The Premier: Re-ranking the EPL clubs, three weeks in
The first in-season rankings? A global pop star vomiting? Two pop-gun offenses sputtering? It’s all here in the international break edition of The Premier!
THE PREMIER LEDE
The first international break of the new season combined with the transfer window deadline provides a good point at which to reset the league’s apparent pecking order. While this isn’t an actual formulaic approach to power rankings, it’s going to adapt a Bayesian approach, which means preseason pecking order isn’t ignored even with the presence of actual results.
For example, I had Manchester City has my preseason champion pick, so even though the Citizens have looked very pedestrian the last two weeks, at this point, they’re not going to drop below Liverpool, a team I had sixth in the preseason which now owns three 1-0 wins. So, the current ranking is a combination of what I thought of each club originally, who it played, and how it looked in the process.
We’ll do this periodically as the schedule allows. Here’s the first take heading into Week 4:
2-0-1, 7 points, +3 GD. Beat Hull City, beat Aston Villa, drew at Manchester United
The results are fine. The quality of play? Ehh. Hull got overwhelmed early, but played a more competitive second half. The Blues easily could have lost at Villa had a couple refereeing decisions gone the other way. The draw at United was a good result masking a very tepid, defensive performance. Jose Mourinho’s striker preferences underscore that may be the direction he wants to move at times with what could/should be an expansive side.
2. Manchester City
2-1-0, 6 points, +5 GD. Beat Newcastle, lost at Cardiff City, beat Hull City
There’s no need to overreact after three matches, but the rout of Newcastle in the opener looks a lot more due to how poor the Magpies are instead of any grand statement of intent from City. They have not played well in the last two matches, getting punished by one promoted side and slogging past another with a flattering two-goal win. There’s too much talent here for this malaise to persist too much longer, although now UCL play will test their ability to deliver consistently.
2-1-0, 6 points, +1 GD. Lost to Aston Villa, won at Fulham, beat Tottenham
With two wins on the trot and Champions League group play confirmed, the Gunners nabbed Mesut Ozil at the transfer deadline, further enhancing a slick-passing midfield. They didn’t really answer the issues they could have in defensive midfield against more physical teams, though, (Mathieu Flamini?) and if Olivier Giroud gets injured, there’s a question at striker. Current depth will be challenged again by six matches between this Saturday and Oct. 1: three league tilts, two Champions League group matches and a Capital One Cup tie.
3-0-0, 9 points, +3 GD. Beat Stoke City, won at Aston Villa, beat Manchester United
The rise of Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool was detailed in last week’s column, and they now have just three more matches until they get Luis Suarez back. Reintegrating one of the league’s best players will be an interesting experiment with how well Daniel Sturridge is playing and how the overall team chemistry looks. They may — emphasis *may* — still be a year away from truly challenging for big things, but things are looking very promising on the red side of the city.
5. Manchester United
1-1-1, 4 points. Won at Swansea, drew with Chelsea, lost at Liverpool
Yes, United’s not really accustomed to having just four points from three matches, but the schedule has been very staunch and they haven’t played poorly. The 4-1 win at Swansea will look really good when we see how other teams fare there. Chelsea more or less tried for 0-0 and got it. It happens. United were on top after halftime at Anfield but couldn’t find a goal. Bringing in Marouane Fellaini at the death on deadline day was a massive boost in a huge area of need.
2-1-0, 6 points, +1 GD. Won at Crystal Palace, beat Swansea, lost at Arsenal
With the roster overhaul this summer, AVB’s side remains a work in progress. They haven’t yet scored from the run of play, but the potential is here to be a very, very good team. Once Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen get worked into the mix and Spurs figures out its best front six, they should gel and pose significant problems for any team in the league. Long-term buy.
7. Aston Villa
1-2-0, 3 points, 0 GD. Won at Arsenal, lost at Chelsea, lost to Liverpool
The Villans were handed the wrong end of the schedule stick, compounded by the Chelsea match being moved to midweek in the opening week of the season because of the UEFA Super Cup. Villa deserves more than the three points it has, with the Chelsea match being particularly harsh on them, and the youth plan forged during last season’s difficult campaign is paying early dividends. They look more settled in the back and still carry offensive threat.
0-0-3, 3 points, 0 GD. Drew at Norwich City, drew with West Brom, drew at Cardiff City
The Toffees are still finding themselves as they transition to Roberto Martinez’s ways, and now they need to reboot again after selling off Marouane Fellaini and bringing in James McCarthy, among others. They’ve been more wasteful than poor, but the schedule hasn’t exactly been brutal yet, either. The pressure is on to start scoring and getting better results against teams they should handle, or a battle for seventh may not even be the best-case scenario.
1-2-0, 3 points, -2 GD. Lost to Manchester United, lost at Tottenham, won at West Brom
A schedule adjustment is needed as they have hosted United and played two away matches, including one at another title contender. The way they were beaten by United appears to be a one-off. Even with West Brom struggling, The Hawthorns isn’t an easy place to win, so that’s a nice jump off. The schedule remains tough, though, with Liverpool at home next and then Arsenal two weeks after, also at home. Good manager, solid side. Should be fine.
10. West Ham
1-1-1, 4 points, +1 GD. Beat Cardiff, drew at Newcastle, lost to Stoke City
Handling Cardiff in the opener looks a little better now, but drawing at Newcastle and then losing at home to Stoke probably will look less OK as time moves forward. The midfield is decent, but the strikers look pretty meh — and that’s before news that Andy Carroll may have suffered a long-term injury Monday. Signing Mladen Petric on a free isn’t going to do it. If aging Jussi Jaaskelainen breaks down in goal, the cover there looks a bit dicey, too. There are points available in the next three matches for the Hammers