Premier League power rankings. Nobody asked for them, but you’re getting them anyway. Apparently it’s “new, recurring content” week here at TSF — I’ve resurrected the “month ahead” posts and am ambitiously committing to another regular post.
I’ve always liked the idea of power rankings because they capture form in a way that the table cannot. For example, heading into the first international break, Arsenal were 20th and Tottenham were 1st. Were the Gunners the worst team in the Premier League and Spurs the best? Absolutely not. That’s something Power Rankings capture. I also think they’re good because they provide a nice jumping off point for comparative discussion.
Today’s power rankings is going to be a bit heavier on giving an overall picture of where I feel things stand in the Premier League right now as opposed to accounting for shorter-term changes in form.
1. Liverpool, table: 2nd
Liverpool are scary good again. They’ve yet to lose this season and are absolutely tearing teams to shreds going forward, tallying the most goals (29) and highest xG (25.6) in the Premier League this season. I’ve have questions about their midfield, but when you’re scoring that many goals and have a healthy Virgil Van Dijk in back, I’m not sure how much the midfield matters.
2. Manchester City, table: 3rd
On expected points, Manchester City are top of the table. They’re 2.5 points behind where we’d expect them to be. This season already has the feel that last one did — everybody is talking about other clubs for various reasons while City chugs along, completely dominating teams. I think it’s a two-horse race for the title this season between Liverpool and City.
3. Chelsea, table: 1st
I wasn’t sold on Chelsea when the season started, and I’m still not sold on them now. I’m not sure they have the scoring to keep up — they’ve scored more than 7 goals above expected thus far this season. Perhaps Romelu Lukaku, who is out at least through the international break, is still settling in and will improve things as he learns his teammates. Maybe Chelsea miss Christian Pulisic more than we realized. The Blues defense (especially with N’Golo Kante in front of it and Edouard Mendy in goal) is really, really good. That may be enough to keep them on the periphery of the title chase.
4. West Ham, table: 4th
It pains me to have West Ham this high. I think 4th is their absolute ceiling, and the Hammers will need help to finish there. As a team, they know what they’re supposed to do and they do it well. They’re solid and unspectacular. They’ve shown a few flashes of trying to do more this season, but in the end, I don’t think they have the horses. One (or more) of the morass of more talented but flawed teams will finish ahead of them.
5. Arsenal, table: 5th
Arsenal are the second-hottest team in the Premier League right now, riding a 9-match unbeaten streak. They should stretch that number to 10 against Watford at the weekend, which could see the Gunners into the international break in a Champions League place and definitely in a European place. My feeling heading into the season was that a CL finish was more of a pipe-dream than a realistic option and that the Gunners would finish somewhere 6th-8th. With how the season has started for the club and around the league, I think 4th is in play.
6. Leicester City, table: 11th
Leicester are the first big difference between how I think they stack up and where they currently are in the table. They looked poor in the first half against Arsenal but looked quite good in the second half chasing the game. Other than Jamie Vardy being a year older (and he’s going to drop off at some point) and the injury to Wesley Fofana (which may be affecting them more than we realize), they aren’t much changed from the team that has been a Champions League contender. And I’m not seeing anything in their play to make me want to change that categorization.
7. Manchester United table: 5th
This almost feels too high for the way United have been playing. But form is temporary, class is permanent. United have a lot of attacking talent and a solid defense (although I recently saw that David De Gea is not putting up anywhere close to the numbers he has in past seasons). They don’t have much of a midfield, but that’s working out alright for Liverpool. United are a mostly-sleeping giant that the rest of the Premier League would be better off to let sleep. Don’t beat ‘em up too much, or they’ll get rid of Ole.
8. Everton table: 10th
Everton have been pretty unlucky this season. They’ve conceded 2.5 more goals than expected and are 2.5 points behind expected in the table. They’ve also had a tough run of injuries with Dominic Calvert-Lewin not playing since August, Richarlison missing some time, Abdoulaye Doucoure getting hurt again, and your usual assortment of knocks seeming to happen to important (as opposed to fringe) players. The Toffees are better than you think.
9. Wolves, table: 7th
I can’t pinpoint why, but I don’t rate Wolves as highly as some. Raul Jimenez is playing really well and is a fantastic story coming back from that horrible head injury he suffered in the collision with David Luiz. They have some interesting pieces with Conor Coady (who was just called into the England side), Ruben Neves (who is also playing quite well right now but I still think is overrated), Hwang Hee-chan, and João Moutinho. Maybe they are like West Ham, a solid, but unspectacular team, which doesn’t move the scales for me. Wolves have had an extremely soft schedule so far this season, which is definitely contributing to their place in the table.
10. Brentford table: 12th
Brentford have come off the boil just a bit in terms of results, but still look quite good in terms of advanced metrics. In fact, expected points tells us the Bees should have 17 points rather than 12. They’re a solid team. They are organized and press well. That win over Arsenal to open the season, while helped by the Gunners’ injuries and illnesses, was no fluke, either.
11. Southampton table: 14th
The Saints are another one of those teams that the advanced stats tell us should be higher in the table than they actually are. They’ve scored almost 4.5 fewer goals, conceded nearly 2.5 more, and are 2.5 points behind expected. In Southampton’s case, those goals would have turned some of their 5 draws into wins. I don’t feel great about this ranking, but at this point in the table, all the teams have significant question marks.
12. Crystal Palace table: 13
Palace are another mid-table team about 2.5 points behind where we’d expect to see them based on their performances. Patrick Vieira has his charges playing an organized, deeper-sitting style, and looking to hit on the break, which suits them. Wilf Zaha is an elite-level talent, Odsonne Edouard is a very good young player, and both Christian Benteke and Jordan Ayew are still frisky. As we saw against Manchester City, teams like Palace who defend well and have the attacking talent to score on the counter will steal results.
13. Brighton table: 8
I like what I’ve seen from Brighton. I want to have them higher — they were one of the teams that I moved around most as I was building the rankings. But right now, the teams ahead of them are playing better. And for what it’s worth, they are more than 3.5 points ahead of their expected points total. After seeming to have solved their scoring problem early in the season, the Seagulls have reverted to a team that does everything but put the ball in the net. They press well, which helps them defend well and create chances. They just can’t put the ball in the net. As a result, they are winless in their last five in the Premier League.
14. Tottenham table: 9
Spurs are a mess. So much of a mess that they fired Nuno Espírito Santo, the manager they just hired this summer. They aren’t playing well, but that might change rather quickly with Antonio Conté at the helm. They have plenty of attacking talent, a decent midfield, and a poor defense. Conté’s preferred 3-5-2 system can cover up defensive vulnerabilities, and he’s known for being tactically flexible within his system, tweaking things to highlight his player’s particular strengths. I think Tottenham will be moving up the Power Rankings in the weeks to come, unfortunately.
15. Watford table: 16
Watford are a strange team. They either look awful or look significantly better than a bottom-third team. There is no in between with them. The advanced metrics tell us they are actually slightly worse than their place in the table. Maybe that 5-2 over Everton is weighing a bit too heavily on my mind, but that was an impressive result. They looked good (and Everton looked really bad). I guess we’ll have a better idea, or at least a more up-close view, of what Watford are this weekend.
16. Aston Villa table: 15
Villa are in terrible form but have played a brutal schedule, which is depressing their place in the table and coloring our perception of them. I initially had them one spot lower, behind Burnley, but couldn’t in good conscience keep them there. I think Villa will ultimately be fine and finish somewhere in the mid-table. They have too much talent, even with the departure of Jack Grealish.
17. Burnley table: 18
I don’t want to talk about Burnley. I don’t like Burnley. I don’t like Sean Dyche. They are 4 points behind where we’d expect to see them so far. Their most recent 3-1 win over Brentford piqued my interest a little bit, but I think they’ll remain right around the relegation zone, both in the Power Rankings and in the actual table.
18. Leeds table: 17
The shine might be off the apple for Leeds. There is only so much an innovative and different system can mask. When your tactics are wide open and you’re conceding a lot of goals, if you aren’t scoring in bunches like Leeds did last season and aren’t now, well, this is what you get. They haven’t had any terrible results yet, but they aren’t winning matches either. And you need to win to stay in the Premier League.
19. Newcastle table: 19
It’s all happening in the Newcastle front office — the new ownership group, sacking Steve Bruce, hiring Eddie Howe — but very little is happening on the field. They’re terrible. Their defense is abysmal. What was, at times last season, a quick-strike attack looks plodding and lacking ideas.
20. Norwich table: 20
They’re terrible. 538 has them at an 83% chance to be relegated. I don’t see them getting out of the bottom spot of the Power Rankings all season.
Please do tell me what you like and don’t like about the formatting / make suggestions for improvements and changes.