Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 8

Leave a comment

Heading into the international break, it is time to unveil our latest batch of Premier League Power Rankings.

[ MORE: Hazard to Real Madrid? ]

Plenty of clubs are heading in opposite directions, as the break has come at both a good and bad time for many PL teams.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

20. Huddersfield Town — Eight games without a win and despite an improved display at Burnley, things are looking bleak.
Last week: 20
Season high: 18
Season low: 20

19. Cardiff City — See above. No wins yet for Cardiff, but Neil Warnock‘s men made Tottenham work hard for their win. Tough run of games coming up.
Last week: 19
Season high: 19
Season low: 20

18. Fulham — Defensively a shambles and although the Cottagers are good to watch, there’s no substance to their obvious style. Worrying start to life back in the PL. How long will Slavisa Jokanovic get?
Last week: 16
Season high: 11
Season low: 18

17. Newcastle United — Just when it seemed like the Magpies had bagged their first win of the season, they crumbled like a Jenga set. Rafael Benitez’s men squandering a 2-0 lead at Man United was painful to watch as you could see the belief being sucked out of them. Massive games coming up.
Last week: 18
Season high: 13
Season low: 18

16. Southampton — Mark Hughes‘ men actually created plenty of chances against Chelsea but they’ve now failed to score in three-straight games and it looks like another season of relegation struggles for Saints.
Last week: 15
Season high: 13
Season low: 17

15. Crystal Palace — Only one win so far for Palace and Roy Hodgson‘s men continue to look lackluster in attack with Wilfried Zaha out of sorts. A tight loss at home to Wolves suggests finishing in midtable would be a great season for the Eagles.
Last week: 13
Season high: 6
Season low: 15

14. Watford — A 4-0 spanking at the hands of Bournemouth underlined Watford’s rapid decline and silly defensive errors are costing the Hornets dear. Once again a fine start is evaporating quickly.
Last week: 12
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

13. Burnley — The Clarets only drew at home against Huddersfield but Sean Dyche‘s men are now three games unbeaten and looking back to their old selves. Solid and dependable.
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

12. West Ham United — The Hammers were second best at Brighton but could have grabbed an equalizer but missed some glorious chances. Manuel Pellegrini will be annoyed with West Ham’s latest display.  
Last week: 9
Season high: 9
Season low: 20

11. Leicester City — I think we can label the Foxes a Jekyll and Hyde team. Wes Morgan‘s red card didn’t help matters, but they were second best in the home defeat to Everton. Four wins and four defeats so far this season.
Last week: 7
Season high: 7
Season low: 13

10. Brighton and Hove Albion — The Seagulls delivered a much-improved display and grabbed a valuable three points against West Ham. Glenn Murray‘s fine form continues as the veteran finished off one of several incisive moves.
Last week: 14
Season high: 9
Season low: 19

Getty Images

9. Manchester United — Well, what can we say? They looked dead and buried at 2-0 down at home against Newcastle with Jose Mourinho facing the sack. United then roared back to win 3-2 with a last-gasp goal from Alexis Sanchez. Hardly vintage play, but they stood tall when their manager needed them to. So many defensive issues to sort out. But a win is a win.
Last week: 10
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

8. Everton — A fine win away at Leicester and Marco Silva‘s attacking unit finally looks dangerous. Gylfi Sigurdsson scored a stunner to win it, while Walcott, Richarlison and Bernard caused plenty of problems. Toffees shoring things up defensively too.
Last week: 11
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

7. Tottenham — A weird season for Spurs so far, as they’ve failed to hit top gear but are just two points off top spot and they’ve equalled their best-ever start to a season. Mauricio Pochettino hasn’t been impressed with their displays, but they’ve been winning. That is the sign of a good team.
Last week: 6
Season high: 3
Season low: 8

6. Bournemouth — The fairytale continues for Eddie Howe‘s side who are showing they can truly be the “best of the rest” and mount a challenge to qualify for Europe. The quartet of King, Wilson, Brooks and Fraser ripped Watford apart in a 4-0 win and there is so much to admire about Bournemouth’s attacking play with young talent. Fantastic start as they’re just five points off the top.
Last week: 8

Season high: 6
Season low: 12

5. Wolves — Talking of fairytales, my word, Wolves are flying. The newly-promoted team won at Crystal Palace and Nuno Espirito Santo has named eight unchanged lineups for their eight PL games. Continuity is key and the backing from their Chinese owners suggests this is only the start. Alongside Bournemouth, they will fight to finish in the top six. They sit in seventh heading into the break.
Last week: 5
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

Getty Images

4. Liverpool — Disappointing display against Man City and they should have lost late on. That said, still unbeaten after eight games and Jurgen Klopp is delighted with that given all of the big Champions League and League Cup games rolled into the past few weeks. Solid start, even if Salah and Co. aren’t firing on all cylinders up top.
Last week: 3
Season high: 1
Season low: 4

3. Arsenal — Wow. Here come the Gunners. Nine wins on the spin in all competitions and six in a row in the league means that Unai Emery is having to calm everyone down. Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are on fire and scored twice each in the 5-1 win at Fulham, while defensively there is still room for improvement but they look better at the back.
Last week: 4
Season high: 4
Season low: 9

2. Man City — A mature display away at Liverpool where they controlled the attacking trio of Salah, Mane and Firmino with ease and should have won late on had Riyad Mahrez not skied the penalty kick. The reigning champs are top of the table on goal difference but know they’ll have a much tougher fight this season to win it all.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 2

1. Chelsea — Maurizio Sarri‘s men are looking imperious right now. They have yet to lose any of his 11 games in charge in all competitions and they are joint-top of the table while playing the most attractive football in the PL. With Eden Hazard in the form of his life, Sarri’s first few months have been scintillating. Remember: he only arrived in mid-July but it already seems like he’s been at Stamford Bridge for years. The Blues look set to muscle in on a title battle between Man City and Liverpool.
Last week: 2
Season high: 2
Season low: 4

Report: Inter Milan, Man United to discuss Lukaku, Perisic deals

Leave a comment

Multiple reports state that Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is set to talk to Inter Milan this week about a swap deal involving Ivan Perisic and cash for Romelu Lukaku.

According to the Daily Mirror, Woodward will meet Inter’s hierarchy in Milan to discuss a swap deal which involves Lukaku and Perisic this summer.

Perisic, 30, has been a long-term target for United and per the report is said to be worth around $45 million. United value Lukaku at $90 million, so Inter would have to let Perisic leave and put about $40 million down to sign Lukaku.

A good deal?

Lukaku, 26, has previously stated he admires Serie A and wants to move to the Italian top-flight, and if he stays at United he will likely play second fiddle to Marcus Rashford. So moving him on and getting in a top quality winger they’ve wanted to sign for some time makes sense.

Perisic doesn’t fit into the young and hungry category that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is after this summer, but his quality speaks for itself. The Croatian international had a superb 2018 World Cup and has been consistently good for Inter, scoring 40 goals in 161 appearances in all competitions since he arrived in 2015.

United need to rebuild their team and Lukaku, aside from his poor 2018-19 campaign, is one of their most valuable assets. If he has another bad season coming up, you can expect his value to half what it currently is.

Pulisic is on an American mission at Chelsea

Chelsea FC
Leave a comment

Christian Pulisic looks good in Chelsea blue.

The 20-year-old U.S. men’s national team star has arrived at his new club following his $73 million transfer from Borussia Dortmund in January, which saw him remain at the Bundesliga club until the end of the 2018-19 campaign.

Pulisic admitted that he has spoken briefly with Maurizio Sarri and has met up with the Chelsea team, as the USMNT star posed for photos at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday to officially announce his move to the Premier League side.

Asked about what he hopes to achieve during his time at Chelsea, Pulisic revealed he wants the wider world to see American players can be stars at the highest level.

“I want to be a part of this team. I want to make it hit in Chelsea and I want to be as big of a part of this team as I can,” Pulisic said. “I want to come in here and I want to score goals and prove to people that American players can do it. For me, in the end, if people can say that about me then I will be very proud. I am already proud to be here but that is my biggest goal.”

The American soccer family will be cheering Pulisic on from across the pond, and no doubt Chelsea are about to get a lot more fans across the USA.

Pulisic is expected to be the main man for the USMNT this summer during their Gold Cup tournament, which will see him link up late with Chelsea’s preseason. That is far from ideal but Pulisic is determined to take his chance in the PL.

“Now I just felt that it was the right step [to join Chelsea]. It was a great time in Dortmund but it was a feeling and I still have that. This is the biggest stage, it is incredible to come in and be in England and part of this league. If you want to prove yourself it is the greatest stage to be on,” Pulisic added.

This feels like a make or break moment in Pulisic’s career. At every step on his journey so far he has passed each hurdle with flying colors. However, with injuries mounting up last season and uncertainty over his future at Dortmund, Pulisic will want to prove any doubters wrong.

Making the step up to the Premier League from the Bundesliga will be a challenge, and doing it at one of the most demanding and ruthless clubs in Europe will also be tough.

But with Eden Hazard likely leaving this summer and both Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek going down with serious injuries over the past month, a window of opportunity has opened for Pulisic at the start of next season.

He must hit the ground running at Chelsea both for his own good and to spread the word about what the world can expect from the new crop of American players.

Borussia Dortmund sign Hazard*

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Hazard has signed for Borussia Dortmund from Borussia Monchengladbach.

Thorgan Hazard, of course.

He is the second Hazard brother to make a move this summer after Kylian, 23, moved from Chelsea to Cercle Brugge, and with Eden Hazard linked with a move from Chelsea to Real Madrid in the coming weeks, it could be a hat trick of switches for the Hazard family.

As for Thorgan, 26, his fine form out wide for Monchengladbach in 2018-19 has seen Dortmund snap him up for a fee reported to be $38 million on a five-year contract, as he looks like being a direct replacement for Christian Pulisic who has officially arrived at Chelsea after the end of the 2018-19 Bundesliga season.

Here’s what Thorgan had to say about his arrival at the Westfalenstadion.

Hazard scored 12 goals in 29 appearances across all competitions and has become a regular in the Belgium national team setup alongside his brother, the captain. In his five seasons at Monchengladbach he’s scored 45 goals in 176 games in all competitions and the former Chelsea loanee has certainly carved out a very good career for himself since he made a permanent move from Chelsea to ‘Gladbach in 2015.

Entering the prime of his career, Dortmund will be a great spot for him to develop further and play a leading role in their push to win the Bundesliga next season and make a deep run in the UEFA Champions League.

Off the back of signing Hoffenheim defender Nico Schulz, Dortmund aren’t messing around this summer as they spent almost $30 million to bring in the German defender.

With most of that Pulisic money already spent, Lucien Favre will be able to kick his team on to the next level next season and push Bayern Munich all the way.

Just how wrong? Revisiting Premier League predictions

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Own it.

That’s how I look at Premier League predictions. When you’re right, be happy about your good fortune. When you’re wrong, raise your hand.

But there’s another level to it: Why was I right or wrong? Did a team let me down, or did I vastly overrate/underrate their potential?

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

Twenty months ago I pegged Burnley to get relegated with an almost record-low amount of points. The Clarets qualified for the Europa League, and I ate my words (even if Sean Dyche‘s men seemingly out-performed every metric on Earth in spite of stats, like some old man claiming Man City wins because of “better chemistry, not talent”).

Cardiff City
Predicted finish: 20
Actual finish: 18

How wrong was I? Not. As much credit as the Bluebirds got for grinding every week, and as much of a difference as the late Emiliano Sala could’ve been to their fortunes, they completed passes at an almost absurdly-bad 63.9 percent rate while having just 39.1 percent of the ball. It was bad.

Huddersfield Town
Predicted finish: 19
Actual finish: 20

How wrong was I? Not. Huddersfield Town managed a league-worst .4 attempts per game from inside the six-yard box, and were one of only five teams to attempt less than six shots per game from inside the 18.

Predicted finish: 18
Actual finish: 11

How wrong was I? Pretty wrong. Javi Gracia‘s men were strong against bad teams — for the most part — but never sprung another real upset after beating Spurs to go 4-0 early in the season. Record against the Top Six? 1W-0D-11L.

Predicted finish: 17
Actual finish: 14

How wrong was I? Eh. The Cherries were never really in trouble thanks to a 6-2-2 start, but man did they ride their luck.

Predicted finish: 16
Actual finish: 15

How wrong was I? I’ve learned my lesson. Regardless of how much talent appears to be on a Sean Dyche roster, he’s a rich man’s Tony Pulis and should not be doubted.

The face Sean Dyche makes before he fist fights an entire village. Terrifying. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Predicted finish: 15
Actual finish: 16

How wrong was I? With respect to Mark Hughes, I thought Saints’ season would come down to when he was sacked and who they identified to replace him. Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s in a good place.

Brighton and Hove Albion
Predicted finish: 14
Actual finish: 17

How wrong was I? A bit wrong, and I pretty much blame Pascal Gross, who back slid from 7 goals and 8 assists in his Premier League debut to just three and three in Year No. 2. The Seagulls didn’t score a single goal from outside the 18.

Predicted finish: 13
Actual finish: 7

How wrong was I? It’s not simply about buying players — see: Fulham — but about acquiring hungry players. Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota, and several others had points to prove, and Jimenez especially made it well.

Newcastle United
Predicted finish: 12
Actual finish: 13

How wrong was I? To be honest, this went about as I expected given the brutal fixture list to start the season. Had I known Miguel Almiron would’ve transitioned so nicely from MLS to the PL, I might’ve had them 10th.

 (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Predicted finish: 11
Actual finish: 19

How wrong was I? Very, but to my defense so were most people. On paper, the Cottagers improved more than even Wolves.

Crystal Palace
Predicted finish: 10
Actual finish: 12

How wrong was I? The stats kinda back me up, and it may be worth noting for next season that the Palace’s results didn’t match its performances. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luka Milivojevic, and Wilfried Zaha gave them difference makers in all thirds of the field, and it’s surprising they didn’t push a bit higher on the table.

Leicester City
Predicted finish: 9
Actual finish: 9

How wrong was I? Not. The Foxes were pretty infuriating all year. Maybe Brendan Rodgers‘ ego and power will match the player power that’s run the club since they won the title. That said, the inconsistency and tumult shouldn’t be a surprise in a season the club had to deal with its owner dying on a match day.

West Ham United
Predicted finish: 8
Actual finish: 10

How wrong was I? Not really. I thought it would take Manuel Pellegrini some time to put his men together, but I didn’t predict the Irons would get a total of 37 appearances from Andriy Yarmolenko, Jack Wilshere, Manuel Lanzini, and Carlos Sanchez.

Predicted finish: 7
Actual finish: 8

How wrong was I? It took Marco Silva longer than expected to get his men humming, but think of this: If Jordan Pickford doesn’t give Divock Origi a derby winner, Everton is going to Europe. I know, I know… chaos theory. But still.

Richarlison (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur
Predicted finish: 6
Actual finish: 4

How wrong was I? Like many, I was stunned that Spurs didn’t spend this summer and thought injuries would hurt them. They did, but only to the extent that Tottenham wasn’t able to sustain a title challenge. Spurs rarely gave the ball away, and the only teams that averaged fewer “times dispossessed” than Tottenham’s 9.2 per 90 were teams that never had the ball: Brighton, Cardiff, and Burnley.

Predicted finish: 5
Actual finish: 5

How wrong was I? Spot-on. It was going to take time for the Gunners to come together following a first managerial change in ages, but Arsenal had the offense to challenge for the Top Four. Surprisingly for Arsenal, they averaged just eight dribbles per game, 12th in the PL. Unai Emery had them more cautious than usual.

Predicted finish: 4
Actual finish: 3

How wrong was I? Not. Maurizio Sarri is not for everyone, but he knows how to get results. Granted Gonzalo Higuain was his guy, but he did it without a top striker.

Predicted finish: 3
Actual finish: 2

How wrong was I? Well, considering the Reds had one of the best runners-up finishes of all-time, quite wrong. Mostly, I didn’t expect Mohamed Salah to deliver again and he mostly did (save for a late winter slump).

Manchester United
Predicted finish: 2
Actual finish: 6

How wrong was I? Real wrong. Almost as wrong as United looks for canning Jose Mourinho. The manager needed to leave town, but there was a reason he was playing so packed-in. Ask yourself this: If Ed Woodward gave Mourinho the use of Toby Alderweireld, would Spurs and United be flipped?

Manchester City
Predicted finish: 1
Actual finish: 1

How wrong was I? On point. How good was City? For a club that ranked No. 1 in possession, they were only dispossessed 10.3 times per match. That was the 8th fewest total in the league.