Wilfred Ndidi

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 7

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The theme of this week’s power rankings is statistics, and we’ve included some quality nuggets in our descriptions of why teams are rising and falling on our list.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]

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


20. Newcastle United — Possibly the least effective midfield, or tactical deployment of one, we’ve seen in some time. Maybe Fabian Schar is the answer, but 37.6 percent possession over the course of a season is abysmal.
Last week: 19
Season high: 19
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 5-0 at Leicester City
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET v. Manchester United

19. Watford — Moving up only because Newcastle was that bad against Leicester, but look below to see some serious hope for the Hornets. They just aren’t finishing, but are producing more key passes than everyone besides Man City, Chelsea, and Liverpool. Those will turn into goals, you’d think.
Last week: 20
Season high: 19
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Wolves
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Sheffield United

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18. Brighton and Hove Albion — Aaron Mooy has looked a lot better in his last two starts. Can the former Huddersfield Town midfielder be the one to unlock the Seagulls attack?
Last week: 18
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Chelsea
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Spurs

17. Norwich City — Something to monitor as the weather gets colder and the pitch compacted: The Canaries are only attacking directly through the middle of the pitch on 17 percent of plays.
Last week: 13
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Crystal Palace
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Aston Villa

16. Wolves — And exhale. Wolves finally get their win and not a moment too soon with a Man City trip ahead of them. With two days less rest than the reigning champs, Sunday could be a long day.
Last week: 17
Season high: 7
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Watford
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Man City

15. Aston Villa — Why do I believe Villa is ultimately going to emerge from the fire into another Premier League season? Dean Smith‘s men lead the league in shots blocked and crosses blocked per game. While that means they are giving up a lot of attempts, that full-blooded desperation is going to pay off (or break an arm).
Last week: 11
Season high: 8
Season low: 15
Last match: Drew 2-2 v. Burnley
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Norwich City

14. Everton — A much better looking side against City, but that’s kinda the frustrating life for Everton supporters. Sure, you got up for the big boys. Can you get up for a trip to Burnley? Also, to answer trivia from the Palace ranking, Seamus Coleman (!!) is second in the Premier League in successful dribbles this season.
Last week: 14
Season high: 5
Season low: 14
Last match: Lost 3-1 v. Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

13. Southampton — Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s men move from a near miss against Spurs to a match with in-form but potentially weary Chelsea. Shock on the cards at St. Mary’s?
Last week: 16
Season high: 13
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Spurs
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Chelsea

12. Burnley — Completing 64.2 percent of its passes, Burnley continues to defy the laws of logic, statistics, everything. Chris Wood is big.
Last week: 12
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Drew 2-2 at Aston Villa
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Everton

11. Sheffield United — We just love that Chris Wilder wasn’t content that his side deserved a point against the leaders. Can likely move two wins clear of the drop zone with a win at Vicarage Road.
Last week: 10
Season high: 10
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 1-0 v. Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Watford

10. Crystal Palace — Wilfried Zaha‘s 32 successful dribbles are the most in the Premier League. Non-Palace fun fact. I’ll give you 50 chances to guess who’s second and like my odds (but the answer is in this post).
Last week: 15
Season high: 10
Season low: 18
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Norwich City
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at West Ham United

9. Manchester United — Please, for all of our sakes, get Anthony Martial healthy.
Last week: 9
Season high: 2
Season low: 15
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Arsenal
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Newcastle United

Martial has been out since Aug. 24 (Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

8. Tottenham Hotspur — A team in no man’s land, where several players need to be axed and the manager probably wants a new experience. The fullback corps is a mess.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 8
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Saints
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Brighton

7. Arsenal — How about this stat: Arsenal is spending 33 percent of every match in its own third, the third-highest percentage in the league. That’s not legendary when your defense is so leaky.
Last week: 4
Season high: 4
Season low: 7
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Manchester United
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Bournemouth

6. Bournemouth — Six is a good number for the Cherries, who’ve scored half of their 12 goals from set pieces. Probably deserved a win over West Ham, but probably doesn’t move you up the table.
Last week: 6
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 2-2 v. West Ham
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Arsenal

5. West Ham United — The Irons move from week-to-week with different tests of mettle. This week, it’s whether they can go about their business and handle a decent Palace team at home.
Last week: 5
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 2-2 at Bournemouth
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Crystal Palace

4. Chelsea — Is this week the Blues climb back into the Top Four?
Last week: 7
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Brighton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Southampton

3. Leicester City — Brendan Rodgers has his men playing on fire (in a good way). Wilfred Ndidi and Ricardo Pereira rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the Premier League in tackles this season. Ndidi is also leading the league in interceptions (23) and is performing on an N’Golo Kante level so far this season. Huge match on Saturday.
Last week: 3
Season high: 3
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 5-0 v. Newcastle United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Liverpool

Ndidi  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

2. Manchester City — On pace to score 146 Premier League goals this season. Take out the 8-star performance against Watford, and it’s a 120-goal pace. That’s 14 more than their record.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 3-1 at Everton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

1. Liverpool — Since the Reds are getting the job done and look a complete team, how about a seemingly ugly stat that shows how important fullbacks are to Liverpool’s attack? Trent Alexander-Arnold has lost possession a league-best 184 times, 28 more than second place Lucas Digne. Andrew Robertson is 7th with 136.

Obviously, this is because they have the ball a lot and are counted on tactically to put the ball into danger areas — look at where they rank in terms of accurate opposition half passes, stunning stuff — but wow.

https://www.sofascore.com/tournament/football/england/premier-league/17

Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 1-0 at Sheffield United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Leicester City

Who’s the most irreplaceable player on ‘Big Six’ Premier League sides?

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When Aymeric Laporte was lost for months with a knee injury, there was a fairly standard reaction to the news.

This was the player Manchester City could least afford to lose for a long period of time.

[ MORE: Juve wants De Gea ]

There’s a debate to be had there, and it’s been had plenty, but it has us thinking: Which player is the most indispensable for each of the “Big Six” in their quest for a successful PL season?

It’s going to be a defender heavy list.

Tottenham Hotspur

Tough one, here, and we may be just a few months of consistent performances from changing the answer to Tanguy Ndombele (Yes, he looks that good).

But this one’s down to two players. It’s not a defender, as Spurs have three dynamite center backs and the drop-offs between full backs don’t hold wide-enough margins.

It’s between the Harrys (Harries? Anyway, “Between the Harries” sounds like we just started a new reality show).

Don’t be misled by Spurs’ remarkable job making up for the loss of Harry Kane to injury late last season; the big striker is still on history-making pace for his young-enough career. Since becoming a full-time starter, Kane has 162 goals in 241 matches. Would you believe he’s not 27 until next summer?

Harry Winks is the ball-possessing, clean-passing motor that so many teams crave for their midfield. He’s been a 90-plus percentage passer in every season, and has completed 94 percent this early season. Again, small sample size, but his 75 passes per game trails Nicolas Otamendi, Aymeric Laporte, Granit Xhaka, Paul Pogba, and teammate Toby Alderweireld.

It’s almost a coin flip here. We’re taking Kane, but we’re basing it on a tiebreaker of advanced statistics. Anyone making an argument for the 23-year-old Winks deserves to be heard.

Manchester United

This is perhaps the trickiest call of the bunch.

Anthony Martial has been far and away the most important player to the Red Devils’ early season, sputtering as it may be, but it’s far too soon to say he’s irreplaceable.

Four players have played every minute of the early season: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Paul Pogba, Victor Lindelof, and David De Gea. Both Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay have nearly played the full 360.

The fact of the matter, and this belies United’s plight, is that United is too thin to have a single player who would hurt the most to lose; Forced to choose one, we’ll say Maguire as he’s the most proven consistent entity of the bunch.

Chelsea

Another tough one, though it seems like it should be an easy one: N’Golo Kante. But he’s still finding his footing under Frank Lampard and last season wasn’t a great one as Maurizio Sarri messed with a great recipe by moving Kante from his role of pure opposition destruction.

Again, Chelsea’s has a good answer in replacement players for any of their stars getting injured; Marcos Alonso is barely playing, same with Michy Batshuayi. Olivier Giroud, Willian, even Pedro.

So while we’d like to make the case for Cesar Azpilicueta, the answer is probably still Kante.

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Arsenal

The easy answer is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but it is not necessarily the correct answer because of replaceability. If the Gabonese superstar goes down, Unai Emery can still roll out a strike force with Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe.

The Gunners are very thin at center back, but the problem is that the starters aren’t stars.

So we’ll proffer one that’s a bit out of the box: Bernd Leno. The goalkeeper has been pretty darn good considering his team has offered very little resistance to attacks. His back-ups are Emiliano Martinez and Matt Macey. There’s no rule stating one of those two wouldn’t be a good starter, but they have six PL appearances between them (all Martinez).

Liverpool

It’s Virgil Van Dijk.

Mohamed Salah is the straw that stirs the drink, but the Reds have a very good attackers behind him (both young and experienced) and made a run to the Champions League and a record league point total while he was not exactly thriving in form (Salah had a lone goal in an eight-match league run over February and March, and missed the incredible Barcelona comeback with a concussion).

The idea of it being Alisson Becker is interesting, but for Liverpool supporters that is probably fueled more by watching substandard keepers derail their dreams for a couple of years. For a neutral and especially for stat hounds, it’s not as big of a drop to Adrian as it seems (but it’s big).

We may want to revisit this discussion in January regarding Fabinho, but Liverpool is very deep in the midfield, too. It’s Van Dijk, and it’s not close.

Man City

It was a combination of a few things, the first obviously being the players’ quality. The PFA Team of the Year winner helped City lower its goals conceded total in his first full season at the Etihad, as City won almost every competition it entered in 2018-19.

But it was also City’s depth behind Laporte, with Vincent Kompany gone to Anderlecht and the next injury seemingly cueing up Fernandinho or Kyle Walker for center back duty.

An argument could be made for Ederson simply based on the keeper’s quality in possession and shot-stopping alone but no other position, really; City may have had to work harder for the title last season with Kevin De Bruyne injured, but it found an answer largely through Bernardo Silva. Leroy Sane looked like City’s MVP two seasons ago, but Raheem Sterling emerged as the club’s best wide man and there’s some guy named Mahrez behind him.

Laporte, it is (And if you want to really get into the nexus of this article, and why the stats say there is a big drop-off from Laporte to even John Stones, let alone a third wheel, check here. Also, I’ve learned that City fans vastly under-appreciate Otamendi).

Best of the Rest

Less explanation, similar amounts of confidence.

Aston Villa: Jack Grealish
Bournemouth:
Nathan Ake
Brighton and Hove Albion:
Shane Duffy
Burnley:
James Tarkowski
Crystal Palace: Luka Milivojevic
Everton:
Michael Keane
Leicester City:
Wilfred Ndidi
Newcastle United:
Fabian Schar
Norwich City:
Teemu Pukki
Sheffield United:
Dean Henderson
Southampton:
Jannik Vestergaard
Watford:
Abdoulaye Doucoure
West Ham: 
Sebastien Haller
Wolves: Willy Boly

Which outsiders have hope of breaking into Premier League’s Top Six?

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With unproven managers at Chelsea and Manchester United and a possible David Luiz-Shkrodan Mustafi center back partnership at Arsenal, there are scenarios in which the seas part and a new team finishes in the Top Six for the first time since Chelsea and Liverpool crashed out of the picture in 2015-16.

Wolves will like their chances, having made Raul Jimenez and Leander Dendoncker permanent members of the team and buying Patrick Cutrone, Pedro Neto, and Bruno Jordao from Serie A.

[ MORE: PST’s PL preview roundtable ]

But they’ll face a loaded fixture list thanks to the Europa League (assuming they don’t exit at the hands of Armenia’s Pyunik in the third qualifying round or a similar foe in the playoff round). The first group stage date is sandwiched between Chelsea and Crystal Palace on the league docket, the second between Watford and Man City.

That’s a test of depth, one of which most of their players are taking for the first time.

Then there’s Everton, which has amassed some serious experience and guile even amongst its youngsters. Moise Kean arrives from Juventus, while Andre Gomes, Djibril Sidibe, and Fabian Delph are no strangers to silverware.

If Jean-Philippe Gbamin can quickly adapt to the league to combine with Delph and provide 75 percent of what Idrissa Gana Gueye gave the club, look out.

West Ham is another interesting one: Issa Diop was a revelation at center back and the club is close to keeping a hold of Felipe Anderson.

The Irons have finally added their prototypical center forward and should be nice and settled at the London Stadium. The question is whether West Ham can rewrite their organizational reputation this season.

There are arguments to be made for Watford and even Aston Villa, but those seem a bit farfetched unless the Hornets are seriously out-scouting the rest of the world.

So we’ll finish with Leicester City, who needs to hope that Jamie Vardy can keep holding off the hands of time and youngsters Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi can take a hold of the team to take the next step as stars.

There are enough ancillary pieces in Ayoze Perez and Demarai Gray, as well as gleaming potential stars like Harvey Barnes and James Maddison.

But the question of how they’ll replace Harry Maguire is a real one, as is the big Brendan Rodgers effort: Can he focus the club the way he did when Liverpool had a Europe-free year in 2013-14, and take advantage of the fixture list to ride into the top tier?

Africa Cup of Nations last 16 preview: Salah, Mane on collision course?

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The group stage of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations has been low-scoring, so we’ll be hoping for some early goals to open up play for the many electric stars of Africa.

That doesn’t mean we haven’t seen the big names find the score sheet, as Mohamed Salah of Liverpool and host nation Egypt has two goals — as many as anyone in the tournament — the same amount as club teammate Sadio Mane.

[ MORE: JPW’s Round of 16 predictions ]

The Reds may be on a collision course for Cairo on July 19, with Senegal the 22nd ranked team in the world via FIFA and Egypt hosting the tournament.

All five of the nations to qualify for the 2018 World Cup remain alive, with three in the top of the bracket and two in the bottom.

The 32nd edition of the competition could see a rematch of the 31st final in the quarterfinals, but it will require Cameroon emerging from a massive Round of 16 meeting with Nigeria.

Should they do so, and the hosts beat South Africa, the rematch will arrive on Wednesday in Cairo.

The Cameroon-Nigeria match may be topped by one in the upper half of the bracket, as Ghana looks to reassert itself as a power by knocking of Tunisia. The Black Stars missed out on the 2018 World Cup, and the winner is arguably a favorite to reach the final.

Premier League talents on show

Senegal – Mane (Liverpool), Idrissa Gana Gueye (Everton), Cheikhou Kouyate (Crystal Palace)

Morocco – Romain Saiss (Wolves)

Democratic Republic of Congo – Arthur Masuaku (West Ham)

Ghana – Christian Atsu (Newcastle), Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace)

Mali – Moussa Djenepo (Southampton)

Ivory Coast – Serge Aurier (Spurs), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace), Jonathan Kodija (Aston Villa)

Algeria – Riyad Mahrez (Man City), Islam Slimani (Leicester)

Guinea – Naby Keita (Liverpool)

Nigeria – Leon Balogun (Brighton), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester), Henry Onyekuru (Everton).

Cameroon – Gaetan Bong (Brighton),

Egypt – Salah (Liverpool), Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa)

Round of 16 schedule

Uganda v. Senegal – July 5
Morocco v. Benin – July 5

Madagascar v. Democratic Republic of Congo – July 7
Ghana v. Tunisia – July 8

Mali v. Ivory Coast – July 8
Algeria v. Guinea – July 7

Nigeria v. Cameroon – July 6
Egypt v. South Africa – July 6

FOLLOW LIVE: Day 2 of the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt

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Egypt’s national team kicked off the tournament on Friday, and now the nations turns its eyes to playing host to the Africa Cup of Nations with three Saturday kickoffs.

[ LIVE: Africa Cup of Nations scores ]

Yannick Bolasie, Arthur Masuaku, and the Democratic Republic of Congo get us started with a Group A match against Uganda at 10:30 a.m. ET.

That’s followed up by the Super Eagles of Nigeria, with Wilfred Ndidi of Leicester City preparing to tangle with Burundi at 1.

Finally, Guinea and Madagascar round out the day’s matches with a 4 p.m. start.

Group A
Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda – 10:30 a.m. ET

Group B
Nigeria v. Burundi – 1 p.m. ET
Guinea v. Madagascar – 4 p.m. ET