BPL Power Rankings

This season’s first edition!

To borrow a bit from the Men in Blazers, we’re now 5/38ths of the way through the season and that’s an unreduceable fraction. While it’s to draw many conclusions, we can check our expectations and the foolish narratives against what’s actually happening. In a few more weeks the European matches, FA Cup matches and League Cup matches will really start piling up and teams will have played different numbers of games. It’s also approximately 13% of the way through the season and that’s deserving of a power ranking.

I’m going to do this in two ways. First, a snapshot ranking that reflects where that team is right now. Second, a future ranking band that shows the range of positions where that team might finish the season.
  1. Man City – King of the hill. Pep’s strategy isn’t fully formed but he’s still playing 5 attackers at a time, among them Ginger King Kevin DeBryune. The only knock against them is that they are susceptible to counter attacks and never quite seem to put the game completely away. If I had to guess, they’ll figure it out and be quite untouchable this season.
  2. Liverpool – They play like Klopp’s personality–electric and frenetic. All three of their big signings this off season are really productive and they have the depth to change their strategy to match the game. Unfortunately for their opponents, they’re so strong in their preferred style that they won’t need to change much. Loss against Burnley was a statistical fluke, but they have conceded more than 1.5 goals a game.
  3. Spurs – Homer Pick! Actually, I have reason to put them here. 3 easy match ups, but 2 difficult ones. Draws in the difficult ones–and didn’t look great, but weren’t playing at full strength (Dembele, Lloris). A clicking Spurs side is a five-headed snake with a tail that stings. At our current level we still have the stingiest D in the league.
  4. Everton – Undefeated and second in points. They drew at home against Spurs but otherwise have faced only bottom half teams. That said, they have mostly destroyed their opposition. They lack depth but their best 7 guys are solid and in their primes.
  5. Arsenal – They would be higher on this list if they were managed by anyone other than Wenger. The man was a genius 20 years ago but you have to wonder if he’s out-thinking himself with some of his decisions. His starting lineups are confusing–sometimes missing strikers, sometimes missing central midfielders. They can be oh so good and shockingly bad in the space of 10 minutes. They’ve played the toughest schedule so far and are sitting in 4th (loss at home to Liverpool, draw away with Leicester, win away at Watford, win at home to Southampton, win away at Hull). Hard to predict how this team fares by coaching and by injuries.
  6. Chelsea – Hazard is back, Conte is scary, and Costa is an evil monster with 5 goals already this season. But their entire D is a significant step down from their attacking players and they don’t have much depth. Either new blood will come in and replace them or Chelsea’s ceiling is limited. Lackluster in their loss to Liverpool and flat in their draw against Swansea.
  7. Man United – Back to back league losses. Mourinho already blaming his players. Rashford, De Gea, and Pogba not good enough to hold up Rooney and Mata. Ibrahimovic is still dangerous but he spends a lot of time walking during the game. I think the biggest sign of Man U’s weakness is that their go-to substitution is Fellaini and the strategy change of targeting him in the box and hoping he can knock down a header for someone to toe-poke in. That’s not much of a strategy. It’s hardly better than hitting it at Peter Crouch and hoping for the same. The difference is that Fellaini plays in the center of the pitch and its a total liability on defense. At least Crouch hides as a forward. Another Mourinho meltdown would be fun to see.
  8. Watford – Outside of the top spots, Watford is the best of the rest. I don’t see them sitting this high for long, but they got a nice win against Man U, got beat by Arsenal and Chelsea, drew with Southampton, and came from 0-2 down to smoke West Ham. They’re scoring and conceding with regularity so it will be interesting to see what changes.
  9. Leicester – Losing Kante to Chelsea has somehow made both teams worse. The stoutness of Leicester’s D is gone–they’re league average in goals conceded. Their offense is still 2-speed: either Marhez creates something, or Vardy wins a footrace and knocks in a long ball. Their upcoming matches are Chelsea, Man U, and Southampton so we’ll know a lot more about this team by the first weekend of October.
  10. Southampton – 14th in the table but they’re a lot better than their results show. They lost their coach and a bunch of their best players and have reloaded and changed their style. Will be a top half club but not threaten the European spots. On to the rest of the teams that don’t really matter…
  11. Middlesborough – One of the promoted clubs, and started the season playing well. Draw with Stoke, win over Sunderland, and a draw with West Brom don’t look nearly as impressive now.
  12.  Hull – Shock opening weekend win over Leicester, a follow up win against Swansea, then a narrow loss to Man U. Those are great results for the team that was universally picked to be the worst in the BPL and possibly the worst of all time. At 5 points from 5 games, they may have gotten 25% of all the points they’re going to collect for the rest of the season, but for now they’re riding higher than the tire fires below them.
  13. West Brom – Some early season management chaos as their foreign owner was seriously ill and trying to sell the club to some Chinese guy. Sale finally went through and they celebrated by thrashing West Ham 4-2. They have a couple of former Spurs players including their leading scorer Nacer Chadli and former Spurs player of the year defender Michael Dawson.
  14. Crystal Palace – They looked awesome today while spanking Stoke. Andros “Nutmeg” Townsend was a monster. Two wins on the trot hides how bad they were the first 3 games of the season. In a season with more parity they might be in relegation trouble. With the obvious division between the haves and have-nots they’ll hover safely mid table.
  15. Swansea – Shit they’ve been bad. An unlucky draw against Chelsea was against their run of play. They have some talented players and a smooth offensive style but have been terrible in execution. I expect them to move up the table but discontent seems to fomenting.
  16. Bournemouth – Scoring 0.5 goals per game and giving up 2 is not a recipe for winning. That exaggerates the impact of their blowout loss to Man City this weekend. If not for that, they’d only be conceding 1 goal a game. So, now they’re boring and bad instead of just being bad.
  17. Burnley – Filthy cunts. 3 goals for, 8 goals against. That includes a shocking 2-0 win against Liverpool when ‘pool had 80% possession for the game. That’s the record for a team that lost. Without that win Burnley has 1 goal for and 8 goals against. Look away.
  18. West Ham – They’re getting downgraded to West Spam. They’ve lost their last 3 by a combined score of 11-5. They crashed out of Europa and things aren’t looking any better in the league. They can’t even claim to have played a tough schedule as their last two losses have been 4-2 against West Brom and Watford each. I’m not even sure how they’re going to play their way out of it as this is their full strength squad.
  19. Stoke – They’re about thiiiiiiiiiiiiiis close to getting Mark Hughes fired. Opening weekend draw and since then they’ve been smoked. 14 goals conceded is the worst in the league and 3 goals scored is tied for worst. That’s scoring less than a goal a game and conceding nearly 3. For a squad with this much talent, that’s clearly a motivation/tactical issue.
  20. Sunderland – They parked the bus against Spurs and only lost 1-0 because their GK stood on his head all game. They lack quality and depth and are racking up injuries and cards. They’re going to have to be the king of 0-0 draws if they want to have any chance of surviving.

Transfer Deadline

Before the window closes…

The international break is upon us and so is the summer transfer deadline. It closes at the end of August. We’ve done a furious bit of business the last few days so here’s the recap:

I don’t (care to) know how to get my computer to do the pound sterling symbol so I’m using the telephonic symbol instead.
In:
Janssen (striker) – #17M from AZ Alkmaar – Looks good so far. Half the cost of some of the other striker transfers this season.
Wanyama (CM) – #11M from Southampton – Has played ably. Scored the winner against Crystal Palace. About half the cost of his nearest comp, Wijnaldum, the new Liverpool midfielder.
N’Koudou (AM/Winger) – from Marseilles – This was a swap with N’Jie but Marseilles’ board quit mid-transaction and it was unclear if it was going to happen. There are reports that he’s in the building and training with the team so I’ll assume this is done.
Out:
Chadli (AM/striker) – #13M to West Brom – Good business by us. Sold an unwanted part for a profit.
Mason (CM/AM) – #9M to Hull – Thank god he’s gone. I look forward to destroying them twice this season. Maybe Lamela can nutmeg all of the former Spurs players.
Bentaleb (CM) – #16M loan-to-buy to Shalke – More good business. Sold an unwanted part to a different league.
Yedlin (RB) – #5M to Newcastle – Sad to see him go but he’s stepping right into playing time so that makes it good for the USMNT
Alex Pritchard (AM) – #9M to Norwich- Was potentially one of our budding academy players. Never seen him play.
Clinton N’Jie (Winger), Dominic Ball (CB), Fazio (AM) – Don’t care
Unknown Out:
Son Mihn-Hueng (AM/Winger) – There are simmering rumors that he’s headed back to Germany. Not a lot of reliable information because he just got done with the Olympics.
Targets:
Isco (AM/winger) – Real Madrid – Seems like he wants out of Real Madrid because it’s hard to get playing time ahead of Ronaldo and Bale. This would be a score for us.
Calhanoglhu (AM) – Leverkusen – This was probably a speculative rumor. Leverkusen is the third best team in Germany, playing us in Champions League, and I think the guy gets regular playing time.
The takeaway is that we’ve shed a lot of players that won’t end up being contributors and brought in quality to replace them. In doing so, we’ve still managed to do thrifty business. Many other teams in the league have spent upward of #20M to get the same crappy recycled strikers that are getting relegated. We grabbed contributors, but we still lack depth. Hopefully another player of quality comes in before Thursday because we start Champions League group play and League Cup in September in addition to 3 BPL matches.

Preseason Analysis

It’s almost time!

Aight fools, it’s nearly EPL time. Since I’m still on couch for another week before work starts, I’m trying to use that time wisely: to upload all of the random info I’ve learned in the last 11 months for my friends to ignore.

Tottenham!
To the tune of Achy-Breaky Heart:
We’ve got Al-li, 
De-li Al-li,
I just don’t think you understand,
He only cost 5 Mill,
He’s better than Ozil,
We’ve got Deli Alliiiiiiiiiii
Last season was a crazy aberration. Man City, Man U, Chelsea, and Liverpool were awful considering the money they spent and all four changed managers. Arsenal hung around and pipped an unmotivated and exhausted Tottenham for 2nd place on the last day of the season. Leicester shocked the world with their aged and unproven players and strung together roughly 25 1-0 wins. It was chaos. We ended the season in 3rd place but with the best offense, the best defense, the best GK, the best striker, the young player of the year, a spot in Champions League, one of the best coaches, wealth, and stability.
Our biggest weakness last season was depth. We played an exciting, fast-tempo, pressing attack, and trusted Vertonghen, Alderverald, and Dier to shut down any counter-attacks. It worked fantastically. But when we played the B-squad in the FA Cup or Europa League, our offense fizzled and the team was way more pedestrian. When opposing teams fielded a pressing 4-3-3, our offense was less fluid and we didn’t have the personnel to change our tactics. Here was our standard 4-2-3-1 line-up (with subs):
This season we’re expecting roughly 10 more Champions/Europa matches than last season (if you come in 3rd place in your Champions League group of 4 you get placed into the Europa League round of 32). So we picked up some more players. Pochettino only pursued young, athletic players and at price tags considerably less than the other 5 big money clubs.
  1. Vincent Janssen is our new young striker. He dominated the Dutch league, is quiet and humble, and the advanced metrics people love him.
  2. Victor Waynama is our new defensive midfielder. He has been at staple in Southampton’s squad for a couple of seasons where he’s a big-bodied, athletic DM anchor. He used to play for the awesomely named Beerschot AC in the Belgian league.
  3. Georges-Kevin N’Koudou is our new fleet-footed attacking midfielder.
  4. We also got Yedlin back from his loan to Sunderland. They survived relegation but are in chaos, and their coach, Sam Allardyce, just bailed on them to be the England coach so it looks like we’re going to hang onto Yedlin. In the pre-season friendlies he played a bit of left back instead of his preferred right side. He fits Pochettino’s style of outside-back-plays-like-a-winger and it looks like he’ll get some games.
At first look our new players won’t displace any of last season’s preferred starting 11, but it gives us depth and flexibility. Here’s the updated 4-2-3-1 line-up:
First, our weakest subs have been eliminated or pushed down in the pecking order; Mason, Onomah, and Chadli in particular were no where near good enough to justify the playing time they got last season when we needed fresh legs. Fuck, I can’t express how much I hated seeing Mason and Onomah on the field. Janssen, N’Koudou, and Waynama will definitely keep those guys off the pitch (Reportedly, Chadli was told to find a new club and Mason is being pursued by Hull and Crystal Palace).
The best thing about the new guys is that it gives us tactical flexibility. With a second striker we can now look to play 4-3-1-2 (Eriksen or Alli in the pivot) or 4-3-3 (Alli up front). With midfield reinforcements we can play 4-4-2, 3-5-2, or something crazy with 3 defenders and an ass-load of midfielders in a diamond. The team has only gotten stronger and that was from a base of being the best D and best O.
What about our competition? I’m glad I asked myself that question. In the order they finished last season (minus teams that don’t matter):
  1. Leicester – kept Vardy, lost Kante, might lose Mahrez and Drinkwater. They were fluky lucky last season. They were an old team that was successful by having a stifling D and a lightning quick counter-attack. Now they’re a year older, their defensive keystone left for Chelsea, and they might lose their best offensive player and 3rd best midfielder. Plus they’re in the Champions League but haven’t added any bodies. Predicted finish: CL blowout and 10th in the EPL.
  2. Arsenal – lost out on Vardy, picked up a flashy AM in Xhaka, and is pursuing Mahrez. They lack a true forward, as usual, and they already have a bunch of injuries, as usual. Oh, and Arsene Wenger is refusing to buy players because they’re too expensive, as usual. But Arsenal always hangs around. Predicted finish: 3rd.
  3. Man City – last season’s 4th place finisher is moving on from the Vincent Kompany Elder Statesman Era. They are now coached by Pep Guardiola and are still the richest, deepest team in the league. I can’t see them having a second down year in a row. Predicted finish: 1st.
  4. Man U – last season’s 5th place team is about to add $133M midfielder Paul Pogba. That’s in addition to Ibrahimovic and super hairy Armenian midfielder Mkhitaryan. I’m sure they’ve bought other players as well. I think their spending this offseason will exceed $300M which is insane. They also have Mourhino as their new coach. The team is in transition though. Rooney is on his way out, their midfield of the future hasn’t panned out, and their defense is blah. I have no idea what to think of this team. Predicted finish: 5th because it looks so close to $th.
  5. Southampton – last year’s 6th place team did their usual selling off of hot young commodities. The only new guy who’s name I recognize is Charlie Adam who looks like this and was too old for Liverpool’s terrible squad. Southampton has a good system and coach but it’s only going to keep them from being terrible. Predicted finish: 9th.
  6. West Ham – last year’s 7th place team almost finished 4th. They’re good, they’re young, they have a great coach and are awful to play at home. But they haven’t been players in the transfer market and they will need a deeper squad for Europa league this year. Predicted finish: 7th.
  7. Liverpool – Jurgen Klopp (who has a whiff of Klinsmann) is starting his second season at Liverpool and first with a real transfer market window. They’ve picked up a few players but they’re doing the usual Liverpool thing of buying a $40M striker to replace their $30M striker. Diminishing returns. Maybe Klopp makes them better? Who knows? Predicted finish: 6th.
  8. Chelsea – holy shit they finished 10th last season! They hired Alberto Conte as their new manager, there’s no way Eden Hazard is actually as bad as he was last season, they’ve brought in some upgrades, and they don’t have to deal with Champions League or Europa matches. Predicted finish: 2nd.
That slots Tottenham in 4th place which will give us a second consecutive year in Champions League. Our best case scenario is to win the EPL. That’s possible, but it is unlikely given the talent in some of the other squads. Our worst case scenario is crashing out of CL, not qualifying for it next season and finishing 7th. That would require a bunch of injuries and even then we’re better than the likes of West Ham, Southampton, Everton, Stoke, Crystal Palace and Leicester. One of them might finish above us but not all of them.
So let’s get hyped this season. I get the EPL channels so I think I’ll be able to watch at least 30 of the 38 matches. Not sure where/when the CL matches are aired but I’ll keep an eye on that too. First EPL game is August 13th away at Everton. First CL match will be a month later. You can follow along with the CL draw here:  https://kassiesa.home.xs4all.nl/bert/uefa/seedcl2016.html
Come on you Spurs (COYS)