As we embark upon a second Premier League Club Power Rankings of the 2020-21 season, let us also note the power of a single player to drive the fortunes of a club.
This can be challenging at some big clubs but there is rarely a big debate about the identity of the top performer at a club. Liverpool knows that nine times out of 10 it’s Virgil van Dijk. For Man City, it’s Kevin De Bruyne.
[ MORE: Club power rankings archive ]
Yet in a shorter sample size — say, 7-8 matches — players can take the wheel from the biggest names on the club. While no one at City or Liverpool wants to lose KDB or VVD, a rich vein of form can put a Raheem Sterling or Sadio Mane front and center.
So in this PLCPR, we’ll acknowledge the best performer of the first two months of the season. As always, we’re happy to debate our choices.
Premier League Club Power Rankings: 2020-21 Methodology
As a reminder, ProSoccerTalk is using a different method to ranking teams this season, at least until everyone’s played each other once.
Here are our considerations:
- Form — Winning and losing in three recent matches plus notable injuries
- Sense and strength matter — If the champs lost two-straight hard luck matches and a relegation candidate got 2 weird VAR breaks to win, we note the big picture over the little.
- The table — Of course it matters.
- Head-to-head — The results better be notable if a head-to-head loser goes above a team that beat it recently.
- Numbers > Luck— Did a wicked deflection or bad bounce make a dominant side fall to a poor one? Let’s look at xG, shots, chances, possession, and other indicators.
Premier League Club Power Rankings: Vol. II
20. Sheffield United
Last ranking: 17
Why? It’s difficult to find anything redeeming about the Blades season, which has admittedly featured a tough early schedule. Two of their four goals came from the spot. Last in possession, second-last in shots per game, fourth-worst in completing passes, and second-worst in shots allowed per game.
Top performer: Sander Berge has been their best hope to do much of anything, though Chris Basham has also been decent at the back.
Last ranking: 19
Why? Have scored one goal in its last six games and are on a 390-minute scoreless run. The Clarets have produced less than 1 expected goal per game in five of their eight matches.
Top performer: James Tarkowski.
18. West Bromwich Albion
Last ranking: 18
Why? Still winless. Faced Burnley, Brighton, and Fulham in three-straight outings and came away with one goal and two points. Good news: After Man United on Nov. 21, will meet Sheffield United, Palace, and Newcastle in consecutive matches.
Top performer: Matheus Pereira. The only player averaging better than one shot, key pass, and completed dribble per game on a team that scored half of its season goals in one match. Keep an eye on Conor Gallagher. The 20-year-old midfielder is averaging five tackles a game through four appearances and his .8 key passes trails only Matheus Pereira.
Last ranking: 20
Why? The Cottagers are showing gumption and deserved a point or more against West Ham, but four points from 24 won’t allow for moral victories and Everton, Leicester City, Man City, and Liverpool are next.
Top performer: Tom Cairney (Alphonse Areola) — Leads the Premier League in accurate opposition half passes (312) by 16 over Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
16. Newcastle United
Last ranking: 16
Why? For every impressive point or three, and there’s a nice win over Everton this month, there’s a big question or four. The biggest being whether Steve Bruce can orchestrate a midfielder without Jonjo Shelvey. Credit to the defenders, though, and special recognition to Federico Fernandez and the Newcastle treatment team, as the Argentine’s 14 blocked shots are five more than anyone in the league.
Top performer: Allan Saint-Maximin — There’s no question the Frenchman is Newcastle’s game-by-game hope of goals.
15. Leeds United
Last ranking: 5
Why? Marcelo Bielsa’s men allowed seven goals in their first two games then limited Blades, Man City, Wolves, and Villa to a total of two… only to lose back-to-back 4-1 matches to Leicester and Palace.
Top performer: Luke Ayling.
14. Brighton and Hove Albion
Last ranking: 13
Why? Insanely unlucky, still, the Seagulls are ninth in expected goals for, fifth in expected goals conceded, and somehow 1W-3D-4L on the season.
Top performer: Leandro Trossard — As the Seagulls continue to be the most snakebit team in the league, Trossard leads the team in plenty of categories in addition to leading the league in hitting the frame of the goal (four).
13. Manchester United
Last ranking: 12
Why? Maybe the 3-1 win over Everton was the start of United’s attack and defending finding form at the same time. Harry Maguire’s been much better and the Red Devils have three good chances to collect points before its next Manchester Derby.
Top performer: Bruno Fernandes.
12. West Ham United
Last ranking: 7
Why? The 1-0 win over Fulham wasn’t the emphatic release we wanted to see following draws against Spurs and Man City and a close loss to Liverpool. Still, much improved.
Top performer: Pick a center midfielder, as Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice have both been outstanding. We’ll take Soucek, just to be a little different.
11. Crystal Palace
Last ranking: 11
Why? Wilfried Zaha has five goals this season and he’s been joined by six other Eagles on the score sheet. Palace is still overperforming but wins are wins and Roy Hodgson’s men have four.
Top performer: Zaha.
Last ranking: 9
Why? Maybe it’s time to try Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at center forward and give Nicolas Pepe a chance to shine, because the Gunners have lost three of four while scoring one total goal (in the 1-0 win at Manchester United).
Top performer: Dani Ceballos. This will soon be Thomas Partey, but Ceballos has controlled games and his performance against West Ham United was elite.
9. Aston Villa
Last ranking: 2
Why? The 3-0 defeat of Arsenal was a solid response to consecutive losses to Southampton and Leeds. Watch out for a forthcoming schedule that could see Villa take a point or more until their last fixture of 2020 versus Chelsea.
Top performer: Jack Grealish
8. Manchester City
Last ranking: 10
Why? Ruben Dias, Rodri, and Aymeric Laporte have combined to give City a real foundation underneath their dangerous attack. Plus Kevin De Bruyne is the best player in the league.
Top performer: KDB.
Last ranking: 1
Why? You mean why not a farther slide, and why ahead of a Manchester United side that beat it 3-1? Depth is a big problem for the Toffees but its three-match slide happened in its first three matches without suspended Richarlison. With Fulham, Leeds, and Burnley next, we’ll see if Carlo Ancelotti steadies the ship before a next huge test against Chelsea on Dec. 12.
Top performer: James Rodriguez, when healthy, has been one of the three or four most dynamic players in this young Premier League season.
Last ranking: 14
Why? A loss to Leicester City was a setback, as was drawing Newcastle, but Nuno Espirito Santo’s men have been the better team more often than not.
Top performer: Ruben Neves — Take out goalkeepers and there are only two players in the PL’s top 10 in accurate long balls: Neves and teammate Conor Coady. Neves is one of only two in the league’s Top 20 above 70 percent in completion percentage on long balls (James Rodriguez). Given the volume, that’s nuts.
Last ranking: 15
Why? Ralph Hasenhuttl has proven that patience was in Saints’ fans best interests, and Southampton was so much better organized than Newcastle in a comprehensive win without Danny Ings.
Top performer: James Ward-Prowse. He can do absolutely anything on the pitch.
Last ranking: 6
Why? Buried Burnley and Sheffield United and might’ve taken Man United, too, if a certain penalty was called against Harry Maguire on Cesar Azpilicueta. Timo Werner is a true star.
Top performer: N’Golo Kante – A PL-high 24 interceptions shows that the former Ballon d’Or candidate remains one of the best in the game.
3. Leicester City
Last ranking: 8
Why? The Europa League hasn’t slowed Brendan Rodgers’ men, who’ve beaten Arsenal, Leeds, and Wolves to the tune of a combined 6-1 score line.
Top performer: Youri Tielemans. The 23-year-old has helped Leicester run the show despite injuries to Wilfred Ndidi, Caglar Soyuncu, and — for a time — Jamie Vardy.
Last ranking: 4
Why? Because losses of Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, and now Trent Alexander-Arnold have not stopped Jurgen Klopp’s men from staying within a point of the top.
Top performer: Mohamed Salah – level with De Bruyne for most key passes in league, his shoot-first reputation sometimes precedes him but the Egyptian remains Liverpool’s best feature.
1. Tottenham Hotspur
Last ranking: 3
Why? Have not lost since the opener against Everton despite the challenging Thursday-weekend doubleheaders of the Europa League.