Premier League Power Rankings: Red Devils and Villains on the up

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We are a month into the 2014-15 Premier League season (hasn’t that flown by?) and plenty of teams are still trying to figure things out.

At this early stage of the campaign there are tons of inconsistent performances as new players get used to new teams, managers are stamping their authority on clubs and simply put, some have been handed tougher schedules than others. A few teams came up big over the past seven days with Manchester United, Aston Villa and Southampton putting in particularly eye-catching displays.

[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 Chelsea: Jose Mourinho’s men remain perfect in league play but they slipped up in the UCL vs. Schalke in midweek. This week they have their toughest test so far: Man City away. Can they stay perfect? Diego Costa is the key man. (4-0-0)
source:  2 UP 2  Aston Villa: Undefeated and flying high after their win at Anfield, Villa are in the top 2 for the first time in our rankings. Brad Guzan has three shutouts from four games as the Villans are hard to beat. Tough test vs. Arsenal live on NBCSN on Saturday. (3-1-0)
source:  3  UP 5 Southampton: The Saints have won two-straight and scored seven goals in the process. Koeman has got them playing attractive soccer, with a cutting edge. Graziano Pelle and Morgan Schneiderlin can’t stop scoring. Swansea away this weekend. (2-1-1)
source:  4 UP 1 Arsenal: Another week, another draw for the Gunners. But this was a good one. They led Man City 2-1 until late on as Jack Wilshere scored this stunner. Can they grab their first W since the opening day of the season away at in-form Villa? (1-3-0)

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5 DOWN 3 Swansea City: Brave battling from the Swans who led Chelsea up until the 45th minute at Stamford Bridge. Garry Monk’s men look dangerous and face Southampton in a top four battle this weekend at the Liberty. (3-0-1)
source:  6 UP 1  Manchester City: Man City looked lackluster against Arsenal but still came away with a point from their trip to the Emirates. They came so close to getting a draw away at Bayern in the UCL too. Yaya Toure’s poor form is worrying. Can he get back to his best vs. Chelsea this Sunday? (2-1-1)
source:  7  DOWN 4 Liverpool: Brendan Rodgers has spoken about their being “no magic formula” as the Reds’ new boys settle in. A shock defeat to Aston Villa was followed up by a poor display vs. Ludogorets in the UCL. Should fans be worried? Tough trip to West Ham live on NBC.(2-0-2)
source:  8 UP 4 Leicester CityThe Foxes bagged their first PL win in a decade! They beat Stoke 1-0 with a gritty away display and Esteban Cambiasso came off the bench to do the business. Nigel Pearson’s men have adapted to life back in the PL very well. (1-2-1)
source:  9   Tottenham: Mauricio Pochettino will be annoyed with some basic defensive errors as Spurs let two leads slip away at Sunderland. A work in progress at White Hart Lane. On Sunday they should beat West Brom. (2-1-1)
source:  10  UP 3 Everton: The Toffees finally bagged their first clean sheet of the season as Tim Howard’s boys beat West Brom 2-0. Watch this beauty from Romelu Lukaku who is now up and running. Everton host Crystal Palace on Sunday. (1-2-1)
source:  11 UP 6 Manchester United: That’s better boys. Louis van Gaal grabbed his first win as United boss with a resounding 4-0 success over QPR. The Red Devils looked incredible going forward but their opponents were poor. Winnable game away at Leicester on Sunday. (1-2-1)
source:  12 DOWN 6 Stoke City: The Potters followed up beating Man City away by… losing to Leicester at home. Mark Hughes will be pulling his hair out after a frustarting display. He needs to get the best out of Bojan. In other news, Stoke are setting up academies in North America. QPR away this week. (1-1-2)
source:  13 DOWN 3 Sunderland: Poyet’s men battled back bravely to draw with Spurs but I still worry about where the goals will come from. They were handed that draw due to a calamitous own goal. Is Jozy Altidore ready to start a game? Tough trip down to Burnley. (0-3-1)
source:  14 Hull City: The Tigers twice blew a lead at home to West Ham but new signings Abel Hernandez and Mo Diame both scored in an entertaining game. Steve Bruce has been linked with Newcastle but he’s done a good job at the KC. The Tigers head north to play Newcastle this week. (1-2-1)
source:  15  – Crystal Palace: Still without a win this season but two draws from two for new Palace boss Neil Warnock. They were lucky to escape with a point at home to Burnley, as Julian Speroni saved a late PK. Can they stun Everton this Sunday? (0-2-2)
source:  16 UP 3 West Ham: The Hammers fought back admirably away at Hull on Monday with Enner Valencia scoring this beauty. Sam Allardyce’s side looked good going forward but suspect at the back. They will have to tighten things up as Liverpool come to Upton Park on Saturday. (1-1-2)
source:  17  DOWN 6 Newcastle: You have to feel for Newcastle’s fans. They drove 7 hours down to Southampton and saw their team get spanked 4-0. They are calling for Alan Pardew to be fired, and who can blame them with no win in four? If they don’t beat Hull on Saturday, it could be the end for Pardew. (0-2-2)
source:  18 Burnley: Two unbeaten for Sean Dyche’s side but they have only scored once all season. They should have beaten Palace away but will fancy their chances as Sunderland come to Turf Moor. Will the Clarets bag their first win of the season? (0-2-2)
 source:  19 DOWN 2 QPR:  Harry Redknapp’s side were battered by Manchester United and looked completely out of their league. New signings Leroy Fer, Sandro and Vargas looked decent. Stoke at home is one of those games they must win. (1-0-3)
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20 West Brom: The Baggies lost again and were their own worst enemies against Everton. Bad mistakes from Jonas Olsson and Ben Forster saw the home fans unhappy as new boss Alan Irvine is still searching for his first win. Will that arrive at Spurs on Sunday? (0-2-2)

Bayern signs Odriozola on loan from Real Madrid

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich signed Spain right back Alvaro Odriozola on loan from Real Madrid on Wednesday to help ease its defensive worries after a spate of injuries.

[ MORE: Eriksen holds talks with Levy; Inter “still confident” ]

The Bavarian powerhouse said the 24-year-old Odriozola signed a deal to the end of the season after successfully passing a medical examination.

“We decided to fulfill our head coach Hansi Flick’s wish to strengthen the defense and decided for Alvaro Odriozola,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. “We’re very happy with the transfer and thank the management at Real Madrid for the very friendly and cooperative talks.”

Bayern defenders Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez and Javi Martinez are out with injuries and 23-year-old Benjamin Pavard — a center back — had been filling in at right back. Odriozola’s arrival will free the French player to return to his usual position.

[ MORE: Cavani “will go to Atletico Madrid” if PSG let him leave ]

Madrid paid a reported $33 million to sign Odriozola from Real Sociedad in 2018, but the winger has barely played since. He made only four league appearances this season, with Dani Carvajal preferred at right back.

Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane gave the go-ahead for Odriozola’s transfer on Tuesday. Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao were also reportedly interested.

Odriozola has one goal in four appearances for Spain.

Bayern is hoping to claw back a four-point deficit on Bundesliga leader Leipzig to claim a record-extending eighth straight title.

Eriksen holds talks with Levy; Inter ‘still confident in this deal’

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Christian Eriksen met with chairman Daniel Levy on Tuesday in his latest attempt to secure his Tottenham Hotspur exit during the January transfer window, according to a report from Sky Sports.

[ MORE: Levy reportedly met with Real Madrid about Gareth Bale ]

Eriksen already has a pre-contract agreement with Inter Milan in place, but the Danish playmaker and the Serie A club are hopeful of completing the signing this month. Inter submitted a $14.5-million bid (plus bonuses) for Eriksen earlier this week, but Levy is said to be holding out for his $22-million valuation, fully guaranteed, of the player.

Eriksen’s agent is also expected to meet with Levy following Wednesday’s Premier League clash with Norwich City (Watch live, 2:30 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold) in yet another attempt to broker a deal between the two clubs.

[ MORE: Cavani “will go to Atletico Madrid” if PSG let him leave ]

Inter Milan chief executive Giuseppe Marotta remains optimistic that an agreement can be reached this month, as he told Sky Italia, “We’re waiting and we’re still confident in this deal.”

In the Mixed Zone: Chelsea v. Arsenal

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LONDON — To make sure you have every angle covered for the marquee Premier League games, our new feature “In the Mixed Zone” will take you behind-the-scenes and into the tunnel areas to hear from the star players moments after their magic has decided games or drama has ensued.

[ MORE: In the Mixed Zone ]

The idea is to set the scene of being inside the tunnel area in Old Trafford, by the dugouts at Stamford Bridge and in the swanky new players area in Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium as Premier League stars walk out of the dressing room and break down the game with media members around the world.

We will tell you what they are saying and the kind of antics going on amid the hubbub of the mixed zone as players from both teams have their say on the 90-plus minutes of action we’ve just witnessed.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

Here’s the scene from pitch side at Stamford Bridge in the hour or so after the full time whistle blew between Chelsea and Arsenal, as their crazy end-to-end clash ended in a 2-2 draw after late drama, red cards and superb solo goals.

Safe to say one set of players were more keen to stop and chat with us than the other, as Arsenal’s players must have a secret exit…


10:30 p.m. (local time): Mixed Zone opens on the side of the pitch at Stamford Bridge, just in front of the dugouts as a flimsy advertizing board is put up. Chelsea’s players are warming down in the background. With Pedro, Batshuayi, Alonso and Mount running sprints up and down the pitch on a chilly west London night. To be fair, I may join them. Cannot feel my hands after two hours or so sat outside tapping away at a laptop…

10:35: Reece James is the first player to walk the mixed zone, walking a little gingerly and dodging behind the sponsorship boards as he is looking sheepish. The young defender, dressed in a tracksuit, missed the game through injury but Frank Lampard confirmed it was nothing serious.

10:38: One of just a few Arsenal players to walk through the mixed zone (seriously, have they borrowed Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak!?) Rob Holding has a big smile on his face as he says hello. A late sub, Holding spent a ridiculous amount of time warming up on the sidelines as it looked like he would come on in the first half but Granit Xhaka played very well at center back.

10:42: Next up is current Chelsea striker (for how much longer?) and former Arsenal star Olivier Giroud. Asked about a reported move to Inter Milan and if this was his last time on the pitch at Stamford Bridge, Giroud laughed when journalists said “Arrivederci” to him. Giroud won’t speak about a move to Inter Milan, which is understandable as he didn’t make it onto the pitch. But maybe with Tammy Abraham picking up a knock he won’t be allowed to head to Milan after all…

10:45: Talking of Milan, Andreas Christensen looked very moody and magnificent as he strode past the media like it was a catwalk in the famed fashion capital of Italy and the world. A tough night for the young Danish center back once again, as Chelsea’s fans were very nervous every time he got on the ball and the Blues were guilty of giving up possession cheaply at the back.

10:48: Robert Pires has been seen gliding around the press areas as he works for French TV. Imagine him on the wing for this Arsenal side! My word, that man could open a can of beans with his left foot…

10:51: With a lull in the players walking through, we popped into the press conference room to hear from Mikel Arteta. Sporting a lovely turtleneck sweater, Arteta was beaming when asked about the character of his young side as they played for over 60 minutes with 10 men and looked the more likely to win it late on. Arteta singled out Bakayo Saka, Granit Xhaka, Hector Bellerin, Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli for special praise but admitted his entire team showed the desire he is asking for as they look to turn things around.

“The togetherness and leadership they showed today, this is what I wanted to see. It’s very important for the development. We are in the a process and are going in the right direction but I think tonight is a special night for everybody,” Arteta told BBC’s Match of the Day. Right on, Mikel, right on.

Arsenal skipper Hector Bellerin, who was lauded by the away fans after his late left foot swinger grabbed them a point, talks about their progress under Arteta in touch circumstances with so many players injured and out of position: “The second half had been very tough for the team. You could see the spirit in the team. I am very proud and the manager I’m sure is very happy with how we responded with 10 men.”

BTW, Bellerin’s cockney/Spanish accent is absolutely amazing. That is all.

10:54: Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic strolls through as he rolls a suitcase. One journalist is clearly a fan but is upset he doesn’t stop often: ‘Mateo is such a nice guy but he never stops to talk. The worst thing about it? He speaks five languages, so he could speak to every media member here!’ If I was Kovacic I’d be showing off my incredible linguistic skills. Shortly after him is little N’Golo Kante, who slipped to allow Arsenal to make it 1-1. Kante, shy as ever, had his head down as he rolled his miniature suitcase alongside the side of the pitch.

10:55: Oh, this is very interesting. Tammy Abraham limps out of the tunnel area and hobbles along the side of the pitch. He took a late whack and has been icing his right leg. “Tammy, you can’t get injured!” jokes one journalist as he intimates that Abraham is their only real option up top. “Mate, don’t, I know, I know” is his reply with half a laugh and half a grimace.

10:57: David Luiz, usually a shoe in to stop and talk, didn’t stop and that was understandable. His return to Chelsea saw him sent off but his team rallied to pick up a draw as TV cameras showed him in agony late in the game, watching the action on the smallest TV in history in the tunnel area. It was Luiz’s fault for giving away a penalty kick as he brought down Abraham as he tried to make up for Mustafi’s error. But there was mutual respect in the mixed zone because Luiz is one of the good guys who always stops. He will stop next time, for sure, we hope…

10:59: Okay, a quick pop back into the press conference room as the final few stragglers come out. Frank Lampard is up and looks like Christmas has just been canceled. He questions Chelsea’s game management after going 2-1 up late on and bemoans their lack of creativity in the final third. When then ask him for an injury update on USMNT star Christian Pulisic and if he thinks the Pennsylvanian Messi would have made a different to unlock this Arsenal defense.

“Yeah, a game like today could have been a good where he would have been helpful for us because he was playing well for a patch. But other people have to stand up in those situations,” Lampard said, as he nodded in realization.

When will Pulisic be back?

Lampard confirmed he is making good progress but will not be fit until after the mid-season player break in February, which means he will miss their FA Cup trip to Hull City this Saturday and their clash at Leicester City on Feb. 1. He may not be back until Feb. 17 when they host Manchester United in the Premier League, which means in total he will have been out for a period of six weeks.

“In terms of when he’s back, it is not going to be a week, it is probably be the other end of the early February break but he is getting better and he isn’t far away,” Lampard added.

11:04: Back outside in the cold, Kurt ‘Happy’ Zouma and Michy Batshuayi walk through together and the former is living up to his name as he is beaming with a massive smile as he says hey. Can’t help but think that Zouma will be back in the Chelsea team for their FA Cup clash against Hull this weekend, and probably the trip to Leicester City next weekend.

11:09: Hear he is, the nicest man in football. Cesar Azpilicueta (Dave, to the Chelsea fans) is smiling and laughing as he emerges from the tunnel. “I’m not speaking to you guys, nothing for you!” he jokes as he looks over to the mixed zone. He does go and have a chat with Chelsea TV as he puts on a comically large set of headphones. Azpilicueta, who put Chelsea 2-1 up late on as it looked like being the winner, then shows off his amazing language skills as he talks to English radio, outlets from the Middle East, then speaks in French to RMC and Canal+ and chats in Spanish to one journalist. He then speak to us about Pulisic and how important it is that he returns to full fitness. In a nutshell, Azpilicueta is an impressive dude.

“Christian is a magnificent player. Since he joined us in the summer he has shown us his potential and we know that he can make the difference at any time. Whenever a player is injured it is not good for a team because we lose potential and I hope to have him back soon,” Azpilicueta said. “After coming to Europe as a young boy to Germany, he came to Chelsea and it is one step forward, playing for Chelsea every game, fighting to win and fighting for trophies. In my role I’ve tried to help in settle into the city and the club. He has a brilliant attitude. Always trying to improve. I am sure he will become bigger and bigger.”

Here he is speaking in French because he can.

11:15: Senior Chelsea officials are then seen ushering guests out and there are plenty of handshakes. Journalists chatter about who it is, maybe a new owner!?

11:16: The flimsy advertizing board is gone. The stadium is pretty much empty. The Mixed Zone is closed as frost descends on freezing London.

Cavani ‘will go to Atletico Madrid’ if PSG let him leave

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Edinson Cavani has made up his mind and knows which club he will join this month — if Paris Saint-Germain agree to sell, that is — according to the Uruguayan striker’s father.

[ MORE: Chelsea admit they miss Christian Pulisic ]

Cavani has standing offers to join multiple clubs during the January transfer window, most notably from Atletico Madrid and Chelsea, but the most difficult hurdle appears to be convincing PSG to let him go. According to the player’s father, Luis, Atleti is the 32-year-old’s preferred destination — quotes from Sky Sports:

“He wants to join another club in Europe. That would please me that he plays here (at Atletico), yes. (Diego) Simeone wants him now (in January). The head coach of Paris Saint-Germain has also said he needs him to help compete in the Champions League.

“But PSG do not want him to go to Atletico Madrid if he finds an agreement. I think there is a strong chance he will go to Atletico, the option to join the club (Atletico) always remains in June.

“There are lots of other clubs but when you give your word to a team, you respect it. If tomorrow, if he is available and Atletico still want him, I think he will sign. He is a player who needs time to play, and today he only plays four or six minutes per game. PSG are treating him unfairly.”

Chelsea’s desire to acquire a goalscorer of Cavani’s caliber will have only increased following the ankle injury suffered by Tammy Abraham, the Blues’ only consistent option at the position, during Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal. The severity of Abraham’s injury is not yet known.