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Premier League Power Rankings: A favorite emerges; Foxes, Hammers plummet

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A clear-cut favorite to win the Premier League title has emerged — you can probably guess who it is — while places 2-6 remain as murky and muddled as ever.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

This early in the season, many sides still get the benefit of the doubt that brighter days ahead, but you can’t like what you’ve seen thus far from Leicester City and West Ham United.

Volume II of PST’s 2016-17 Premier League Power Rankings…


Group I — Still in the starting blocks

20. Stoke City — Three straight defeats, by a combined score of 9-1, after an opening day draw earned the Potters their only point of the season so far.

19. Sunderland — Only ahead of Stoke on account of having picked up their one point more recently. Black Cats, say hello to another relegation dogfight.

18. Southampton — If you’re one of just three winless sides, I’m sorry, but you’ve got to be in the bottom three. Dropping points to Sunderland, at home, looks worse this week than it did two weeks ago.

17. West Bromwich Albion — Taking just one point off of presumed fellow relegation fighters — Middlesbrough and Bournemouth, in back-to-back games — hints at another long season.

16. West Ham — Report coming out of the Olympic stadium: Watford just scored again. Can anyone confirm?

15. Burnley — Worrying defensive record for a side that will struggle to score goals all season.

14. Swansea City — Diego Costa should have been sent off (again) before he scored the equalizer (again). What a massive three points those would have been.

13. Leicester — As it turns out, N'Golo Kante was really important to last year’s title-winning side.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Arthur Masuaku of West Ham United reacts during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Watford at Olympic Stadium on September 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

[ MORE: Tuesday’s CL roundup | Wednesday ]


Group II: In the middle of the ride

12. Middlesbrough — Done well with a cushy opening schedule — five points from four games — but will it be enough, considering what lies ahead?

11. Bournemouth — Lost two games to the “big boys,” drew and won one apiece against opposition “their size.” Right where they should be.

10. Hull City — Still just a stoppage-time winner by Marcus Rashford away from taking something from all four games.

9. Watford — After an unbelievably (and unsustainably) strong start to 2015-16, 2016-17 began with Southampton, Chelsea, Arsenal and West Ham. What did the Hornets do to deserve that? All things considered, four points is a great start.

8. Crystal Palace — Just as predicted, Christian Benteke has breathed new life into the Eagles. Tussles with Stoke (no. 20, at home) and Sunderland (no. 19, away) are up next.

MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Christian Benteke of Crystal Palace celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace at Riverside Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Middlesbrough, England.  (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

[ MORE: PL roundup — Derby delight for Man City; Spurs, Liverpool win ]


Group III: Chasing challengers

7. Liverpool — Still no clean sheets on the season, but we’ll take a systematic dismantling of the defending champions as a sign of real intent any day of the week.

6. Arsenal — Back-to-back wins after taking one point from their first two games. Setting themselves up perfectly to get hot during the festive period onward, and finish fourth.

5. Tottenham Hotspur — Only edging out the above two on account of an unbeaten start (two wins, two draws) to the season. Hardly out of first gear yet, and already right there for the top four.

4. Everton — If you keep on winning (and do so in blowout fashion), you’re going to fall in the power rankings (or the real-life table). Ronald Koeman is off to a(nother) strong start.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 12:  Romelu Lukaku of Everton celebrates as he scores their third goal and completes his hat trick during the Premier League match between Sunderland and Everton at Stadium of Light on September 12, 2016 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

[ MORE: Pochettino slams players’ “lack of passion” in CL defeat ]


Group IV: No longer perfect

3. Manchester United — Simply overrun and outclassed in the opening half-hour of the Manchester derby, but could have easily snatched a point in the second half. That defense is extremely worrying, however.

2. Chelsea — A head of Man United on account of: 1) still unbeaten; 2) a belief that Antonio Conte has the necessary pieces to build a title-contending defense.

[ MORE: FIFA rankings — Brazil, England, USA on the rise ]


Group V: A class of their own

1. Manchester City — Still perfect, 4-for-4, at the expense of their biggest rivals. The Pep Guardiola revolution is well ahead schedule at this point, though the first bump in the road is always just around the corner.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10:  Kelechi Iheanacho (R) of Manchester City celebrates scoring his sides second goal while team mate Nolito (C) of Manchester City jumps on his back during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on September 10, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Larentowicz re-signs with Atlanta United for 16th MLS season

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ATLANTA (AP) Midfielder Jeff Larentowicz will be returning to Atlanta United for his 16th season in Major League Soccer.

The team announced Thursday it has re-signed the 36-year-old free agent, who has been with United since the team’s debut in 2017.

Larentowicz has the second-most appearances in MLS history (418) and ranks third in starts (386). He had 40 goals and 23 assists in his career, which began with New England in 2005 and also includes stints with Colorado, Chicago and LA Galaxy.

Larentowicz helped Atlanta win the MLS Cup in just its second season. He had 27 league appearances and 15 starts in 2019 , when United captured the U.S. Open Cup and Campeones Cup.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

MLS hopes to put 30th team in Charlotte, North Carolina

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NEW YORK (AP) Major League Soccer will try to reach an agreement for its 30th team to be Charlotte, North Carolina.

Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper made a presentation to MLS owners Thursday when they met in a hotel near the Brooklyn Bridge. Tepper would own the team, which would play at Bank of America Stadium, home of his NFL franchise. MLS Commissioner Don Garber all but confirmed the expansion fee will be $300 million.

“The MLS board authorized the MLS expansion committee to enter into what I expect to be final negotiations with David to have Charlotte be our 30th team,” Garber said. “No formal approval was granted today. What was approved was the expansion committee to now meet with David and his his staff to try to finalize an agreement.”

Charlotte would be the third MLS team to share a stadium in a long-term relationship with the NFL, joining Seattle and Atlanta.

“The remaining issues with Charlotte are related to their stadium and ensuring that we’re going to be able to put together a dynamic in that stadium that will be up to the standards of all of our current soccer stadiums,” Garber said.

He would not say whether MLS hoped to announce the team at a news conference in Charlotte on Dec. 17.

Tepper is attempting to obtain city funding for alterations at Bank of America Stadium.

“I don’t know that I’m confident, but I’m hopeful.” Garber said.

Asked about the expansion fee, Garber said: I’ve heard some of those numbers. They wouldn’t be wrong.”

More AP Soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

USMNT striker Sargent out for rest of 2019

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American forward Josh Sargent will be shut down for the rest of 2019 thanks to a groin injury.

Werder Bremen said the injury first arose during USMNT duty and has bothered the 19-year-old in recent weeks.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Sargent has two goals and three assists in 13 matches this season, playing mostly a center forward or primary striker role.

Here’s Bremen head coach Florian Kohfeldt:

“Since this is a small, deep-set muscle, the problems only occur at certain, very specific loads, which is why he was able to play and train for so long with problems. We will now give Josh’s injury time to properly heal, then he will get back to training in January.”

There are four more match days in the Bundesliga before the league goes on holiday break until mid-January.

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 15

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The congested schedule means we’ve had two match days since we last took stock of the Premier League.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

We’ve got a brand new Top Five (well, in terms of the four behind eventual champions Liverpool) and two teams dipping to season lows on our ol’ litmus test.

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Watford — As many losses as goals (9), and that figure is one more than the Hornets’ total points. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them on the verge of full-time manager No. 3, as full-time manager of Watford is a bit more like seasonal help.
Last week: 18
Season high: 17
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Southampton

19. Everton — A top half team in terms of talent seeks the manager who can organize its way out of the drop zone. Might it be this guy? Better than the alternatives.
Last week: 17
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Norwich City
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Leicester City

18. Norwich City — The first team to 10 losses is four points shy of 17th.
Last week: 16
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-0 at Everton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Arsenal

17. West Ham United — A gigantic ball of “blah.” Should thank Everton for existing so people aren’t more focused on this particular collection of currently squandered talent.
Last week: 20
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-2 v. Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Chelsea

16. Bournemouth — It’s just not good enough, is it? To have held onto Callum Wilson and get another step up in class from Philip Billing and still be so wildly inconsistent.
Last week: 11
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Wolves
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Spurs

15. Southampton — It really feels like the Danny Ings revival show could rival any story for the best individual one in the league this season. Happy to see Ralph Hasenhuttl get some good performances, as he was being scapegoated in a hurry.
Last week: 19
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 2-2 at Arsenal
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Watford

14. Aston Villa — Allowing a league-worst 18.8 shots per game, but staying in the mix thanks to Tom Heaton and Tyrone Mings.
Last week: 13
Season high: 8
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Newcastle United
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Sunday at Manchester United

13. Arsenal — The Gunners back line gets a lot of heat, and rightly so, but maybe a little help from the midfield would be nice considering Sokratis Papastathopoulos and David Luiz have combined for 39 blocks. Sokratis is third in the PL and Luiz fourth.
Last week: 12
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Drew 2-2 v. Southampton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Norwich City


12. Brighton and Hove Albion — First win ever away to Arsenal is another feather in the cap of Graham Potter, especially nice considering they had lost four on the bounce.
Last week: 14
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Liverpool

11. Newcastle United — No one is punching above its weight more than Steve Bruce‘s Magpies, and they’ve been aided in a big way by Martin Dubravka. The Slovakian goalkeeper has a league-best 44 saves from shots inside the 18.

Also, according to Understat’s xG numbers, they should’ve lost to the Blades. In fat, the xG table says they should be dead last. Life’s funny like that. It’s Steve Bruce’s world and we’re living in it.
Last week: 15
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Aston Villa
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Man City

https://understat.com/match/11786

10. Sheffield United — Just lost for the first time since September. That’s amazing.
Last week: 6
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 3-3 v. Manchester United
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

9. Burnley — Striker Chris Wood has been credited with 12 “big chances missed” by Sofascore, more than any player in the league.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 3-0 at Watford
Up next: 10 a.m. Saturday v. Crystal Palace

8. Spurs — Jose Mourinho learned Wednesday that Moussa Sissoko is nice for the squad, but not to be leaned on.
Last week: 9
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 3-2 at West Ham United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

7. Crystal Palace — Wilfried Zaha‘s 68 dribbles are 13 more than anyone else in the league.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

6. Manchester United — Ole had himself a moment in outfoxing Mourinho without Pogba or Martial.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Drew 3-3 at Sheffield United
Up next: 11:30 a.m. Sunday v. Aston Villa

5. Chelsea — We told you, Frank. WE TOLD YOU.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. West Ham United

4. Manchester City — Aymeric Laporte is still two months away and that’s two months too long.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Chelsea
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Newcastle United

3. Wolves — This is going to sound nuts, but there are days I’d rather see Liverpool on my schedule than Wolves. The Reds are obviously better weaponized, but Wolves come at you in waves, man, and Nuno Espirito Santo is doing it without his best center back.
Last week: 5
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-1 at Bournemouth
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Sheffield United

2. Leicester City — How’s this for an unsustainable stat? Wilfred Ndidi and Ricardo Pereira rank first and second in the league in tackles, with 67 and 62.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 2-0 at Brighton and Hove Albion
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Everton
1. Liverpool — Big Virgil Van Dijk is on track to become the first Premier League player to complete 1000 passes this season, currently at 953.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 at Crystal Palace
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Brighton and Hove Albion