Fortune

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 16

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The Premier League didn’t issue too many surprises at the bottom of the table this week, but two top-tier sides didn’t behave as such and shook up our rankings.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Chelsea and Man City have dipped low, and Bournemouth’s skid doesn’t have it sinking lower (yet) because of the teams beneath it.

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

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Watford — Liverpool and Manchester United are next, and it’s looking a long way back to safety.
Last week: 20
Season high: 17
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 0-0 v. Crystal Palace
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Liverpool

19. Norwich City — Outshot, out-passed, our possessed Sheffield United at home and still lost. Bad vibes, man.
Last week: 18
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Sheffield United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Leicester City

18. West Ham United — Just feels like there’s something lurking below the surface here. Doesn’t smell right given the Irons talent.
Last week: 17
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-1 v. Arsenal
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Southampton

17. Bournemouth — Losing to Liverpool is no shame, but it’s almost officially time to worry.
Last week: 16
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Chelsea

16. Aston Villa — Tom Heaton is a heck of a goalkeeper but he can’t be expected to save four A-plus danger chances per game.
Last week: 14
Season high: 8
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 4-1 v. Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Sheffield United

15. Southampton — West Ham and Villa back-to-back have to provide four points if Saints revival is to be believed.
Last week: 15
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Newcastle United
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. West Ham United

14. Everton — Duncan Ferguson gives the Toffees board reason enough to be patient with their managerial hire, and then Napoli goes and fires Carlo Ancelotti.
Last week: 19
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Won 3-1 v. Chelsea
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Manchester United

13. Burnley — The defending against Spurs — we know, Spurs are good — was enough to drop them far lower than four spots. Abject stuff from a Sean Dyche side.
Last week: 9
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Lost 5-0 at Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Newcastle

12. Arsenal — Freddie Ljungberg started Nicolas Pepe, and Nicholas Pepe was his best player. Stunning stuff, really. Look at the assist below.
Last week: 13
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Won 3-1 at West Ham
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Man City

11. Crystal Palace — I want to believe, but am holding out for something more. A derby win versus Brighton would suffice.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 0-0 at Watford
Up next: 2:45 p.m. ET Monday v. Brighton

10. Newcastle United — Again, Steve Bruce‘s men are getting tremendous Fortune and he’s pushing almost all the right buttons (It takes guts to start Andy Carroll over the struggling record signing Joelinton). This could be a sign of the Geordie Apocalypse.
Last week: 11
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Southampton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

9. Sheffield United — A little wobbly lately, but still a good comeback at Carrow Road.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-1 at Norwich City
Up next: 10 a.m ET Saturday v. Aston Villa

8. Brighton and Hove Albion — Doesn’t it say something that a country who starves for young, strong English coaches had one sitting in Sweden for eight years? Graham Potter is legit.
Last week: 12
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Won 2-1 at Arsenal
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

7. Chelsea — Some of those young guys who’ve played so well, so early, are looking a little ragged. It’s a shame Frank Lampard is still waiting on Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who will really help things take another step.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 3-1 at Everton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

6. Manchester City — It probably has nothing to do with the system, and a lot to do with not having Aymeric Laporte, Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane… Still, it needs to be better than a home derby loss to a Paul Pogba-less United.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 6
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Manchester United
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Arsenal

5. Tottenham Hotspur — We’re gonna need multiple screens on Sunday morning, as Wolves-Spurs and Man Utd-Everton are both must-monitor.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 5-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Wolves

4. Manchester United — Ole’s at the wheel, and still doesn’t feel like Lewis Hamilton or anything but we’re not worried about heading off a cliff.
Last week: 6
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 2-1 at Man City
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Everton

3. Wolves — Beat Spurs on Sunday and I’ll go ahead and bet on them as a Top Four finisher, even after the Brighton draw failed to deliver the goods.
Last week: 3
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 2-2 at Brighton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Spurs

2. Leicester City — Wow.
Last week: 2
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 4-1 at Aston Villa
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Norwich City

1. Liverpool — Wow, only atop the table.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 3-0 at Bournemouth
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Watford

Liverpool react to UCL advancement v. familiar Salzburg

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Liverpool knew the score and the scene when it walked into Red Bull Arena Salzburg for a UEFA Champions League decider versus Jesse Marsch’s Austrian champs, so they weren’t surprised when it remained 0-0 nearing the hour mark.

[ RECAP: Salzburg 0-2 Liverpool ]

“We knew they were trying to make history for their club,” said Andy Robertson (video at bottom). “They feel as if they’re a Champions League team and they are very confident. It was all about coming here, riding that wave, and we had the biggest chances in the first 45. We knew if we kept going chances would come.”

A pair of former Red Bull Salzburg players changed the fortunes of their current and former club, as Sadio Mane and Naby Keita scored within two minutes to provide the lone goals of the game and a spot for the Reds in the UCL knockout rounds.

Jurgen Klopp was brimming with praise for both his side and the hosts, saying of Keita and Mane, via ProSoccerUSA.com’s Manuel Veth:

“Both were excellent. It appears [Salzburg] produce some very good players. Keïta, in particular, was very good. I moved him to the ten and that improved his performance. He was a bit tired towards the end but very good.”

Mane admitted it was both a joy to return and a bit bittersweet to be tasked with ousting the club which catapulted him to the attention of PL suitors Southampton.

“Always nice to come back here because it’s where everything started for me and really grateful to this club and the fans,” Mane said. “Sorry guys, but it’s football we have to do it, and that’s it.”

As Everton discusses Silva’s fate, how has it gone so poorly?

Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images
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Patience is thin with Marco Silva at Everton.

The Portuguese manager saw his record as Toffees boss just two matches above .500 after a 2-0 loss to promoted Norwich City on Sunday, with home fans singing “You’re getting sacked in the morning” to Silva after the match.

The BBC reports that “major shareholder Farhad Moshiri held talks with fellow directors, including chairman Bill Kenwright and director of football Marcel Brands, after the game to discuss the growing crisis.”

The Toffees are 4W-2D-7L this season despite not a crazy relaxed early season fixture list which has yet to see their first meetings of the season versus Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Leicester City, and derby rivals Liverpool.

Those matches are all coming in the next five weeks. So in some ways it doesn’t feel like the meetings are abroad whether to let him go, rather when to let him go. Do you make a new or interim manager sort this out inside the fire, hoping for a point or three, or let Silva try to swim through a swift current?

There are myriad reasons for their struggles. The biggest issue seems to be a bizarre ongoing reality in which the Toffees barely concede any shots — their 8.5 shots conceded per game is less than any team not named Man City — but almost all of them are deadly ones.

Complicating things is Fortune not going their way, as the Expected Goals Table says Everton has scored 5.5 less goals than expected, while conceding 5 more! Considering the chances created and conceded, Understat says Everton should’ve won five games they lost or drew (It also says they were fortunate to get all the points from Watford and Bournemouth).

Silva finished 8th in his first season in charge, with 15 wins, 11 draws, and 14 losses in league play. He finished the season on a bright run, with wins over Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United dotting a 5W-2D-1L finish, and the Toffees would’ve finished with two draws in the Merseyside Derby if not for Divock Origi‘s shocking winner last December.

This season saw the Toffees strengthen their roster and handed that terrific early run of fixtures. What Silva’s done with it is go 4-2-7 while losing to all three promoted sides. That’s not a slight to those sides, two of whom look particularly decent, but this is not what was supposed to happen at this Everton.

Going back to these next five matches, a run which also adds a home League Cup quarterfinal against Leicester City, the Toffees can get something done and maybe a new manager bounce could play a role. Silva leaving will risk upsetting one of Everton’s only effective players in Richarlison, but how many Toffees might be buoyed by something new?

Hard to say. Even one win over Sheffield United, Norwich City, or Aston Villa would have the Toffees two points back of fifth. Now, they are legitimately staring down a 15-point menu which could reasonably yield zero points (though you’d reckon the inconsistent but talented Toffees will find a win or couple of draws in there, as one of their best performances this year came against Man City).

Complicating matters is the hierarchy’s very public and long pursuit of Silva. Surely they don’t want to have all the drama with Watford, which played a huge role in Silva’s firing from Vicarage Road, to look like a fruitless pursuit.

And can Toffees fans be sure that their leadership will find a promising figure, and not just a familiar retread like Sam Allardyce or David Moyes who will find a result or two and inevitable improvement to forsake the club’s future as a walking shepard’s tone in the short-term?

Ultimately, there may be reason enough via statistics to say that the club’s problems has been its gaffes, and that Silva might be able to right the ship. But in these managerial times, it’s more likely they find a new man to take the wheel. And, mark our words, be careful not to assume the new man has “fixed things” unless things go remarkably better. Still, given the schedule ahead and the weight of one of the world’s most charged derbies, it seems a change is due.

PL Sunday Preview: Sheffield United v. Manchester United

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Highlighting Chris Wilder‘s successful season thus far (or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s underwhelming work at Old Trafford), Sheffield United head into Sunday’s game above  Manchester United in the standings (Watch Live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Since their soul-crushing 1-0 loss to Liverpool, Blades are unbeaten in their last five, making them the most consistent team outside of the top five. Throughout that span of games, the newly-promoted side have picked up wins against Arsenal and Burnley.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Despite being only a win outside of the tope five, United have kept their distance from the concept of consistency. In 12, league games this season, the Red Devils have failed to pick up consecutive wins, meaning that a win at Bramall Lane would bring an end to such negative run.


Injuries/suspensions

Sheffield United: OUT — None QUESTIONABLE — John Egan (calf)

Manchester United: Scott McTominay (ankle), Marcos Rojo (calf, 7 Dec), Paul Pogba (ankle) QUESTIONABLE — Eric Bailly (knee), Diogo Dalot (groin), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (knee), Luke Shaw (thigh), Axel Tuanzebe (hip)


Probable lineups

Sheffield United: Moore; Stevens, O’Connell, Egan, Basham, Baldock; Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck; McGoldrick, Mousset

Manchester United: DeGea; Williams, Lindelof, Maguire, Wan-Bissaka; Martial, Fred, Matic, Pereira, James; Rashford


What they’re saying

Chris Wilder on Manchester United’s greatness, despite current state: “Manchester United are one of the most iconic teams in the world, and there will always be an aura surrounding them. No matter how their fortunes on the pitch may fluctuate, it’s still one of football’s true powerhouses that we are talking about whenever we mention their name. They are an incredible football club who are just going through a spell right now where they are not having it all their own way. That happens in football. But fortunes can fluctuate very quickly in this game and they will find their way back to the top, that’s for certain.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on the gap between Manchester United and the top four: “It’s a clear gap in the league between top four and I don’t know how many teams within a range of three or four points. It’s about consistency now. We turned a corner, we felt, performance-wise and with results after the last international break but it’s so tight I’m just looking forward to this game. We need to have a good performance and result.”


Prediction

The Blades have been decent at home this season, picking up wins against Burnley, Arsenal and Crystal Palace. With positive inertia powering them, it feels that Wilder and company may spoil Harry Maguire‘s return to Bramall Lane. That said, with both Wolves and Burnley picking up wins, United are more than obliged to go for the jugular, especially if they want to go into the most taxing part of the season with some hope and positivity. Manchester United, 3-1.

Burnley rebounds from ugly half to smash Watford

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Chris Wood, James Tarkowski, and Ashley Barnes all scored second half goals as Burnley rebounded from a rough first half to beat Watford 3-0 at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Burnley are now sixth with 18 points. Watford’s dead last with eight.


3 things we learned

1. Burnley is a zombie movie where the zombies win: I literally have no idea how the Clarets keep manufacturing incredible results. The stats and eyes say they are getting bossed all over the park, but Sean Dyche‘s men believe they can find an opening in any game. And a lot of times, they do. The Clarets are unable to be killed, and every time a losing streak sees them dip toward the drop zone, you need only wait 28 days later (movie reference, achieved) to see them flirting with the upper reaches of the table.

2. Watford a team of poor Fortune: The Hornets really have been much better of late, with their dominant first half featuring six of the match’s seven shot attempts. Obviously they did not find a goal there, and it’s what cost them a trip outside the Bottom Three.

3. Tarkowski with another monstrous day… at both ends: Burnley’s steady center back was credited with seven aerial wins and three shots, then closing out the scoring. He’s one of those players like Harry Maguire when he was at Hull City; A big club ought to take a look.

Man of the Match: Tarkowski.


[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]