturday then Paul Lambert’s men will go into the final day of the season in a seriously sticky situation. No win in six and five defeats in that run. (9-8-18)
source:  19 DOWN 1
Cardiff City: The Bluebirds were battered away at Sunderland last Sunday and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer knows his side must beat Newcastle or they could be relegated. It has been a long, hard season in South Wales as Cardiff could drop out of the top-flight at the first time of asking. (7-9-20)
source:  20

Norwich City: The Canaries are in serious danger of going down to, as they go to Chelsea and must win to give themselves a chance. The problem is, they face Arsenal on the final day of the season. Interim boss Neil Adams has to get at least a point in his last two games to keep Norwich in the PL. (8-8-20)

Poignant FA Cup final reflects current mood in UK

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON — Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 to win the 2016-17 FA Cup on Saturday at Wembley Stadium, but this was about much more than a game of soccer.

“They just keep coming, no matter what, don’t they?” said a fellow journalist I bumped into surveying the scene outside Wembley before kick off as a wave of red and blue supporters inched towards the home of soccer while under armed police guard.

They certainly did.

The FA Cup final on Saturday, a 90,000 sellout, provided most of the UK with a slight distraction from a nightmare week where the worst terrorist attack since the 7/7 bombings in 2005 dominated the hearts and minds of a nation.

After watching on in horror as 22 people were killed and 116 injured by a suicide bomber outside Manchester Arena late Monday, the attention of everyone in the UK has been focused on the atrocity in Manchester.

That horrendous attack led to the UK being placed into the highest terror threat level of “critical” for just the third time since it was introduced in 2006 and things like soccer games, rivalries and trophies seemed somewhat meaningless as the threat of an “imminent attack” dominated the news.

It didn’t matter that this was a final being played between two Premier League teams from London. Everyone had Manchester on their minds.

A few hours before the game British Prime Minister Theresa May downgraded the terror threat level to “severe” rather than critical, but that didn’t stop armed policeman in abundance at Wembley as armored police cars replaced some of the burger vans which usually littered the roads near Wembley Way.

Arsenal fan Andy Calcutt stood on an elevated walkway outside Wembley having a cigarette as he pushed his sunglasses further up his nose.

The skyline of London was visible in the distance on a glorious early summer day and the message was clear: terrorists will never win.

“It is the British spirit to soldier on and go through it. It is fantastic today,” Calcutt said. “Nobody that I know has any issues about turning up to a big event. There is obviously more of a security presence, which gives you a bit of reassurance, but it’s not an issue for anyone here. We keep on going through our day to day. That’s how we get on.”

As the glorious sunshine beat down on Wembley two hours before kick off, there was a lingering sense of remembrance but celebration was in the air too.

On Friday the most senior counter-terrorism officer in the UK, Mark Rowley, urged citizens to “go out as you planned and enjoy yourselves” around the bank holiday weekend.

After the week the UK has had, it is easy to understand why that was the message following security measures being reviewed for over 1,300 events as the Aviva Premiership rugby final took place at Twickenham, the Manchester Great Run was scheduled and there were many huge events up and down the nation.

The FA Cup final was by far the biggest as the eyes of the world fixed itself on Wembley.

Chelsea fan Marcus Mays stood with his partner looking out on Wembley Way as the fans flooded in before the cup final.

“I was born in Manchester and I have a lot of friends from up that way and I think everyone was behind Manchester United for their Europa League win in midweek. It was lovely to see,” Mays said. “We have got to get on with our lives and I think everyone appreciates that. I can’t imagine anybody swerving a cup final because of the terrorist attack. Everyone has to crack on with their lives.”

That sentiment was echoed time and time again by everyone in and around Wembley. There was plenty more waiting in lines before you got into the stadium but nobody complained, nobody moaned. They queued and got on with it with a smile on their face.

As I walked out of Wembley Park underground station before the game, a guy in an Arsenal shirt went up to a policeman and shook his hand and thanked him, then walked off.

It has been that kind of week, to appreciate those around you and what you have.

At times like these you call your family and friends more often, you kiss your wife, husband or kids more. You reach out to strangers and offer a smile while sat on the subway train, or a polite nod, when previously the stresses of the modern world appeared to be too much to offer such niceties.

Even in a major cup final between bitter rivals there was respect.

Sure, there was chanting back and forth between Chelsea and Arsenal fans beforehand, laughter and jokes as groups of friends met up in among policeman armed with semi-automatic rifles, but just before kick off it became apparent how reflective the mood was.

There was an immaculately observed minute’s silence to remember the victims as both teams stood united around the center-circle, linked to their teammates. 90,000 fans stood in silence as some began to chant “Manchester!” but quickly stopped.

Fans held up signs reading “I love MCR!” and on the large TV screens at either end of Wembley messages simply read “We Stand Together” as the vast three-tier venue stood perfectly still.

Following a week like this it easy to brush off the insignificance of sport. So often fans, and even players and managers, watch or get involved in the action to try and forget everything else in life for a few hours a week.

Speaking after the game, Antonio Conte reinforced that message, one he had shared before the game.

“It was an important game but don’t forget the tragedy in Manchester,” Conte said in the aftermath of defeat.

He was right. This was no place to forget.

Chelsea and Arsenal’s fans held banners up saluting Manchester and the victims of the attacks and before the game both clubs canceled plans for a trophy parade in London on Sunday, out of respect for Manchester and also to not put a further burden on the already-stretched police force as they continue their huge investigations.

Everyone in the stadium and everyone at home hoped they’d never have to live through seeing scenes like this again. Children and their families killed as they left a music concert.

At times like these sport can provide a distraction and helps some to heal, but there’s so many more important things going on in the UK, and across the globe, right now.

The overall message portrayed at Wembley on Saturday was a poignant one: this was no time to hide.

Now, even in one of the darkest moments for the UK in recent history, was the time to face the world and stand tall.

“It’s just another day. You can’t live in fear, can you?” Arsenal fan Ryan Kilburn said. “There’s no point in hiding.”

Pulisic helps Borussia Dortmund to German Cup win

AP Photo/Michael Sohn
Leave a comment

Christian Pulisic won the decisive penalty kick as Borussia Dortmund won its fourth German Cup final with a 2-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.

Pulisic subbed into the match to earn a foul off the keeper, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang converted the PK in Panenka style to ice the win.

[ MORE: Gunners win FA Cup

It’s BVB’s first Cup win since 2011-12, and ends a run of three-straight German Cup Final losses.

The 13-times capped USMNT winger finishes his club season with 43 appearances, five goals, and 13 assists. Not bad for an 18-year-old.

Conte’s verdict on FA Cup’s controversial flashpoints

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Failing at a first season double hasn’t taken the shine off a fine first season for Antonio Conte at Chelsea.

The Italian mastermind was adamant that his season was great, and that his side just had a rough day at the office on Saturday.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea | Three things from Wembley ]

That’s not just about form, either. There was, depending on your viewpoint, either a handball, offside, both, or neither in the run-up to Arsenal’s first goal, and Victor Moses was sent-off for diving when it appeared that he anticipated a body challenge that Francis Coquelin never provided.

Did it look like a dive? Yep. Was it? No, but that’s soccer. Here’s Conte’s thoughts on both:

“It’s a clear handball – it’s very clear. I don’t understand why the referee didn’t see this situation. It can happen. Players can make mistakes – referees too. At the end of the season I saw a lot of mistakes against us. Manchester United, Bournemouth. We were unlucky.”

“The Moses yellow card was a key moment. It’s very difficult to tell [whether it was a yellow] – I saw contact with Moses and the defender, but was there contact for a penalty? I don’t know.”

Again, I don’t believe there was diving intent by Moses yet understand why Anthony Taylor saw what he saw. As for the Sanchez handball and Ramsey offside… different story.

Wenger on future, FA Cup win: “It’s about competence.”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arsene Wenger is enjoying his time in the sun, but there’s certainly more than a trace of defiance in the legendary manager’s tone.

Under duress for most of a trying season at the Emirates Stadium, Wenger stood tall after leading Arsenal to a controversial win in the FA Cup Final.

The win is the Gunners’ third in four seasons, and for some would signal a fitting exit from the hot seat at Arsenal.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea | Three things from Wembley ]

Wenger doesn’t see it that way, doubling down on the idea that fans can be as critical as they want outside the stadium if they support their club once the ball is in play.

Wenger admitted that he’s keeping the winner’s medal from this victory, something he’s rarely if ever done. But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to leave London, and he’s not one for making a decision based on sentiment.

“There’s no perfect way. I just want to do well for this club. Apart from that, it’s down to the board members. Am I the right man to lead this club further and that’s it? And for me to decide, It’s up to the board and me. It’s not about popularity it’s about competence.”

As for his future?

“It would be ridiculous that 20 years depends on one game. Overall, we’ll know more next week.