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Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 12

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We told you this weekend could provide big tumult in the power rankings, as several clubs in close proximity tangled in the Premier League, and the matches delivered in a big way.

[ ARCHIVE: Premier League club power rankings ]


20. Fulham — Much better against Liverpool than recent opposition, but still on pace to break the Premier League record for goals allowed.
Last week: 20
Season high: 11
Season low: 20

19. Huddersfield Town — A nice point against West Ham, but it’s difficult to look at the match and think the Terriers would’ve managed a point from performances of that ilk more than once in a great while.
Last week: 19
Season high: 18
Season low: 20

18. Burnley — Still capable of solid performances, but the attack looks like a relegation candidate more often than not.
Last week: 15
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

17. Crystal Palace *New season low* — A victim of the schedule? Sure, but there’s little to like about the attack as even Wilfried Zaha appears shaken in confidence.
Last week: 14
Season high: 6
Season low: 17

Zaha (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

16. Cardiff City — Aided in a big way by Dale Stephens red card, but the Bluebirds are looking less and less like the automatic relegation team of early weeks.
Last week: 16
Season high: 16
Season low: 20

15. Southampton — Probably deserved all three points against Watford, but looking ready to take the next step despite a miserly start points-wise.
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 17

14. Newcastle United — Rafa Benitez‘s men are the pound-for-pound defensive champions of the league. Only six teams have allowed fewer goals, and only one is lower than 7th on the table (Wolves, 11th).
Last week: 16
Season high: 13
Season low: 19

13. Brighton and Hove Albion — Two-straight losses following the 2-1 defeat at Cardiff, in what draws Bournemouth as the top disappointments of the week.
Last week: 10
Season high: 9
Season low: 19

12. West Ham — Manuel Pellegrini‘s men had to work hard to get a point from Huddersfield Town, and is hoping Samir Nasri can help fill the hole left by Andriy Yarmolenko‘s injury. A big ask?
Last week: 13
Season high: 9
Season low: 20

11. Watford — Hornets looking more and more like early over-performers. 
Last week: 12
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

10. Wolves — Gave Arsenal all it could handle, but fans should be demanding more from a club which thrives against big clubs but has not performed against several seemingly lesser sides.
Last week: 13
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Ruben Neves. (Mike Egerton/PA via AP)

9. Leicester City — To take four of six points with a trip to their owner’s funeral in Thailand sandwiched in between is a serious achievement.
Last week: 9
Season high: 7
Season low: 13

8. Bournemouth — Eddie Howe will be raging with his Cherries for their performance at Newcastle United, a lost chance to sit a point back of Arsenal.
Last week: 8
Season high: 6
Season low: 12

7. Manchester United — Count our own Joe Prince-Wright among those tired of the excuses for Jose Mourinho’s struggles at Old Trafford. The gulf between his men and Man City is huge.
Last week: 6
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

6. Everton — Two weeks to prepare for a visit from Cardiff, and then the away Merseyside Derby. If the Toffees manage a draw at Liverpool, it’s not unreasonable to think they should nab 10 from their next 12 points.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

5. Arsenal — Beat Everton in September, and that will keep the Gunners ahead of the impressive Toffees… for now.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 9

4. Chelsea — Surely the draw vs. Everton is a case of a decent opponent and Europa League lag, but championship winners generally find a way to get the winner at home.
Last week: 3
Season high: 1
Season low: 5

3. Liverpool — It seems unrealistic to expect blowouts each week, but the Reds’ 2-0 win over a defensively-weak Fulham was tepid at best.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 4

2. Spurs *New season high*Despite injury and form problems for pretty much all of its biggest stars, Spurs sit three points back of second, are two rounds from the League Cup final, and aren’t dead in the Champions League. Yes, Spurs were by far second-best in a Sept. 15 home loss to the Reds, but it’s been two months.

Their next two league matches are home to Chelsea and away to Arsenal, so the heights could be brief, but what Spurs have done in the face of wild injuries is impressive.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 8

1. Man City — For everyone mentioning the absence of Paul Pogba for United in the derby, City was missing Kevin De Bruyne. This team is hearkening back to Pep’s best Barcelona teams, without a Lionel Messi in the bunch.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 2

Olivier Giroud signs new contract at Chelsea

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Olivier Giroud‘s meaty French forehead will remain in the Premier League for at least another season.

Giroud, 32, was set to be out of contract this summer but he has signed a new deal at Chelsea which is a big relief given their FIFA transfer ban for the next two transfer windows.

Reacting to his contract extension, the 2018 World Cup winner was delighted to remain at Stamford Bridge.

“I am very happy to sign a new contract. I really wanted to stay at least one more year – I have felt a part of the team, the family, since the beginning and hopefully there will be more trophies to come,” Giroud said.

This is a good deal for everyone involved. Giroud had options from across Europe and the Premier League for next season, and he will still have those next summer, but it feels like he has been underused so far during his time at Chelsea as Alvaro Morata was their main man in 2017-18 despite his struggles up front.

Giroud has proven himself as a reliable striker at Chelsea following his move from Arsenal — where he scored 105 goals in 253 appearances and won three FA Cups across six seasons — in January 2018 and helped the Blues win the FA Cup in 2017-18.

He has mainly been used in the Europa League and cup competitions during the 2018-19 season and has scored 10 times in Chelsea’s run to the Europa League final (he is the leading scorer in the competition) against Arsenal next Wednesday.

Giroud has scored 17 times in 62 appearances since making the move across London, which is a decent return considering he has mostly been used as a substitute.

Gonzalo Higuain will likely not be returning for a second spell on loan at Chelsea from Juventus, so Giroud will get more minutes in the 2019-20 campaign and he’s shown he can slot into this Maurizio Sarri side seamlessly. His intelligent hold-up play has seen him develop a telepathic understanding with Eden Hazard and even if Hazard leaves, as expected, this summer, you can see Giroud striking up a similar rapport with Christian Pulisic next season.

Giroud is probably one of the most underrated strikers in the world game, as he is third all-time leading goalscorer for France, behind only Thierry Henry and Michel Platini. If you whip a dangerous cross into the box, he will get on the end of it and often finish it.

Arsenal’s Mkhitaryan to miss Europa League final

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Arsenal’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not be available to play in the UEFA Europa League final against Chelsea.

The final on May 29 is being held in Baku, Azerbaijan and that country has no diplomatic relations with the country of Mkhitaryan’s birth, Armenia. Hence, Arsenal cannot guarantee the safety of their playmaker who is also the captain of the Armenian national team.

Despite the ambassador assuring Mkhitaryan will be safe, the Gunners have decided he will not be able to travel with the squad over those safety concerns.

“We are very disappointed to announce that Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not be travelling with the squad for our Uefa Europa League final against Chelsea,” the north London club said in a statement.

Due their conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, tensions are high between Azerbaijan and Armenia and Mkhitaryan did not travel for Arsenal’s Europa League game against Qarabag in Azerbaijan earlier this season.

He will now not be available for the final despite being a key part of Arsenal’s run to the Europa League final, which they must win to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season. UEFA had previously said they would help with the situation, but this is the latest problem in holding the final in Baku as only 5,000 fans of both Chelsea and Arsenal are expected in the 67,000 capacity stadium due to their being no direct flights and other issues getting to Azerbaijan.

Arsenal released the following statement on the situation regarding Mkhitaryan.

We have thoroughly explored all the options for Micki to be part of the squad but after discussing this with Micki and his family we have collectively agreed he will not be in our travelling party. We have written to Uefa expressing our deep concerns about this situation. Micki has been a key player in our run to the final so this is a big loss for us from a team perspective.

We’re also very sad that a player will miss out on a major European final in circumstances such as this, as it is something that comes along very rarely in a footballer’s career. Micki will continue to be part of our preparations until we depart for Baku at the weekend.

Mkhitaryan responded by saying “it hurts a lot” to miss the final, but added that “we had to take the tough decision for me not to travel with the squad.”

Bologna draws 3-3 at Lazio to secure Serie A safety

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ROME (AP) Bologna secured Serie A football for another season after drawing at Lazio 3-3 in a thriller on Monday.

Bologna moved four points clear of the relegation zone with one match remaining.

Lazio was still celebrating winning the Italian Cup midweek and Joaquin Correa fired the capital side in front in the 13th minute.

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

However, two goals in the space of a minute from Andrea Poli and Mattia Destro saw Bologna take the lead early in the second half.

Bastos curled in a stunning effort to level for Lazio in the 59th but Riccardo Orsolini restored Bologna’s lead shortly after.

Substitute Sergej Milinkovic-Savic secured a draw for Lazio with a sensational free kick 10 minutes from time.

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

Choosing a USMNT XI for the Gold Cup

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Noting that most positions on the international stage are up for grabs based on form, there are special opportunities on the wing, right back, and center back when it comes to the USMNT at the Gold Cup this summer.

That’s because of two related things, one fact and one close to it:

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

  1. DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks are missing from the lineup due to injury. Brooks is easily the Yanks’ No. 1 center back, and Yedlin is a right back when Tyler Adams is unavailable and good enough that Gregg Berhalter tries to shoehorn him in at right wing when Adams is manning that spot.
  2. Mexico’s the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament with more in-form club players in Europe than the U.S., including would-be Premier League Best XI forward Raul Jimenez of Wolves. And who’s going to have to deal with Raul? You guessed it, the big American center backs.

Presuming Berhalter is still wed to Adams as the part-fullback, part distributing midfielder role, that has our lineup for important Gold Cup matches with few sure things.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — XXXXX — XXXXX — XXXXX

McKennie — Bradley

XXXXX — Pulisic — XXXXX

Altidore

Now you may not like that I’ve assumed Bradley and Altidore’s places here, but there’s little doubt both are still quite capable against CONCACAF competition and also have the experience in this exact competition and against Mexico. Surely both are motivated for a bit of redemption as well.

Friendlies against Jamaica and Venezuela will give Berhalter a chance to try out players like Tyler Boyd, Marlon Fossey, and Miles Robinson should they impress amongst a 40-player field (although the Jamaica match on June 5 in Washington, D.C. is a day before the final rosters are due for the Gold Cup).

Now what we are trying to solve here is who is the best bet to help the Yanks win the dang thing.

Defenders: Aaron Long, Matt Miazga, and Tim Ream are the favorites to start at the two center back spots and left back, but Daniel Lovitz will try to push Ream after a rough season at Fulham. Both Walker Zimmerman and Omar Gonzalez are in good form, and you can bet Berhalter will give Cameron Carter-Vickers a chance to earn some time. A flat back four role gives Antonee Robinson hope in place of Ream, and if Adams moves into the midfield, Nick Lima did alright in his right back role in January.

Midfielders/Wingers: The spots around Pulisic should be filled by those who can keep the width of the field but also serve somewhat as enforcers for the No. 10. Sebastian Lletget gives them a good shot on one side, and Paul Arriola provides a similar spot. While Joe Gyau, Josh Sargent, Duane Holmes, and Djordje Mihailovic can hope to challenge, the MLS vets with experience outside the country are good bets to get the gigs.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — Miazga — Long — Ream

McKennie — Bradley

Arriola — Pulisic — Lletget

Altidore

Does that get the job done against Mexico? Probably not, but it’ll give Tata Martino’s men a hassle.