Wow! Opening weekend in the books and Week Two of the most exciting soccer league on earth rapidly approaching. Will Chelsea overcome opening day sluggishness to make a statement in Manchester? Will the squad that gave the Blues problems, Swansea City, continue to surge? Who will win the match between arguably the two most impressive teams from Week One, the Hammers of West Ham and the feisty foxes of Leicester City? So many questions, so few answers. But as usual, we’re here to help.
Thus begins our weekly Premier League Power Rankings, a carefully thought over list of all twenty teams from first to worst. These rankings are meant to reflect neither the current BPL standings nor the actual talent or “goodness” or class of each squad. Instead, it will use a complex algorithm–entirely qualitative mind you–that includes current form, past form, the previous week’s rankings, the next week’s rankings–Just kidding! Unlike Jose “The Special One” Mourinho, we here at For the Game cannot predict the future, sadly.
These rankings are consciously more subjective than objective, but when great minds come together over soccer, magic happens. Or relegation, one of the two. We welcome agreement from readers or better yet, disagreement, in the comments section. If, like the great coach Ted Lasso, you are “looking forward to the definition of relegation,” you’ll find below that in 2015-16 at least, that definition might well involve Norwich City and possibly even Sunderland (cue the gasps).
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1 Chelsea –
Two lessons from Chelsea’s opener against Swansea: 1) When Oscar–who was stunning in moments–and Willian are healthy and focused, helping Hazard and Costa create offense (and when goalie Thibault Courtois doesn’t pick up red cards in the middle of matches), the Blues are likely unstoppable just like last season 2) Swansea are really good. Don’t fret about the draw Chelsea fans, and remember this formula: Health = Back-to-back championships.
2 Man City /\
If Week One means anything, Yaya Toure and David Silva are two of the best players going forward in the Prem, and the less than perfect season last year for center back Vincent Kompany–who scored a fabulous header off of a Silva corner–was an absolute fluke. Oh, and we haven’t even mentioned Raheem Sterling, who’s just now fitting into his new side, and Fabian Delph who should be returning from a hamstring injury any day now. City’s Sunday clash with Chelsea is about as huge as a match this early in the season can get.
3 Man United \/
An all around lackluster performance from United–the club with an absurd league leading $336.97 million payroll coming into the season–can’t take away from the simple fact that getting a win and three points against Tottenham is a good result. If the play doesn’t get better or at least more interesting to watch against Aston Villa, it might be time to worry, just a little bit, at Old Trafford. A lone bright spot, the play of Italian newcomer Matteo Darmian, was encouraging. Look for him to blossom this season well ahead of United’s corps of other young defenders.
4 Liverpool /\ /\
Similar to United, Liverpool supporters had to have hoped for a better result in Week One against lowly Stoke City, but, in this, the most competitive league in the world (that I know of), all wins are good, and Philippe Coutinho’s strike for the only goal of the match was immaculate. Stoke did get some golden opportunities in front of Liverpool’s net, which is worrying, and the whole red half of Merseyside will breathe a huge sigh of relief when summer signing Christian Benteke notches his first goal for the club.
5 Swansea /\ /\ /\
It’s worth repeating: Swansea are really good. This team with this manager, Gary Monk–who’s been with the club on its journey all the way from fourth division League Two, as a player until two seasons ago–can crack the top 5 of the Premier League while spending about one fifth of what the top clubs shell out each season. One fifth.
Ecuadorian Jefferson Montero is a speedy revelation on the left flank, Andrew Ayew shrugged off the pressure to score and relentlessly attack Chelsea’s usually stalwart defense, striker Bafetimbi Gomis was solid as usual, and there is cause for much excitement at Liberty Stadium. Watch out for the talented Swans.
6 Spurs –
Tottenham put in the effort we all expected against the likes of United, came up short–which is no great calamity at Old Trafford–and will look to essentially start the season properly on Saturday at home against Stoke. Keys to that game will be getting Harry Kane off the books and perfecting the connection between Kane and Spurs’ rising young Danish stalwart in the attacking middle, Christian Eriksen. It will be interesting to see if Tottenham can get a better result against the Potters than Liverpool, the club that Spurs finished only 2 points ahead of last season (they were 5th and 6th).
7 Arsenal \/ \/
The shocker of the weekend was the Gunners’ 2-0 defeat to West Ham, and the shocker of this rankings–due to that result–is that Arsenal find themselves only one spot higher than the Hammers. They need to be better on defense, to cut out the lackluster backtracking from midfielders like the seemingly disinterested Mesut Ozil (has he lost motivation since his World Cup victory?), and to be more awake on opponents’ set pieces.
Arsenal can take heart that they did create many chances–22 shots, 6 on target–against West Ham, and that their best player, the Chilean Alexis Sánchez, who was injured for the opening weekend, will return for the now huge match against Crystal Palace on Sunday. Alexis should bring his usual flair and and an air of much-needed confidence to the Gunners’ attack, but the side sorely misses a true striker. This has been true since the departure of Thierry Henry in 2007, and sorry Arsène, but Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud are not the answer.
8 West Ham /\/\
London is supposed to be dominated by the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham so it always gets interesting when cheeky outsiders like West Ham upset one of the city’s big boys. From an outsider perspective, West Ham’s performance on the opening weekend was exhilarating with some deft play from the likes of Frenchman Dimitri Payet–who assisted the first goal and almost got one after a nifty dribbling move before that–and Argentinian Mauro Zarate who scored a decisive goal on the hapless and shocked Petr Cech. The Hammers have much to be pleased with in their side but need to improve on defense heading into a matchup with Leicester City and their league-leading 4-goals.
9 Southampton –
In their flashy new Seattle Sounders-esque away kits, Southampton pulled out a draw against a fiery Newcastle side that was attacking on all cylinders in front of their home crowd. As we’ve come to expect without always knowing how they do it, the Saints have earned our respect as at least a top-10 Premier League side over the past few seasons. The Dusan Tadic-Graziano Pelle connection is one to watch, and expect consistency from this side that seems to only meet or surpass expectations no matter what.
10 Everton –
The young gun scored! Ross Barkley is off and running, an incredible sign for Everton. Unfortunately, the draw to lowly Prem newcomers Watford was not the opening weekend result that Toffee fans were hoping for. Everton is a squad that has very high variance this year, and with Steven Pienaar out for the season, players like Barkley, not-yet Chelsea defender John Stones, and American goalie Tim Howard will have to step up big time.
11 Aston Villa –
Another case of a win being a win in the tough Premier League. The Villains will need to improve if they can hope to give Manchester United a good match at Old Trafford on Friday. Look for the towering Rudy Gestede (the French Fellani), who has scored 20 headed goals over the past two seasons, to threaten the Man United backline, especially the diminutive Daley Blind.
12 Crystal Palace /\
Palace was one of the best performing clubs on opening weekend although their 3-1 victory was against feckless Norwich City. A Sunday match with London rival Arsenal is a much anticipated opportunity to hand the Gunners back-to-back defeats at the hands of local opponents. Frenchman Yohan Cabaye will have to step up in the middle both defensively and on the attack against Arsenal if Palace is to have a fighting chance.
13 Leicester City /\ /\
The Foxes put in one of the most surprisingly brilliant efforts of first weekend with a 4-2 opening-of-the-floodgates snubbing of Sunderland. Their upcoming match with West Ham is big not only because the two sides might find themselves neck and neck as the season progresses but because Leicester can win it.
14 West Brom \/
It’s always tough to start the season against a club that spends over $300 million annually on its players’ salaries, so the 3-0 defeat to City isn’t a cause for alarm at The Hawthorns. With new signing Salomon Rondon and forward Rickie Lambert, who scored double digit goals in his two Premier League seasons with Southampton (15 and 13 in ’12-’14), the Baggies are likely good enough to avoid a relegation scare, but getting that first goal of the season against Watford is a must.
15 Newcastle –
Newcastle have a tough matchup this week against a Swansea side hungry for a win after drawing 10-man Chelsea, but the effort put forward by the Magpies to draw and almost beat a good Southampton side is encouraging. They could surge up the rankings with a couple of wins, and if French winger Moussa Sissisko and Senegalese forward Papiss Cisse can continue to creatively link up in opponents’ halves, they might prove an early surprise.
16 Watford /\
A 2-2 draw with Everton is impressive, and Watford will look to continue their campaign to avoid relegation in a very winnable match against West Brom on Saturday. Look for Mexican wing back Miguel Layún, who scored against Everton, to be a sneaky key contributor all season long.
17 Stoke –
There is no shame in a 1-0 defeat to Liverpool, and with players like the former Barcelona academy midfielder Ibrahim Afellay and forward Bojan and young Swiss midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri on the roster, Stoke could well move up in these rankings as the season progresses. American center back Geoff Cameron is a regular starter, and the tall, lanky former English international Peter Crouch stays on the bench. It’s kind of funny that he’s still in the Premier league at all. A guy like that can only bring good things, right?
18 Sunderland \/ \/ \/
Sunderland suffered a tough and surprising 4-2 defeat to Leicester on opening weekend and, needless to even mention, must shore up their gaping wholes on defense. A goal from the ageless Jermaine Defoe, yes that’s right Jermaine Defoe, now 32-years old, provided a rare bright spot, but the side needs to grow together quickly under Dutch manager Dick Advocaat in his first full season with the club. Expectations are not high.
19 Bournemouth –
In the first Premier League match in the club’s history, the Cherries fought admirably in a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa. The match against Liverpool at Anfield this weekend is not a foregone conclusion. Yes, you read that correctly. Although they have absolutely no shot at winning, Bournemouth could, possibly, eek out a draw. Liverpool is likely weaker than they will be later in the season, especially if they are not able to loft beautiful crosses to their striker Christian Benteke in the box. Look for 23-year old Chelsea loanee and Ghanaian international Christian Atsu to make an impact at forward for Bournemouth this season.
20 Norwich City –
The only consolation in the Canaries’ 3-1 loss to Crystal Palace on opening weekend was that Palace might actually be pretty good. A matchup with Sunderland on Saturday should provide a much better opportunity for Norwich to get at least a draw. It will be a long season for the club, and the most fans can realistically hope for is a valiant season-long fight to avoid relegation.