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1. MANCHESTER CITY (28 pts, GD + 29)
LAST GAME: 3-2 W at West Brom
NEXT GAME: vs. Arsenal
Not a great game for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City, but it’s another three points for the Blues. Coming off a tough game Tuesday against Wolverhampton, City lacked the sharpness that’s made them so lethal to start the season. Pep will be upset with West Brom’s two goals which came off defensive lapses of judgment. But as far as City is concerned, they got the three points, no one was injured and they are five points clear at the top of the table.
Chelsea in the 2005/06 season and City in the 2011/12 season are the only other teams to start the season with 28 points after the first 10 games. Both teams went on to win the league that season. As long as City can stay healthy, they are the title favorites.
Fun Fact: Gabriel Jesus hasn’t lost a competitive soccer game in over a year for club and country. October 29, 2016, was the last time Jesus lost a competitive game he has played in.
2. MANCHESTER UNITED (23 pts, GD +19)
LAST GAME: 1-0 W vs. Spurs
NEXT GAME: at Chelsea
A big win for Jose Mourinho and United. The Red Devils started the game slow and sat back in true Mourinho fashion. However, José made changes at halftime and it paid off. United was more creative going forward in the second half and it led to the game-winning goal. It may not have been a glamorous win, but against a title rival, it’s a massive three points. Though there was no Harry Kane for Tottenham, United’s defense kept Tottenham at bay for the entire game. Aside from a Dele Alli chance in the 77th minute, Tottenham didn’t look like they were going to score. Say what you want about United and “parking the bus,” but United are the only team in Europe’s top five leagues who haven’t conceded at home.
Jesse Lingard could have made it 2-0 but Christian Eriksen made a tremendous run to get back on defense to force Lingard into a bad shot. A good win for United to keep pace with their Mancunian neighbors. Next weekend’s game in west London against Chelsea will be a good one. Back-to-back games against title rivals are tough, especially with midweek games before both of them. Mourinho facing his former team always fills the headlines.
3. TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (20 PTS, GD +12)
LAST GAME: 1-0 L at Man. United
NEXT GAME: vs. Crystal Palace
In the first half, it was a tight and tense game. Both teams seemed to be waiting for the other to make a mistake. But no Harry Kane = Tottenham’s worst nightmare. Kane, who missed the game with a hamstring injury, forced Pochettino to use Heung-Min Son as a false 9 and it didn’t challenge the United defense. When Poch did bring on a striker in the 65th minute, it still didn’t make a difference. United’s defense deserves some credit, but with the players Tottenham has, they can and should do better than four shots on target. Tottenham’s best chance came in the 77th minute when Dele Alli missed a good opportunity from a Christian Eriksen pass. Nine out of 10 times, Dele finishes that chance off with a goal, but Chris Smalling did just enough to put him off.
Defensively, Tottenham was solid for most of the game. Pochettino will be upset that the goal came off a long ball from David De Gea that Romelu Lukaku flicked on to Anthony Martial. Spurs defense was strong all game, but it was basic route one soccer that beat them. Now Chelsea and Arsenal are only one point behind Tottenham and there is a little more pressure on Poch and Co. Pochettino said Kane may be available for Wednesday’s game against Real Madrid, but admitted it will be touch and go until game day.
4. CHELSEA (19 PTS, GD +8)
LAST GAME: 1-0 W at Bournemouth
NEXT GAME: vs. Man United
It was a tough week for Antonio Conte. Reports continue to come out that he is on the hot seat, but he ends the weekend in the top four. It was a narrow, but deserved victory for Chelsea. Alvaro Morata missed a couple of good chances in the first half and then disappeared in the second half. However, it was his long ball that beat the Bournemouth defense and set up Eden Hazard to score.
I said it last week, it’s crazy that Conte is on the “hot seat.” He’s not, but that shows the pressure to perform and succeed in the Premier League. His team is in fourth and on top of their group in the Champions League. Conte is fine and Chelsea is fine.
5. ARSENAL (19 PTS, GD +6)
LAST GAME: 2-1 W vs. Swansea
NEXT GAME: at Man. City
It wouldn’t have been a surprise if Arsenal would have lost this game. In fact, it would have been classic Arsenal. Once Sam Clucas scored for Swansea—on their first touch in Arsenal’s box—it felt like it was one of those days where “Arsenal gonna Arsenal”. It could have been 2-0 before halftime but Petr Cech denied Andre Ayew. But two goals in seven minutes in the second half gave the Gunners all three points in Arsene Wenger’s 800th Premier League game.
That’s back-to-back wins now for Arsenal and they’ll face their biggest test when they travel to the Etihad next Sunday. Arsenal’s defense is going to have their hands full trying to stop the attacking force that is Manchester City.
6. LIVERPOOL (16 PTS, GD +1)
LAST GAME: 3-0 W vs. Huddersfield
NEXT GAME: at West Ham
Jürgen Klopp and David Wagner’s relationship is a beautiful one. Wagner was an assistant under Klopp at Borussia Dortmund and they are best friends. But it was Klopp that got the best of his friend on Saturday. Three second-half goals were all Liverpool needed to cruise to an easy win. Mohamed Salah had a penalty saved in the first half, but it was Daniel Sturridge who broke the deadlock. Liverpool fans will be happy to see Sturridge back in the team and back in the goals. Sturridge has loads of talent but has struggled with injuries for most of his career.
Liverpool will hope to turn this win into the beginning of winning streak. Liverpool has games against West Ham and Southampton before hosting Chelsea at Anfield.
7.BURNLEY (16 PTS, GD 0)
LAST GAME: 1-0 W vs. Newcastle
NEXT GAME: at Southampton
““This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper.” – T.S. Elliot” – Clay Benjamin, after the Newcastle/Burnley game. Jeff Hendrick broke the deadlock with 15 minutes left to give the Clarets all three points. It was only Burnley’s second win at home this season, but they’ve only conceded twice in five games at Turf Moor. With the win, Burnley finds themselves just three points outside of a Champions League spot.
Sean Dyche has been rumored for the Everton opening and the replacement for Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. Monday was five years to the day that he was hired at Burnley. In that time, he’s led them to two Premier League promotions, and now he has them just outside of a Champions League spot. He may not be the Burnley for much longer, but Dyche has left his mark at Turf Moor.
8. WATFORD (15 PTS, GD -3)
LAST GAME: 1-0 L vs. Stoke
NEXT GAME: at. Everton
A tough loss for the Hornets. Watford finished the game with 15 shots but ZERO on target. Stoke is a team that Watford thinks they can beat, but they were just lackadaisical on Saturday. They dominated possession but offered no real threat to Jack Butland and the Stoke defense.
Watford travels to Everton next weekend and the way Everton have been playing, Watford will be hoping to get back on track and get three points.
9. NEWCASTLE (14PTS, GD +2)
LAST GAME: 1-0 L at Burnley
NEXT GAME: vs. Bournemouth
““This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper.” – T.S. Elliot” – Clay Benjamin, after the Newcastle/Burnley game. The last game of matchday 10 was nothing to write home about. Both goalies made saves, but Newcastle didn’t look like they’d score. Ayoze Perez had the best chance, but his curling effort was saved by Nick Pope. Hendrick was wide open on the back post for his goal. Robert Elliot saved Jack Cork’s shot, but it deflected to Johann Berg Gudmundsson who found Hendrick.
Rafa Benitez will be frustrated with the loss, but the Magpies still sit in the top half of the table with Bournemouth coming to town next weekend.
10. SOUTHAMPTON (13 PTS, GD -1)
LAST GAME: 1-1 T at Brighton
NEXT GAME: vs. Burnley
Both teams had chances to win this game, but a draw is a fair result. Southampton dominated at the start and went ahead in the seventh minute. They had a chance for the game-winner but Manolo Gabbiadini’s shot was diverted over the bar. Other than that to be honest, it was a boring game.
Southampton sits right in the middle of the table and will see games against Burnley, Liverpool and Everton as good opportunities to gain vital points.
11.LEICESTER CITY (12 PTS, GD 0)
LAST GAME: 2-0 vs. Everton
NEXT GAME: at Stoke City
The Foxes hired Claude Puel on Wednesday and the Frenchman is back in the Premier League. Puel was fired after his first season from Southampton last season. Puel led Southampton to an eighth-place finish, a league cup final and was one goal away from taking the Saints into the Europa League knockout rounds. That’s a pretty good year in your first year at a club, so why was he fired you ask? Well, Puel was fired at the end of last season because the Saints lost their last five home games without scoring once. The Southampton fans crushed Puel and claimed his bland style of play was hurting the team.
There was nothing bland about Leicester on Sunday. Their first goal came on a devastating counter-attack and it was reminiscent of Leicester’s title-winning season of two years ago. That’s three straight wins in all competitions for the Foxes after firing Craig Shakespeare.
12. BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION (12 PTS, GD -1)
LAST GAME: 1-1 T vs. Southampton
NEXT GAME: at Swansea
Pascal Groß (pronounced “Gross”) is someone we need to talk about. He is, without a doubt, one of the most underrated players and the best summer signing this season. He is a huge reason for the early season success for the Seagulls. Groß started every game this season and has two goals. More importantly, he has five assists this season. He’s tied for second in the league in that category.
Groß got his fifth assist when Glenn Murray headed home the equalizer off his cross. It was Murray’s third goal in the last two Premier League games. The Seagulls have Swansea and Stoke in their next two league games and will be hoping to take maximum points from those games.
13. HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (12 PTS, GD -6)
LAST GAME: 2-0 L at Liverpool
NEXT GAME: vs. West Brom
In any sport, it’s important to know your opposition. How about this? David Wagner, who was an assistant under Klopp at Borussia Dortmund, was Klopp’s best man at his wedding AND Klopp is godfather to Wagner’s daughter. However, it was Klopp who won this battle.
Liverpool dominated the game and Huddersfield could only muster one shot the entire game. The Terriers were no match for the creativity and strength that is Liverpool when they are playing their best. Huddersfield has West Brom and Bournemouth the next two matches before hosting Manchester City. The Terriers will want to grab six points before that big game against City.
14. STOKE CITY (11 PTS, GD -9)
LAST GAME: 1-0 W at Watford
NEXT GAME: vs. Leicester
Stoke got a difficult three points on the road. It’s not easy to go to Vicarage Road and win but the Potters were able to get their first road win of the season. Darren Fletcher’s header in the 16th minute was all it took. Even though Watford dominated with 70 percent possession, they did not have a single shot on target. With the win, Mark Hughes will feel some of the pressure being lifted off his shoulders.
The Potters have Leicester, Brighton and Palace in their next three league games and it is a big chance for them to pick up some much-needed points and right the ship.
15. WEST BROMWICH ALBION (10 PTS, GD -4)
LAST GAME: 3-2 L vs. Man. City
NEXT GAME: at Huddersfield Town
Manchester City may not have played well, but they still dominated the Baggies. West Brom only had 21 percent of the possession and both goals came off defensive mistakes. West Brom hasn’t won a Premier League game since August and find themselves going downhill fast and just two points ahead of the drop zone. Tony Pulis and the Baggies are in the trouble.
16. WEST HAM UNITED (9 PTS, GD -9)
LAST GAME: 2-2 T at Crystal Palace
NEXT GAME: vs. Liverpool
Slaven Bilic really needed three points to take some of the pressure off him. However, his team couldn’t close out the game and conceded the equalizer in the seventh minute of stoppage time. The Hammers looked comfortable and in control with two goals in the first half, but the wheels fell off in the second. In a game against the last team in the league–who has only scored two goals all season–is not the time to sit back defensively.
West Ham sat back and allowed Crystal Palace to fight their way back into the game in the second half and get a point. West Ham didn’t send numbers forward and just tried to close out the game when they didn’t need too. Palace has the worst offense in the league, but if you give them 45 minutes to attack, they’ll score (hell, anybody would). With the aspirations the West Ham owners have, they should expect their team to go for the jugular against a side like Palace, not “park the bus.”
It’s not looking good for Slaven Bilic. If I was a betting man, he’d be my bet for the next manager to be sacked.
17. SWANSEA CITY (8 PTS, GD -5)
LAST GAME: 2-1 L at Arsenal
NEXT GAME: vs. Brighton
Swansea is out of the relegation zone only by goal difference and Saturday’s loss to Arsenal hurt. Despite being dominated for most of the game, Swansea had their chances. Tammy Abraham had his go-ahead goal in the second half called back due to offside. Arsenal scored a few minutes after the offside call and Swansea never threated in attack the rest of the game.
The Swans have only scored seven goals in the league this season, which is tied for third worst in the league. Renato Sanchez, the Bayern Munich loanee, hasn’t been able to find his feet in the Premier League and Wilfried Bony has yet to score since returning to Wales. If it wasn’t for Chelsea loanee Abraham, Swansea would be at the bottom of the league. The Swans need to find their goal-scoring shoes if they wish to avoid another relegation fight.
18. EVERTON (8 PTS, GD -13)
LAST GAME: 2-0 L at Leicester
NEXT GAME: vs. Watford
There is little to say about Everton right now. After Leicester’s first goal, which came on a counter attack of an Everton set piece, Everton players were pointing fingers and yelling at each other. That’s shows Everton is a team that isn’t working together and not taking responsibility for their errors. It will take more than a new manager to fix that, and until that’s fixed, Everton will continue to struggle.
The last time Everton came back from a 2-0 deficit at halftime was in 2002 against Leicester. David Unsworth, the interim manager, was in the starting 11 for Everton that day. The Toffees did dominate in the second half, but couldn’t find a goal to alleviate their woes. They should have had a penalty, but they only had one shot on target in the second half. Someone needs to step up for Everton.
19. AFC BOURNEMOUTH (7PTS, GD -8)
LAST GAME: 1-0 L vs. Chelsea
NEXT GAME: at Newcastle
Not a great game for Eddie Howe and his team. The Cherries didn’t offer any threat going forward and didn’t register a shot on target until the 93rd minute. Games against Huddersfield, Burnley, Swansea and Southampton coming up will be big opportunities to gain vital points that can keep them in the Premier League.
20. CRYSTAL PALACE (4 PTS, GD -17)
LAST GAME: 2-2 T vs. West Ham
NEXT GAME: at Tottenham
A HUGE point for Palace. Their best player, Wilfried Zaha, saved them at the death with his 97th-minute equalizer. West Ham sat back for most of the second half and it hurt them in the end. It is this type of result that can build momentum for a team and Palace is going to need momentum if they want to dig themselves out of this early season hole. It doesn’t get easier for Palace though as they take on Tottenham next weekend.
@ClayBenjamin_ for @CincySoccerTalk
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