Every round this season, we will rank the English Premier League teams based upon form, recent performances, and table standing. New signings and injuries will be taken into account.
1. Manchester City – The champions kept up their knack for drama in the opening game, and being 20 minutes away from losing to a newly promoted team makes me want to bump them down. However, they stay here really just for a lack of impressive results from any other title contenders. With respects to Fulham and Swansea, I still would rather face either one of them on their best days than City on their worst (All of which seemed to happen this weekend.) City dominated every statistical category. Even when you compare it with the rest of the games; no one dominated statistically the way City did this weekend. Also, I liked what I saw from Southampton. More on that below. But David Silva can’t have days like this more often.
2. Chelsea – The West Londoners tied up the game against Wigan early and were perfectly fine with playing defense the rest of the way. Lost the possession battle, and many other statistical categories, but won 2-0 and never appeared out of their comfort zone. Hazard announced himself to the league quite well, and this team could be a real challenger if they get a couple extra pieces before the window closes.
3. Fulham – This may be one of the only weeks I can have real fun with this. I know Fulham aren’t better than United, but they looked good this weekend, smashing a team that finished comfortably mid-table last season. It was tough deciding which team to rank first, Swansea or Fulham considering Swansea had their 5-0 victory on the road but Fulham beat the better team. The tie-breaker: Clint Dempsey (arguably the Cottagers best player) is still trying to leave the club and didn’t play a part in the match. Amid that controversy, to have that result was a statement.
4. Swansea City – Smashed a bad team with new players that did not seem to gel well together. But as I said, it was on the road and anytime a team beats a Premier League side on the road 5-0, it is impressive. Swansea’s new signing, Michu, could be a revelation if he plays like that regularly.
5. Newcastle United – Interesting game between Newcastle and Tottenham. I feel like Spurs are still trying to figure out who they are going to be, while Newcastle doesn’t have that problem and was playing at home. To me, that was the difference in the game but it probably even deserved a draw in the end. Negative points for Pardew’s behavior towards the fourth official and positive points for beating a very talented side.
6. Everton – Some may argue they should be higher after beating United yesterday, but I’m not sold. Man U lost the game more than Everton won it. Wonderful play by Fellaini for the decisive goal and splendid defense all evening. However, something tells me if this game were played in a month, it would be an entirely different result.
7. Manchester United – You can’t punish them that much. Everton is a good team, and United are still getting their legs underneath them. Once van Persie is used to the team and in the starting lineup, and Ferguson figures out the best way to utilize his new toys, this will be a very different team.
8. Arsenal – They need to figure out how they are going to cope with the loss of RVP. The match with Sunderland begged for a van Persie finish, because the Gunners dominated every aspect of play and kept a shutout. Usually that would be enough for a team like Arsenal that score goals. But the man at the end of the play is gone now, and has been replaced by three new faces that the rest of the team needs to figure out how to play with. It doesn’t help that one of the new faces, French Ligue 1 leading scorer last year Olivier Giroud, missed a seemingly easy opportunity to go ahead late in the contest.
9. West Bromwich Albion – Fans of West Brom can curse me out if they want, but the match was decided by Phil Dowd. It’s always notable when you beat Liverpool 3-0. Except when Liverpool have not been Liverpool for a few years now, and are under a new head coach with new ideas, and then play most the second half down a man. I commend West Brom for their stout defense, as it usually is. I also give high praises to the stroke of brilliance that was Zoltan Gera’s first goal. But Liverpool dominated possession, just couldn’t finish and had a few bad breaks with harsh referee decisions.
10. Stoke City – Atrocious game to watch, but just the way the Potters like it. They will be upset they couldn’t hold onto the lead against a newly promoted side, but funny enough Stoke may have met it’s little brother in Reading. Interestingly enough, Reading seem to be taking the Stoke model as how they will plan on staying in the top flight this year.
11. Southampton – As I stated above, I loved how Southampton approached the game against City. It was astounding to glance at the statistics and see how badly City dominated in every category because the entire time I was thinking this will surely be a team good enough to stay around next season. They seem to be a mixture of Swansea and Norwich last year with a Grant Holt type player in Rickie Lambert but a similar philosophy to that of Brendan Rodgers. Watch out for this team.
12. Reading – Drawing with Stoke is a good way to start the year, especially having been down for most the game. As I said before, this could be Stoke 2.0 as they seem to have adopted that model to stay up this year.
13. West Ham United – The one promoted club that won this weekend, and yes, I ranked them lower than the other two. Why? I am not convinced the direct approach that got them promoted in the first place is going to keep them up this year. Everyone seems to be picking West Ham as the likeliest promoted club to be back in the top flight next year. After watching Aston Villa (another team I am not sure can stay up this year) being allowed to dominate the ball the way they did and only scoring one against them in limited chances at home, I will have to see more from this club. 13 is not bad considering if you stay at 13 you are comfortably mid table and staying up, but I need to see more to keep them here.
14. Sunderland – You drew Arsenal on the road in front of a 60,000 plus crowd in North London. Good job. However, that’s about all I can say because the way Arsenal dominated the game, they should have scored had they had an in-form finisher.
15. Tottenham – Bale at striker ended in complete disaster because he didn’t see nearly enough of the ball in the positions he likes. Spurs tried to play Lennon in the middle of the park, while he kept gravitating towards the right where he should be. Livermore was in the starting lineup, Modric is still a member of the team, Giovani dos Santos is still a member of the team, the Adebayor deal is still not done, and you played a 4-4-2 when your manager clearly likes the 4-3-3. Everything about this match said Spurs still don’t know who they are. If you are really planning on utilizing Bale as a striker, then you had better replace his pace and crossing ability on the left wing or this could be a stale team. In other words, hurry up and find an identity.
16. Liverpool – The Reds won’t be here next week. Well, actually they play City so they might be. But my point remains the same. This team will have better days than this. They actually didn’t look all that bad. Liverpool had possession 60% of the time and turned that into chances effectively against a great defense. However, they couldn’t finish (Suarez had 4 misses) and that is something all too familiar to Reds fans. Rodgers needs t0 focus on getting the confidence back in this team and maybe get one more forward, simultaneously getting Carroll off the books. But the referee decisions were very harsh and Liverpool ran into bad luck on this occasion. This team is a work in progress and should be regarded as such for the rest of the season. But they weren’t awful this weekend.
17. Wigan Athletic – Won the possession battle against Chelsea but couldn’t turn it into goals. This was an expected result, not a good one, but expected so you can’t penalize Wigan too much.
18. Aston Villa – Dominated the ball because they were given it by West Ham, but lost to a newly promoted side 1-0. This will be an interesting team to keep tabs on because they didn’t look all that bad.
19. Norwich City – Ouch. Not much good and a lot bad but it was only the first road game of the season.
20. Queens Park Rangers – Beaten 5-0 on their home ground by a team under a new manager and lost arguably their two best players from last season. QPR has spent a lot of money on new players since coming up last year, and at some point you need to let the team come together and gel. Especially when it isn’t like those new players are world class or anything. Another interesting team to watch this year but clearly the worst of the weekend.