Premier League Power Rankings: Familiar faces jostle for the top spot – Week 1

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The mighty Power Rankings are back for the 2014-15 Premier League season.

“All hail the power…” Okay, sorry, got a bit carried away there.

After 180 minutes of action, now is a good time to give all 20 PL teams a quick judgement on their performances so far and see where they stack up. Remember, no sweeping judgments are being made just yet. Let’s do that after Week 3! Just kidding. Sort of.

[Archive: Premier League Power Rankings]

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
Manchester City: Five goals scored, one conceded. A tough away win at Newcastle and then a convincing home victory over last seasons runners up Liverpool. Same old story as the reigning champs begin the new season in imperious form. (2-0-0)
source:  2 Chelsea: Two wins from two for Chelsea so far too, as Jose Mourinho’s rebuild has gone swimmingly thus far. New guys Costa, Fabregas and Courtois have looked superb. They’ve beaten the two new boys. Next up is a tough trip to Everton. (2-0-0)
source:  3 Tottenham: Another club who has six points from six, Spurs. Mauricio Pochettino’s arrival has been like a breath of fresh air. Tottenham’s players are thriving under the Argentine. Five goals scored, zero conceded and a place in the Europa League group stages secured. Great start. (2-0-0)
source:  4 Swansea City: The Swans are flying high too. Garry Monk’s men beat Manchester United away on the opening day and then ground out a win at home to Burnley. New additions are settling in well as the South Wales side stick to their philosophy of spraying the ball around. Lovely to watch, plus it’s getting results. (2-0-0)

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5
Arsenal: The Gunners have labored at the start of the season, but much of their attention has been on UCL qualification. Now they’ve done that, back to the PL. A narrow win over Palace was followed up by a last-gasp draw at Everton. Decent start, but how will they cope without Giroud? (1-1-0)
source:  6 Liverpool: A narrow opening day win at home to Saints was followed up by a 3-1 defeat at City. Without Suarez they look less deadly but if Balotelli can hit the ground running vs. Spurs this weekend, Reds will get a big boost. (1-0-1)
source:  7 Everton: The Blues are still looking for their first win and could do with a boost after collapsing from 2-0 up against Arsenal. In both games Roberto Martinez’s side have squandered leads late on. That needs to stop. With Samuel Eto’o on board, maybe he can help ease the pressure on Romelu Lukaku. (0-2-0)
source:  8 Sunderland: Like Everton, two draws from two for the Black Cats who look very solid under Gus Poyet. An away draw at West Brom was followed up by a spirited 1-1 draw vs. Manchester United at home. Jack Rodwell looks to be a good buy. Should be fine this season. (0-2-0)
source:  9 Aston Villa: Okay, Villa aren’t going to be the most exciting team you watch this season. They beat Stoke 1-0 on the opening day, then drew 0-0 at home vs. Newcastle. Solid but unspectacular. Home game vs. Hull is very winnable this weekend. (1-1-0)
source:  10 Stoke City: One point from two games after a bit of a shaky start for Stoke. Mark Hughes has struggled to add some players in the summer but they have a gem in Bojan if they can get him playing. Tough trip to Man City this weekend will probably yield zero points. (0-1-1)
source:  11
Newcastle: Same return for Newcastle. They battled vs. Man City at home in their opener, then drew a blank away at Villa. They have yet to score and you wonder where the goals will come from. Alan Pardew made need to buy a striker before the window shuts. Palace at home this week. (0-1-1)
source:  12
Hull City: Decent start to the season for Hull, who beat QPR 1-0 despite being outplayed and then held Stoke to a draw despite having 10-men for most of the match. They went out of the Europa League at the last qualifying stage on Thursday on away goals. Poor old Tigers. (1-1-0)
source:  13
Southampton: Very much a work in progress at St. Mary’s. Ronald Koeman has brought in so many new players to replace those lost in the mass exodus. They need time to gel, but must do so quickly and they look a bit lackluster in attack. Saints travel to West Ham this weekend. (0-1-1)
source:  14 Leicester City: The new boys have given a good account of themselves so far. A 2-2 opening day draw vs. Everton was followed up by a battling 2-0 defeat at Chelsea where they could have gone ahead. They host Arsenal on Sunday. Massive game at the King Power. (0-1-1)
source:  15 Manchester United: It’s not going to be another season of struggle at Old Trafford is it? Louis van Gaal’s men lost to Swansea, drew with Sunderland and were then hammered by MK Dons in the League Cup. They signed Di Maria for $99 million, so things must turn around. Right? Burnley away on Saturday. (0-1-1)
source:  16
West Ham: The Hammers lost to Spurs on the opening day but beat Palace away from home. Sam Allardyce is still getting plenty of abuse from the home fans. If they don’t beat Saints this weekend, incredibly, the boo boys will be out in force. (1-0-1)
source:  17 Crystal Palace: After Tony Pulis left on the opening day, Palace were struggling. They almost held on vs. Arsenal to nab a point but succumbed to a last minute winner, then West Ham beat them last weekend. Neil Warnock is now in charge and the Eagles will be hard to beat. Long trip up to Newcastle awaits. (0-0-2)
source:  18
Burnley: The Clarets are struggling to adapt to life in the PL. They were simply blown away by Chelsea in Week 1 and then huffed and puffed against Swansea but couldn’t score. The small matter of Man United at home this weekend. (0-0-2)
 source:  19
West Brom: Not so sure about the Baggies this season. Sure, they’re solid. But they don’t force the issue enough. Did okay at home vs. Sunderland on the opening day and parked the bus away at Saints. Jury is out. Away trip to Swansea this week. (0-2-0)
 source:  20

QPR: Mr. Redknapp will have to do plenty of wheeling and dealing this week. His side look to be lacking just a little bit of quality. They should have beat Hull on the opening day, but were then hammered by Spurs. They host Sunderland looking to get their first point of the season. (0-0-2)

Arena reacts to USMNT draw, expects CONCACAF fight to end

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Bruce Arena didn’t enjoy watching Tuesday’s 1-1 draw between the United States and Panama, but he’s not upset with the result.

“The referee didn’t blow his whistle too much, and that’s the way the game looked for 90 minutes,” Arena said.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Arena’s Yanks struggled to find their flow in the draw, ravaged by injuries to their back line. Arena praised his back four for their performance in difficult circumstances on the road with new teammates.

And he’s feeling a lot better than a week ago, when the U.S. had zero points and sat last in the table.

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

“We’re obviously in better shape with four points in two games. We’ve made progress. Every game in qualifying is going to be critical for every team. Everyone’s in it. It’s going to be a battle for the second, third, and fourth spots.”

The Americans’ next World Cup qualifier is June 8 against Trinidad and Tobago before a June 11 road trip to Azteca to face Mexico.

Panama 1-1 USMNT: Ugly, scrappy point for both sides

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The United States will finish the international break in the Hex’s fourth place after a 1-1 draw at Panama in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

Clint Dempsey scored off a feed from Christian Pulisic to give the U.S. a brief 1-0 lead, and Gabriel Gomez leveled the score before halftime.

The Americans’ next World Cup qualifier is June 8 against Trinidad and Tobago before a June 11 road trip to Azteca to face Mexico.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Here’s the Hex table as it stands, with the U.S. on pace for a playoff spot against Asia’s playoff winner:

Mexico — 10 points
Costa Rica — 7 points
Panama — 5 points
———————
USMNT — 4 points
———————-
Honduras — 4 points
Trinidad and Tobago — 3 points

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

The first 10 minutes were a bit frenetic, with the U.S. focused on adventurous first touch passes when it managed to earn the ball from Panama.

That feel wasn’t aided by the officiating, as Cesar Ramos was inconsistent in a very physical opening quarter-hour (and never pulled a single card).

Felipe Baloy flashed a header over the cross bar off a 16th minute corner kick as he lost Jozy Altidore and nodded back across goal. It was a bit of set piece foreshadowing, as Arena has yet to fix a long-held USMNT problem.

Christian Pulisic was fired up when Luis Tejada shoved him to the turf in the 20th minute.

Tim Ream bailed out Jorge Villafana, who wasn’t as composed and smart as his Friday versus Panama, sliding to divert Armando Cooper’s cross for a corner kick.

Jermaine Jones cued up Pulisic moments later, but the youngster had to wait for a bounding ball to settle before Panama conceded a corner. That opportunity was wasted by an overly aggressive Gonzalez, who was called for a foul before the ball arrived in the 18.

Howard saw his first danger and averted it when Alberto Quintero shook Zusi to rip a shot on frame. It was 0-0 after 32 minutes.

Then, the breakthrough. Dempsey moved to within a goal of Landon donovan’s all-time mark thanks to Pulisic, who cooked Felipe Baloy and held off Roman Torres before laying off to the veteran. 1-0, 39′.

The lead lasted all of three minutes, as Gomez pounced on a loose ball with the Yanks’ back line at sixes and sevens off a long throw-in. Gomez turned off Jermaine Jones and lost Villafana to bury his chance behind Howard. 1-1, 44′.

The second half began with more chunky play until Villafana blazed down the left wing on an overlapping run to cross for Pulisic, whose shot was forced out for a corner which led to nothing.

Dempsey then turned a Michael Bradley free kick to a waiting Jaime Penedo as the Yanks started to refind their flow.

Panama found a doorstep chance when Torres nodded down for Tejada, but Howard made an exceptional nether regions “leg” save to keep it 1-1.

Arena introduced Alejandro Bedoya for Darlington Nagbe with 20 minutes to play, a move that was a testament to the physical nature of the game.

Fittingly, it was creative work from Pulisic that helped the U.S. win a corner kick soon after, though Penedo claimed the offering.

More chances came Panama’s way, as the U.S. spent much of the late stages desperately clearing loose balls. On another night, with better finishing from Tejada, the Yanks would’ve been sunk.

Three takeaways from the USMNT’s 1-1 draw at Panama

AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco
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What did we learn from the United States’ 1-1 draw in Panama City on Wednesday?

For one thing, that the coach isn’t going to matter without a number of your very best players.

[ MORE: Match recap | Player ratings ]

The USMNT saw precious few moments of brilliance from its injury-ravaged side, saved by its soon-to-be all-time leading scorer, its 18-year-old star attacker, and its legendary goalkeeper.

But mainly, we saw that you can change the boss, but you need better performances to make a difference.

Limits of depth tested in ugly affair

Bruce Arena was without his best center back pairing thanks to injury, and you could argue he was without his best back four if you see Fabian Johnson as a left back (John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, DeAndre Yedlin, and Johnson).

The U.S. also couldn’t pair Bobby Wood with Jozy Altidore or Clint Dempsey, and lost Sebastian Lletget to injury on Friday. Timmy Chandler has rarely thrived with the USMNT, but it certainly would’ve been nice if Arena had called him up for the second match alone (He was suspended Friday for yellow card accumulation).

Given the above, this was not a pretty match. You just have to hope this isn’t the result that keeps them from Russia.

Mexico, revisited (What game plan?)

This might be an unpopular take, but Tuesday’s loss was nothing more than the performance put forth against Mexico in Columbus.

The main differences? Tim Howard was there to make a tremendous save, and Panama is nowhere near to the level of El Tri.

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

The Yanks didn’t have a great plan other than to outwork Panama. This isn’t a big knock on the coach’s tactics given the lack of starting caliber players noted above, but once Panama flooded the middle of the pitch with fouls and tight tackles, an answer wasn’t provided by the players or the coach.

Plan B hasn’t been a U.S. strong suit for a long time, perhaps back to the finer moments of the Bob Bradley era. Arena got away with one on Tuesday.

Rough road ahead

This is something we know, but my was it reinforced: Winning CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers at home is a necessity, because there’s carnage and bad pitches on the road.

Perhaps that could’ve changed if referee Cesar Ramos brought a yellow card out for either team at any point in the proceedings. Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe were fouled as part of Panama’s game plan, and the Yanks’ beleaguered defense went with a similar plan as the sloppy match wore into the waning moments.

The U.S. is still in control of its own World Cup destiny, of course, but simply must handle its business in remaining home matches against Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, and Costa Rica. T&T is next, and anything other than three points sends them into Azteca in a bad, bad way.

Player ratings from the USMNT’s 1-1 draw in Panama

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Player ratings reverted to old form after Tuesday’s 1-1 draw in Panama City, though fortunately one of the other U.S. tropes is dead.

That’s because “Christian Pulisic is the future” can officially be moved into “Christian Pulisic is the present”.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

The Borussia Dortmund teenager again manufactured the United States’ best moment, feeding Clint Dempsey for the Yanks’ lone goal.

Starting XI

Tim Howard  — 7 — Don’t know what he’s supposed to do on the goal, but his jewels save to deny Luis Tejada could be a World Cup saver.

Jorge Villafana  — 4 — One of the many star men from the win over Honduras was too adventurous and less composed. Bad combo.

Omar Gonzalez  — 4 — I say this in a way that ignores Timmy Chandler’s fine work in the Bundesliga: Is Gonzalez going to be Bruce Arena’s Chandler? Hopefully this is the last time he has to start.

Tim Ream — 5 — Had a bad time on the goal, and made several bad plays. But it’s hard to get a read on the Fulham’s man night because he bailed out Gonzalez and Villafana on a number of occasions.

Graham Zusi  — 5 — Gets bumped up a point for handling a very difficult situation, still adapting to right back in a match where Panama’s tactics were to attack his side. A better second half than the first.

Michael Bradley  — 6 — Nothing exceptional from the captain, but still an upgrade from his form under Jurgen Klinsmann. A little too deep in the formation on the evening, but that could’ve been the plan?

Jermaine Jones  (Off 75′) — 5 — Ornery as usual, his only successes came in standing up for his oft-fouled midfield mates.

Darlington Nagbe  (Off 68′) — 6  — This game looked set up for him to pick the ball up from Michael Bradley and dance into the midfield, but he only got a few chances as Panama’s tactics were aimed at fouling the Yanks’ two best dribblers in him and Pulisic.

Christian Pulisic  — 9 — A simply incredible bit of work to work two veteran defenders and assist Dempsey’s goal. Failing an unforeseen dip in company, Pulisic is going to be one of the most important players in American men’s history.

Clint Dempsey  — 6 — Scored the goal that earned the point, but otherwise fought to be a part of the match. That’s the sign of a legend, though, still finding a way to make himself matter on a poor evening.

Jozy Altidore  — 5 — Might’ve had a dozen touches in the game. Part of this was down to the U.S. aiming balls at his head and not his feet, but not his day.

Subs

Alejandro Bedoya (On 68′)  — 6 — Dogged work rate from the Union man.

Kellyn Acosta (On 75′) — 6 — Some creativity on display in limited time

Paul Arriola (On 83′) — N/A —