Quote of the week

“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you're not, pretend you are.” – Muhammad Ali

Monday, December 1, 2014

EPL Power Rankings

Top of the pile... Chelsea
1. Chelsea
Chelsea are the team to beat; that much is clear from the opening weeks of the season. They have many different ways of winning football matches and without doubt have the best squad in the English Premier League. Jose Mourinho’s team has two quality players in every position. They are well prepared having concluded their summer activity in June. And, in Eden Hazard, they have, arguably, the best player in the division.

2. Manchester City
The defending champions can’t be written off yet but they are not the same side as last season. They have not shown the verve bar cameos away at Aston Villa and at home to Chelsea. It looks like they are missing Alvaro Negredo, for one, just to add competition and variation to the strike-force. Edin Dzeko is off-form and Stevan Jovetic is still finding his feet even though the season is heading into December. As a result, Sergio Aguero has been forced to bear the brunt of their attack scoring 60 percent of City’s league goals thus far.  That’s not a league-winning formula.

In addition, their most important player, Yaya Toure, hasn’t been the same force, unable to consistently dominate games as he did last season. However, most worryingly, their two biggest summer signings Fernando and Elaquim Mangala have so far been more of a weakness than an improvement.

3. Arsenal
It might seem crazy to rank Arsenal this high. Arsenal are a difficult side to judge. They turn in a class performance one day and a poor one the next. But they have a great upside and a bona fide superstar who is seems to be rounding into transcendent form. Alexis Sanchez could potentially have the same effect for the Gunners Luis Suarez had last season for Liverpool. A wonderful talent, he is returning to the influence he had at Udinese where he was one of the world’s most coveted young players. He has been freed from the shackles he had at Barcelona. If Sanchez’s support cast, wonderfully talented in its own right, can shape up, Arsenal could be Chelsea’s closest challengers this season. Arsenal, however, have to sort out their defence and resiliency issues. Depending on this, Arsenal could either be Chelsea’s closest challengers or fall-out out of the top four altogether.

Superstar... Alexis Sanchez
4. Southampton
The team of the season so far; but, there is no way they will stay where they are (second) for the rest of the season. That’s the law of a league season, especially the English Premiership. Injuries, suspensions and a natural dip in form will strike down the line. Nevertheless, so far, so amazing. Ronald Koeman’s signing group has been the best in recent memory perhaps the finest since Jose Mourinho’s first shopping spree at Chelsea in 2004 which brought their first title. Saido Mane, Graziano Pelle, Dusan Tadic, Toby Alderwierel, and Ryan Bertrand have been truly outstanding just. They have improved a team many thought would struggle.

5. Manchester United
United have many positives. There is an aura slowly re-building around the club. But the defence is still too weak, too inconsistent. Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling are too inconsistent and too injury prone. There are now also injury and fitness concerns creeping up about their offence. Radamel Falcao is uncertain, leaving their strike-force suddenly thin. Nonetheless, In terms of getting into the top four, United are well placed.

6. West Ham
The surprise of the season other than Southampton is West Ham. The labelling of Sam Allardyce as a long ball coach has always been unfair for a coach that has successfully incorporated the technical skills of Jay-Jay Okocha, Youri Djorkaeff and Fernando Hierro in the past. This season he shown his full repertoire as a manager, from his flexible game-plan to his cleverness in the transfer market.

7. Swansea
Garry Monk has done a good job at Swansea. They have one of the best strikers in the division in Wilfried Bony and one of the best creators in Gylfi Sigurdsson. And it’s a reason they are so highly placed in the league.

8. Everton
Everton have failed to kick on from last season. Their transfer kitty all went on Romelu Lukaku. It was a bold move and Lukaku hasn’t been in the same form as last season. Still, the transfer was well-thought and should come good. Everton still retain the core of the team that did so well last season.

9. Liverpool
Liverpool have a ton of troubles and are only this high in these power rankings because of their comparatively higher talent. The experiment with Steven Gerrard as the quarterback has its good and bad days. Mario Balotelli is struggling and the defence is weak. Brendan Rodgers has been a coach big on team identity and team force. To that end, this season has thus far been a disaster.

Liverpool fans, stronger than the Liverpool defence 
10. Newcastle United
Newcastle have been on a magic run. It’s difficult to know what to make of it but they are in a stronger position than they were a few weeks ago.

11. Tottenham
When Mauricio Potchettino blamed the size of the pitch for his side’s home form you knew there were problems. Tottenham have a squad capable of moments, such as Erik Lamela’s goal in the Europa League. But they are yet to put in a 90 minute performance this season.

12. Hull
Hull have a very good squad and have bought smartly. The trouble for Steve Bruce now is getting the players to gel.

13. Stoke
Stoke are a good team. They have signed well and they believe in their coach – good building blocks. Quality wise they do struggle at times and they can be one dimensional tactically.

14. West Brom
West Brom are difficult to dissect. They are inconsistent, exemplified by their best player Stephane Sessegnon. Still, they have a striker (Saido Berahino) who is scoring goals and that always a big plus as the season progresses.

15. Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace have been unlucky on a few occasions (such as at West Brom) and at other times have been architects of their own downfall. They have some exciting talent, such as Yannick Bolasie, and try to play an entertaining brand of football. 

16. Sunderland
An 8-0 loss doesn’t look good on the resume but Sunderland still have a good coach and a promising squad.

17. Leicester
Leicester have the passion which can take you quite some way. They believe in their way of playing. But they need to find ways to win ugly or they will be relegated.

18. Aston Villa
Aston Villa are in a desperate situation. They have been terrible this season.

19. QPR
QPR bought much better than they did previously. There seemed to be a coherent plan, signing a seasoned defender, midfield quality and bolstering the strike-force, But the on-field strategy hasn’t been as coherent, failing to bring the best out of the players and they have resorted to a Championship style of game of long balls to two big strikers.

20. Burnley
Burnley are plenty game but they are seriously lacking in quality. The only hope is they don’t fire their coach. This is a building process. It can continue through relegation and work towards a return when they should be better equipped and stronger.

Written: 22 November 2014

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