2015-16 Premier League Power Rankings, Vol. I: Taking very early stock with Man City on top

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Three matches certainly don’t tell the tale of an entire season.

For one thing, some clubs haven’t faced significant competition while others have had to battle a trio of strong Premier League opponents.

[ Archive: Premier League Power Rankings ]

Yet there’s enough of a sample, enough of a taste, to adjudge which clubs look ready to roar and which ones need to hope there are big-time reinforcements coming ahead of Sept. 1’s transfer deadline.

Let’s stop yammering, and start ranking. As is the case with MLS, we won’t do these every week in order to limit overreactions from a single result.

RANKING
Up/Down

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1 Manchester City: Two road wins, eight goals scored, zero allowed, and Kevin De Bruyne on the way? They’re baaaaaaack.
source: 2 Liverpool: Caught a lucky break on Arsenal’s disallowed goal, but Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho both looked dynamite. Christian Benteke is the real deal and, like Man Utd below, more goals will come. Loved watching that Arsenal match. End-to-end stuff.
source: 3   Manchester United: Folks want to castigate Louis van Gaal for not scoring more goals despite dominant performances and a congested schedule? Please. The Champions League goal production doesn’t count? Not to mention, their clean sheet streak is solid. Marouane Fellaini as a No. 9, though? Not so sure about that.
source: 4 Leicester City: There’s the Fox! Drawing at home against Spurs is the first lost points of the year for the Tinkerman’s unit. Riyad Mahrez has been electrifying, quick and downright wonderful.

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5 Swansea City: Looked quite legit until they coughed off a point against insipid Sunderland. The Chelsea draw works for us, and the Newcastle win was comprehensive. A home win, or at least points, against Manchester United on Sunday would raise the reality to Swans’ supporters expectations.
source: 6 Arsenal:  I want to place them higher for the entertainment value of the Liverpool draw alone (which they should’ve won if not for a faulty call). Still, there hasn’t been much to like in terms of the final product and that West Ham loss looks uglier and uglier as we see more of West Ham. Listen to Titi, Arsene.
source: 7 Chelsea:  Folks are rushing to say Jose Mourinho has spoiled the soup at Stamford Bridge, and there’s certainly the look of a championship hangover at Chelsea. John Terry’s looked off since the preseason, and can a title contender really afford to risk John Stones, Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma as their hopes for center back success in the PL and UCL? They’ll rebound, as Diego Costa and Eden Hazard have yet to really awaken, but it should come soon, eh? And Paul Pogba? Yes, please.
source: 8 Everton: The Man City loss wasn’t a barrel of monkeys, but the Toffees are looking more like the 2013-14 version than last year’s strugglers. Would cashing in on Stones really hurt that much? Doesn’t look like we’ll find out.
source: 9 Crystal Palace: Maybe the “Pardiola” label attached to Alan Pardew by peeved Newcastle fans isn’t far off. We’d like a better pelt than Norwich or Villa to believe in the silver fox, though.
source: 10 Stoke City: Mark Hughes’ bunch has a home loss to Liverpool and a pair of road draws. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, though for the Potters to break into the next level they’ll need three points more often than not.
source: 11 Newcastle United: There’s some excitement at St. James Park, even if that point earned at Old Trafford might as well have a horseshoe glued to it. The Magpies lost to Swansea when key defender Daryl Janmaat took a silly second yellow, but looked decent at home against Saints and haven’t been back since Opening Day. Arsenal comes to SJP this weekend, and that could be a bad, bad score line.
source: 12  Tottenham Hotspur: If you believe in Leicester as a possible top-half side, then Spurs should be higher than 12th. Their loss to Man Utd came on an unlucky own goal after Wayne Rooney took his time firing from close range, and drawing Stoke and the Foxes could be chalked down to luck. Disappointment is a real feeling here. Heung-min Son sounds like a good move.
source: 13 SouthamptonContending with the Europa League schedule hasn’t been easy for Saints, who also played a trio of tricky opponents. Two of those were on the road. Saints won’t be this low for long (especially if they flame out of Europe on Thursday).
source: 14 Watford: Saturday’s been alright for drawing when it comes to Elton John’s favorite squadron. The Hornets have been game in scoreless home draws against West Brom and Southampton, and that road point against Everton works for us. Can they find some consistent scoring? How about converting sitters? Will Troy Deeney find his rampant Championship touch in the Premier League? The defense is working, and Sebastian Prodl has a good look early in his Premier League career.
source: 15 Norwich City: Four points for Alex Neil’s Canaries, and they could’ve had more if a bounce or two went their way against Palace to open the season. We’ll wait to see a win against someone other than Sunderland before we call relegation an aberration, but Wes Hoolahan and Nathan Redmond have impressed early this season.
source: 16 AFC Bournemouth: It’s safe to say Eddie Howe’s bunch have exceeded expectations just by claiming a win, and that it came after the Cherries were very much alive in 1-0 losses to Liverpool and Aston Villa is a good sign for their survival fight.
source: 17 West Ham United:  Slaven Bilic must be shaking his head. After trumping Arsenal to open the season, at the Emirates, the Hammers have slumped to sloppy performances and zero points versus Leicester City and Bournemouth. Not too good.
source: 18 Aston Villa: That Rudy Gestede-rescued win against Bournemouth on opening day seems ages ago, and getting shut out by Chris Smalling and Manchester United is no shame. Plus the other loss was Crystal Palace, but you want more from Villa.
source: 19 West Bromwich Albion:  Feels a bit unfair to keep Tony Pulis’ men so low considering their losses came against Chelsea and Manchester City, but both were at home. A drastic climb would not be surprising. The end to this Saido Berahino saga would be satisfying.
source: 20 Sunderland: Managed to post consecutive 2-goal losses to clubs perceived to be their relegation opponents. Then went to the Liberty Stadium and somehow drew Swanse City. Hey, at least they’ve scored in all three matches. And “every player is for sale“. Here’s a scary question: What if Costel Pantilimon wasn’t standing on his head?

Reports: Mourinho looking into Fellaini, Dzeko signings

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People joked when Jose Mourinho was hired at Tottenham Hotspur. “Just wait until he goes after Marouane Fellaini” they said.

If only they knew.

According to a report by Belgian publication DH, Mourinho is seriously considering a January swoop to bring Fellaini back to the Premier League, wishing for a player of his body and skill profile in his squad. Fellaini was initially a David Moyes signing at Manchester United in 2013, but became a Mourinho favorite thanks to his aerial presence in midfield and his ability to play up front in a pinch.

Fellaini is currently playing for Chinese club Shandong Luneng, having scored seven goals and assisted four more in 22 Chinese Super League matches this season while playing mostly a center-mid role. The club finished fifth in the league table, with the season just coming to a conclusion on December 1. Luneng also played in the Chinese League Cup final, falling to Shanghai Shenhua 3-0.

The Belgian’s popularity at Manchester United never reached the levels of other fan favorites, and he was often seen as symbolic of the club’s struggles to find top-level players. Still, Mourinho persisted with a player he clearly favored, with Fellaini eventually making 89 appearances across all competitions under his Portuguese boss.

Reports also indicate that Mourinho is eyeing Roma striker Edin Dzeko as a January option. The Italian club is currently fifth in the Serie A table, in a tight battle for a top four spot. Still, the Bosnia-Herzegovina international has a contract that runs through the summer of 2022, meaning the club could look to cash in on a player who will be 36 years old at the expiry of his current deal. Dzeko has declined somewhat, but still proves a goal threat, with six scores in 15 league matches this campaign plus another two in Europa League action.

Newcastle win dampened by Saint-Maximin injury

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Steve Bruce has seen Newcastle up to 10th in the table after topping Southampton 2-1, but the news wasn’t all good at St. James Park after the victory.

The Magpies boss confirmed that Allan Saint-Maximin  could be out “for weeks” after pulling up deep into stoppage time, coming off in the 96th minute after all three Newcastle substitutes had been used.

Bruce partly blamed himself for the injury, claiming he nearly rested the Frenchman for the match. “I nearly left him out today,” Bruce said after the game, “and, now, I wish I had done because he could be out for weeks. I’m disappointed with myself. We don’t know how serious it is. I kick myself if he is out for a long time. The way he pulled up – let’s hope it’s not too serious.”

The manager claims Saint-Maximin was “fatigued” but risked him anyways. He could have brought the 22-year-old off at some point during the second half, but with the game level until Federico Fernandez’s 87th minute winner, he chose to risk it further looking for a winner. Bruce used his third and final substitute in the 85th minute to haul off Miguel Almiron still two minutes before the eventual winning goal was scored. And it wasn’t just Steve Bruce who thought he could miss significant time.

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Saint-Maximin struggled with a muscle injuries earlier in the season, missing games against Norwich City, Watford, and Liverpool while getting treatment. Since returning in full in early October, Saint-Maximin has played in every Premier League game for Newcastle, completing at least 80 minutes in eight of those nine games and finishing 90 minutes four times.

The injury is poorly timed with Newcastle set to begin a heavy set of fixtures. They take on Burnley next weekend before games against Crystal Palace, Manchester United, Everton, and Leicester City all in an eleven-day span through the holiday season. Saint-Maximin is a critical player to have go down, with a 7.07 WhoScored rating, ranking third on the team in that metric. He has completed 4.5 dribbles a game this season, which ranks second in the Premier League behind Wilfried Zaha‘s 4.6 despite having played five fewer games and 550 fewer minutes.

Ciaran Clark also went down during the game, with the Newcastle defender hauled off at halftime after suffering a calf injury.

Wolves, Seagulls split spoils at the Amex

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Wolves failed in a bid to pull within three points of fourth place, drawing Brighton 2-2 at the Amex Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Diogo Jota scored twice in a 4-goal first half, with Neal Maupay and Davy Propper bagging goals for Brighton. The Seagulls remain 12th with 19 points.


Three things we learned

1. Wolves’ blink at Top Four chance: Wolves entered the day with a chance to close to within three points of fourth place Chelsea, and Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men next face Spurs, Norwich City, Man City, and Liverpool. They needed three points here. Not for lack of effort, they couldn’t conjure the magic.

2. Jota calm in the finish: Jota scored his second and third Premier League goals of the season, joining his Europa League success to give him six. He added five assists in the UEL, and is averaging 2.5 tackles and 1.9 interceptions per contest.

 

3. Maupay paying off faith: The French center forward has blossoming into a steady Premier League contributor after his outlandish production in the Championship earned him a big money move to the Amex Stadium. His sixth goal in 16 matches now includes goals against Wolves, Spurs, Everton, and Arsenal.

Man of the Match: Jota.


Brighton had most of the ball for the first half hour, but could’ve solve the Wolves back line.

Jota put Wolves ahead via a clever 1-2 with Raul Jimenez to get behind the line, prodding home for 1-0.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

The lead lasted all of six minutes, as Maupay and Propper struck two minutes apart.

Maupay’s was a fine finish of a long Dale Stephens assist, while Propper headed a Leandro Trossard cross past Rui Patricio in the 36th.

Propper then fell from grace with a miserable pass stolen by Jonny Otto, the wingback finding Jota for his second goal of the night.

Wolves thought VAR might give them a penalty for handball in the 62nd minute, to no avail.

It was Wolves’ turn to give away a huge chance, but Stephens curled the effort wide of the far post in the 72nd minute.

Forster stars as 10-man Celtic beat Rangers, claim 10th-straight trophy

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At some point, Rangers supporters will be forgiven for thinking Celtic doesn’t have all the luck in Scotland.

The Bhoys, second best for most of the day, scored a 60th minute goal and then overcame a red card three minutes later to claim their 10th successive piece of Scottish silverware with a 1-0 win the Scottish League Cup.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Celtic’s Chris Jullien prodded home a free kick before 18-year-old Jeremie Frimpong was sent off, and Rangers had already controlled the proceedings before seeing a 16-5 edge in shot attempts at the final whistle.

Goalkeeper Fraser Forster, the former Saints and Newcastle man, was outstanding in the win, even stopping an Alfredo Morelos penalty as the Rangers star failed to deliver.

From the BBC:

“It was just one of them days, it went my way today. I’m buzzing. There’s been days when it’s not gone my way, today it has. I can’t say how much it means to me. I didn’t really think about the penalty to be honest. I picked the way it went. I’ll take it.

“That’s why I came back; to play in games like this, to win silverware, to play European football.”