We’re still not halfway through the Premier League season, and the balance is not going to return to the matches played column any time soon.
So the irregular litmus test that is our Club Power Rankings rolls on without worry.
Buckle up, we’ve had two months since our last run through the league, and one of those months held most of the Festive Fixtures.
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. III
20. Sheffield United
Why? You serious, Clark?
19. West Bromwich Albion
Why? Sam Allardyce has been in charge for four matches. He’s drawn Liverpool and got angry that anyone would infer they had fortune smile on them. He’s lost the other three games in blowout fashion and basically said his players aren’t good enough and that his “never been relegated” record is basically because his clubs have bought him better players than were there when he got there.
18. Brighton and Hove Albion
Why? The world’s biggest head scratcher. The anti-Burnley (see below). Graham Potter’s Seagulls are winless since a Nov. 21 defeat of Aston Villa, and they’ve won the xG battle in five of those eight matches.
They’ve now had the following matches on their xG record:
- Lost 2-3 to Man United (xG advantage 2.98-1.58)
- Drew 1-1 with Liverpool (xG advantage. 2.31-0.28)
- Lost 2-1 to Southampton (xG advantage 2.03-1.35)
- Drew 1-1 v Sheffield United (xG advantage 2.90-1.04)
Why? The table matters, and the table spot stinks, but four-straight draws before COVID came to Craven Cottage in large numbers. No one really wants to play Scott Parker’s hard-fouling bunch and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa is one of the division’s most overlooked players.
Why? A huge tree falls in the forest, leaving a massive tree-shaped dent in the cold, wet ground and bouncing to the side. It fills with water to finish off any of the Aesthetically-pleasing flowers that survived impact. Sean Dyche signs that dead tree. The worst-passing team in the league with the fourth-worst shots-per-game and possession, winning more aerials than anyone else, and completing fewer dribbles than anyone else, are still going to find a way to stay in the PL. Have won the xG battle just twice since the start of November but have a 4W-3D-2L record in that span. BURNLEY. Let’s see how they look post-takeover.
15. Newcastle United
Why? If you’re going to try and get by with a manager like Steve Bruce, someone players will play for but also be left unprepared when things go off-script during the flow of the game, you need a dominant midfielder going box-to-box. With apologies to passing maestro Jonjo Shelvey, industrious Isaac Hayden, and buzzing bee Matty Longstaff, that’s not there right now. Also, the COVID-19 absence of Allan Saint Maximin is terrible on so many levels. Bring us our entertainers!
14. Crystal Palace
Why? Where would they be without Wilfried Zaha? Well, they are 5W-2D when he scores or assists, 1W-2D-4L when he doesn’t, and have lost both matches without scoring when he doesn’t play.
13. Leeds United
Why? They are who they are — Very entertaining and great to have in the league but maddeningly inconsistent. Incredible numbers: Leeds have 24.89 xG and 22.95 xGA from open play alone (no set pieces, corners, or penalties). Those numbers would put them ninth amongst all teams in all scenarios for goals scored and give them the eighth-worst goals conceded. Tighten it up (but also, don’t).
Why? Out-performed Tottenham in a 1-1 draw just after Christmas but have been unconvincing in nearly every game since Raul Jimenez was injured. Decent against Villa and had a nice period versus Manchester United, but they don’t look like the Wolves we’ve come to love (and fear).
Why? Turns out playing Alexandre Lacazette more as if he was an really good finisher more times than not is a good idea. It’s the lone reason for the rebound but it’s up there. And Thomas Partey should be back soon.
10. West Ham United
Why? Back-to-back strong defensive performances against good attacks in Saints and Everton. Don’t be surprised if David Moyes is getting Manager of the Year talk in the press if the Irons handle their business in a run of Burnley, West Brom, and Palace, the first two at home.
9. Aston Villa
Why? Very much in the top-end discussion. But given a chance to prove that their four-match unbeaten run had restored their early-season power, Villa was outplayed by Chelsea in a 1-1 draw and Manchester United in a 2-1 loss. Work to do.
Why? Followed up a nine-match unbeaten league run by taking four of 18 points. Frank Lampard’s public face and words has been confusing and he better hope his players have a better idea of what he’s trying to do than the rest of us have been able to figure out after 17 games. That City loss was a wake-up call for plenty of people who believed Chelsea had made it back.
Why? The defeat of Liverpool was solid and deserved but also a bit fortunate, too. They’ve allowed one goal from their last four, and it was to Man City, but they’ve also scored one goal in that stretch. Up ahead? Leicester, Leeds, Arsenal, Villa, and Manchester United. That’s a proving ground!
6. Tottenham Hotspur
Why? There are valid individual excuses for all of the matches of their recently-ended four-match skid but combined they don’t work. Villa, Sheffield United, and Liverpool are next. Better find 5-7 points there if you want to be in the title fight, and at least one better come at home to the reigning champions.
5. Leicester City
Why? It’s challenging to get a feel for the ceiling of Brendan Rodgers’ men. Are they the team that bossed Palace and drew or the one that looked meh at Newcastle but found the requisite winner? There are numbers that scare us: Outscored 9-0 on corner kicks and set pieces. Ten goals from penalties. And of their surface-level extremely impressive 23-11 advantage in goals from open play? It shrinks to approximately 17-15 in terms of expected goals. Look out.
Why? Carlo Ancelotti has taught the Toffees how to win a different way since James Rodriguez was injured. He returned in a 1-0 loss to West Ham, and Everton had four-straight before that while allowing just one goal from a gauntlet of Chelsea, Leicester City, and Arsenal (then Sheffield United).
Why? The Reds are winless in three PL outings for the first time since May 2018, and this the first time the Reds have scored just one goal in three matches since Sept. 12, 2015. That said, Liverpool out-attempted West Brom 17-5, Newcastle 11-8, and Saints 16-7, holding 78, 74, and 68 percent possession in those games. They simply didn’t score enough. That was enough to have some claiming Pep Guardiola had lost his touch earlier this season, so it’s one thing or the other here. We bet it’s unlucky.
2. Manchester United
Why? A 10-match unbeaten run in the league is nice, but we’re more interested in how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men responded to taking zero of six points from the final two UEFA Champions League group stage matches by collecting 14 of 18 points in the Premier League by a combined score line of 14-7. That seven, though. And winless against the traditional Big Six despite all four matches coming at home.
1. Manchester City
Why? Unbeaten in seven league matches while conceding a total of two goals, City has also beaten Manchester United and Arsenal away in the League Cup and blasted Marseille in the UEFA Champions League. Since allowing eight goals in season-opening matches against Wolves and Leicester City, Pep Guardiola’s men have allowed multiple goals just once while kept 14 clean sheets in 23 matches across all competitions. Now if they can keep Sergio Aguero healthy…