1. Manchester United
I don’t know which of the Manchester clubs to put first, because they both appear nigh unbeatable right now. Man U’s perfect Premier League season finally died in the fourth match of the campaign—away to Stoke, of course, because all beautiful things must die away to Stoke. Nonetheless, it’s the first chink the armor for a squad that’s looked airtight at the back all season long. Is that enough to bump them below their crosstown rivals who thrashed Liverpool? Look, I don’t know. All I know is that the Manchester derby looks like it’ll be absolute fire this year, which means we will undoubtedly get a 0-0 draw.
2. Manchester City
It’s easy to look better than the other team after one of their best players gets sent off. It is not easy, however, to look like an unstoppable offensive juggernaut while up a man, and pour in four goals over the span of 50 minutes against a supposed title contender, even one with as iffy a defense as Liverpool. The most fascinating part? City did this all with a back line of John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi, and Danilo. That’s either massively impressive or massively concerning, depending on your general worldview.
I told y’all not to write off the defending champions just yet. Ever since their loss to Burnley (I love typing this phrase), the Blues have earned three straight wins all over impressive competition, including a 2-1 win in what could have been a potentially tricky road game against Leicester last weekend. Alvaro Morata’s scoring goals, Eden Hazard has returned, and everyone is dead-focused on the two Manchester clubs, which means it’s just about time for an inexplicable Chelsea run up the table.
Champions League Contenders
4. Tottenham Hotspur
Who else to put here, really? Spurs appear quite a bit off the pace of the title front-runners, but their 3-0 victory over Everton at Goodison Park was one of the more impressive performances of the weekend. As it stands now, they’re fifth in the table and have a fearsome foursome of Swansea, West Ham, Huddersfield, and Bournemouth up next, which should provide a nice boost into the top four while they inevitably spiral tragically out of the Champions League, because Spurs.
On one hand, Sadio Mane’s boot-to-the-face against Ederson put Liverpool in a really unenviable position; down 1-0 and a man at the Etihad. Very few teams could come back from that.
On the other hand, getting run out of the park while getting picked apart at the back line, and providing absolutely nothing going forward is not the best way to convince the general public that you’re a title contender. They’ll have to lick their wounds and get back on the winning track without Mane, who’ll serve a three-game suspension for his unfortunate red card.
Europa League Contenders
It’s a bit startling to see Everton so far down in the table (they’re currently 16th, below the likes of Brighton and Swansea). Things look better when you analyze their match-by-match performances, which include a win over Stoke (nice!), a draw away against Man City (great!), a loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (understandable!), and a 3-0 trouncing at home against Spurs (okay, this one is kinda bad). Still, there’s little here to convince anyone that the Toffees aren’t a top-half-of-the-table club. It may take a while until we see that potential turn into points, though, as they have Man U up next. Who made this schedule, and why do they hate Everton?
7. Stoke City
Is everyone ready to talk about Stoke? I think it’s time to talk about Stoke.
It’s been easy—and enjoyable—to write off the Potters as a black hole to which top teams sometimes have to visit and inevitably drop points, but they’ve strung enough solid performances in a row that it might be time to seriously consider them as a Europa League contender. Ever since a season-opening loss against Everton, the Potters have beaten Arsenal, drawn West Brom, and taken the first points anyone’s taken from Man U all season. They’ve done this while showing a bit more spark up front than usual, with Jesé and Eric Choupo-Moting shining in recent matches. Keep an eye on this club.
Let’s just go all-out with this while we still can, shall we? The Hornets currently sit fourth (!!) in the table after four matches and have yet to leave a game without a point. They haven’t been playing pushovers, either, earning a combined four points against Liverpool and Southampton. This run of good form (and, admittedly, good fortune), will almost certainly end against Man City this weekend, but let’s just enjoy the brief, beautiful moments in which we can put Watford above Arsenal and have it not look that ridiculous.
The Gunners snapped a nasty skid by easily topping Bournemouth over the weekend, as playing Bournemouth appears to be this season’s cure for whatever ails you. They’ve still got everything to prove, as consecutive shutout losses at the hands of Stoke and Liverpool don’t exactly lend themselves to confidence. If Arsenal can put together a decent showing against Chelsea, then perhaps we can elevate them out of the mid-table range, and Gunners fans can be temporarily convinced that the sky is not falling and Arsene Wenger is not Dracula (Arsene Wenger is definitely Dracula).
10. West Bromwich Albion
The wonderful fever dream of Tony Pulis and the Baggies going undefeated and ruling supreme over the Premier League is dead, and West Brom fans will likely be disappointed that the bubble popped against Brighton rather than a top-of-the-table foe. Still, this team isn’t in bad shape: they’re just three points off the league-leading pace, and there’s enough murkiness after the top five teams to give the Baggies hope that they might compete for the final Europa League spot.
Safe, for Now
Once again, Burnley are very quietly carving out a niche for themselves in the middle of the table, adding a win over Crystal Palace to a hard-earned draw on the road against Spurs. New acquisition Chris Wood is adjusting well to life in the Premier League, with two goals in his last two games, and is adding a bit of pop to what was already a reasonably strong defensive team. Perhaps it’s time to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop with Burnley, and accept that they’re in the top flight to stay. Maybe.
It hasn’t been discussed much—rightfully overshadowed by the struggles of some of the big six—but Southampton is off to a really uninspiring start. Against Swansea, Huddersfield, and Watford, the Saints only managed two points, and their lone win of the season came against a ten-man West Ham. There’s too much quality on this team for them to slip too far in the table, but three goals in four games and just one shot on target in their last game won’t get it done, especially for a team that has dreams of European competition. The Saints were booed off the pitch at St. Mary’s Stadium after the Watford loss, and while it’s a bit reactionary, you can’t really fault the fans for being frustrated.
13. Leicester City
Another club that looked promising to start the season but has cooled off considerably, the Foxes have just one win to their name so far in their 2017-18 campaign. In fairness, the losses have come against Arsenal, Man U, and Chelsea, and Leicester was fairly competitive in each. They’ve also looked much more lively than last year’s squad, which flirted with the relegation line for a while. There’s no reason for that level of concern yet, but we reserve the right to push the panic button if the Foxes come out flat this weekend against Huddersfield.
14. Newcastle United
Are we finally seeing the Newcastle that many thought we might see when the season kicked off? Maybe not, as wins against Swansea and West Ham aren’t really much to write home about. Still, it’s an encouraging sign for a club that harbors aspirations of moving above the murkiness at the bottom of the table. Surrendering just three goals in four matches is a good way to get there.
15. Huddersfield Town
This feels a bit harsh given that Huddersfield were quite literally three points away from moving to the top of the Premier League (read this sentence again. It’s real!) Alas, their dream start to the season came screeching to a halt against West Ham, but that’s no reason for the Terriers to hang their heads. A successful season for Huddersfield is avoiding relegation; anything else is gravy.
16. West Ham United
The Hammers finally jolted to life against Huddersfield, potentially saving Slaven Bilic’s job and injecting some energy into a dreadful start to the season in the process. The team still occupies 18th place—losing your first three matches of the season will do that to you—but there’s plenty of reason to believe that West Ham’s patchwork, wrong-side-of-30 roster can do some damage in the league this season. We’ll wait a week or two before lifting the “red alert” tag, but I think we can all agree that this will be a very entertaining bunch to watch, for better or for worse.
17. Brighton & Hove Albion
Hooray for Brighton! The Seagulls were finally able to turn a couple of gritty performances into points, earning their first-ever Premier League win by shocking West Brom last weekend. Even with the unexpected three-goal explosion, this team hasn’t shown the firepower necessary to contend with the upper half of the table, but don’t be shocked if the Gulls are able to maneuver their way above the red line when all is said and done—they certainly have looked much more cohesive than the three teams below them.
18. Swansea City
Though you wouldn’t have guessed it from a rather lifeless loss against Newcastle, the Swans added enough punch during the transfer window to keep things interesting in Wales. Portuguese prodigy Renato Sanches struggled in his debut, but seems like an absolute steal of a loan acquisition for Swansea, and fans will be pleased to have former star striker Wilfried Bony back in town. Where there’s hope, there’s life. Or something like that.
19. AFC Bournemouth
It’s been four up, four down for Bournemouth, as they haven’t managed a single point in the 2017-18 campaign so far. Save a scrappy home loss against Man City in which they conceded a game-winner at the last possible moment, they’ve looked largely punchless in all four as well. It’s hard to envision a season for the Cherries that doesn’t end in a battle to stay above the red line, but a point (or three) against Brighton this weekend would be a nice step in the right direction.
20. Crystal Palace
Palace, after four matches, have more managers fired (1) than they have goals scored (0). Yeah.
Apologies for the delay with this week’s Power Rankings. Long-story short—blame hurricane Irma.