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. Chelsea – The West Londoners stay at number one after their perfect start and staying inactive domestically on the weekend. They may have gotten derailed by Atletico Madrid, but Chelsea are tearing through the Premier League early. They should face a softy in QPR this week and head into, then Stoke next week before the real tests of strength begin with a Champions League draw against Juventus at Stamford Bridge.
2. Manchester City – City won again last weekend, but once more did so in unconvincing fashion against a weak opponent. Their sputtering start hasn’t reflected on their table standing, taking 7 of 9 possible points (the only 2 dropped away to Liverpool which is nothing to be ashamed about), but if they don’t start playing better, they will start seeing effects as they head into tougher legs of the schedule (their strength of schedule is 16th this leg) and they just got drawn into the toughest group of the Champions League.
3. Manchester United – Similar to their Manchester rivals, United have gotten the last two results very unconvincingly. However, unlike City their is an obvious and legit reason. The health of the back line will bring easier times to Old Trafford and the attack will be even better once Rooney is healthy as well. They were given an easy Champions League group too, so it should effect their domestic form minimally through Christmas.
4. Arsenal – The Gunners defeated Liverpool at Anfield this weekend which, despite the Red’s current form, is never an easy task. The more important aspect of the result however was the shutout. Who would have thought a year ago Arsenal would have shutout their first three opponents this season? Granted, they haven’t exactly played prolific scoring teams, and Liverpool probably should have scored on a few occasions, but all the same, they haven’t yet conceded and if Cazorla and Podolski start to find the net more often, this could be a very good team.
5. Swansea City – Very soon Swansea may come crashing to earth. They had the easiest schedule over the first 5 fixtures and it will be interesting to see where this team heads once they get to other legs of the season. The draw vs. Sunderland puts them down a few notches, as they finally seem to be cooling off, but the real tests are yet to come.
6. West Bromwich Albion – The surprise of the young season, West Brom are in terrific form. They have now beaten both Merseyside clubs and drawn Tottenham. That is not an easy task and they are rewarded this week.
7. Everton – Knocked just behind the team that just beat them, but West Brom are proving to be a difficult out right now, so I don’t penalize the Toffees too much. It doesn’t get any easier for them though with Newcastle and Swansea up next.
8. Stoke City – Another match, another Stoke draw. Real tests the next two weeks with Chelsea and Manchester City.
9. Newcastle United – Newcastle drew with Aston Villa this weekend. That is not impressive to say the least given how Villa have started the year.
10. Fulham – A 5-0 clinic put on Norwich, a tough 3-2 loss to United, and now a 3-0 loss to promoted West Ham. What changed between rounds 2 and 3? The drama of the transfer window. Not only did the club go through the Clint Dempsey saga but they sold perhaps their other best player in Moussa Dembele. It is tough for a team to cope without its two main creative players in the short term. This may be the start of a difficult stretch for the Cottagers.
11. Sunderland – Nice draw with Swansea on the road, but the real reason for the bump is the terrific bit of business done at the transfer deadline. Steven Fletcher, Louis Saha and Adam Johnson will join James McClean and Stephane Sessegnon to form a very nice attack for a mid-table club.
12. West Ham United – Led by the momentum of signing Andy Carroll from Liverpool, West Ham drummed Fulham 3-0. Carroll is the absolute perfect fit and could be the difference between this team fighting off relegation and finishing comfortably mid-table. Of course, Carroll goes off with an injury and maybe they’re back to square one?
13. Tottenham – A 1-1 draw with Norwich who were nothing short of dreadful to start this season doesn’t give the Spurs fan base a lot of confidence. Neither should replacing Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart with the Fulham central attackers. Dempsey and Dembele are very good players, but they aren’t by any stretch of the imagination on their predecessors level (neither is Sigurdsson for that matter). Clear downgrades and with the announcement that French captain and keeper Hugo Lloris will not be given the starting position after his signing for 10 millions euros, as well as reports that AVB has already rubbed other players the wrong way during his short tenure there (shocker), Spurs seem to be just behind Liverpool right now for the early nomination of Sinking Ship of the Year.
14. Reading – The club has been inactive now since they played Chelsea tough almost two weeks ago. They won their cup match against Peterborough United which doesn’t hurt.
15. Wigan Athletic – Draw with Stoke sees no change to their standing, so they stay at 15.
16. Southampton – Becoming kings of the “played (insert powerhouse team here) tough and were unlucky not to pick up points.” This is still my pick of the promoted bunch to stay up, but they need to figure out how to translate playing tough into points. Will the record signing Gaston Ramirez help this happen?
17. Aston Villa – Very nice draw with Newcastle but I’m still not convinced. Talk to me in a few weeks.
18. Liverpool – First of all, there are some very good signs at Anfield. The team seems to be taking to Brendan Rodgers’ possession and passing oriented style very well, Joe Allen is a revelation, and Raheem Sterling could be a star in the making. However, there are more bad signs than good. The new style hasn’t translated to fixing the biggest problem Liverpool had last term: finishing goals. Suarez has been incredibly wasteful, Gerrard has been active but gives the ball away a bit too much than he should, Borini has not even been close to the clinical finisher he was with Roma and what Rodgers said he was buying. Not to mention, you let your entire strike force leave besides these two during the transfer window and couldn’t bring any back in return except young Samed Yesil, who isn’t ready for first team football. Couple that with the Clint Dempsey debacle of not offering just 2 million more pounds to match Tottenham, the subsequent letter from John Henry to the fans contradicting himself all over the place and Pepe Reina making a laundry list of mistakes in a very bad month not to help matters, You have what appears to be a sinking ship already. It doesn’t get any easier either, with Manchester United in two weeks, a Europa League group stage until Christmas with a shallow squad, and a three game stretch of Everton, Newcastle and Chelsea beginning in late October. The Reds can’t afford more slip-ups like West Brom and do they need to go ahead and kiss those dreams of a top four finish goodbye? (Wow, that’s a lot of issues for one team in the 3rd round of the year!)
19. Norwich City – A draw with Tottenham actually almost put them ahead of Liverpool here.
20. Queens Park Rangers – Loss to Manchester City but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It will be interesting to see how all the QPR new signings help this team, or are they destined to go back down and enter immense debt?