Having played a home-and-away fixture apiece, we’ve had an early opportunity to run the rule over each of the sides in the Premier League.
Naturally, there's already been a good deal of drama, shocks, controversy and quality, but in the infancy of the campaign, it’s difficult to look at the league table and draw any kind of reasonable conclusion about teams. Perhaps a more appropriate way of ranking the teams at this early stage is by power ranking.
So taking into account not only results, but the calibre of opponents faced, the standard of performances and momentum gathered, which sides are currently looking in the best shape after two weeks of the English football’s top-flight competition?
Let’s also take a look at how the early-season exploits of each team have effected their title odds with the bookmakers:
|Premier League 2014-15: Winner Odds|
1. Manchester City
Manuel Pellegrini’s side lead the power ranking after taking two wins from their opening two games. It’s not just their 100 percent record that’s stood out so far, but the calibre of opposition that they’ve taken those points from.
An away trip to Newcastle is always a tricky task, but the Citizens dealt with the raucous Geordie crowd with ease. And when pitted against Liverpool—their closest rivals in last season’s title race—the champions put in another incisive and enterprising performance at home.
Indeed, City look set to continue their irresistible home form from last season, as noted here by OptaJoe:
The early-season form of Stevan Jovetic will also come as great encouragement to City supporters. If the young forward can continue to sparkle as he has done in their opening two games, he’ll bring a refreshing new edge to what is already a formidable attacking arsenal.
It’s often difficult to get a thorough grasp on the effect a new manager is having on a side in the infancy of his tenure. But Tottenham’s 4-0 win over QPR was bristling with the kind of characteristics Mauricio Pochettino demands of his players.
There was an intent about Spurs that was scarce throughout the 2013-14 campaign. The White Hart Lane crowd were treated to a performance that was entertaining, energetic and effective, as their London rivals struggled to cope with the vibrancy of Tottenham’s attacking forays.
Players like Erik Lamela and Nacer Chadli already seem to be thriving under the tutelage of Pochettino, and at their best, both players will give Spurs a considerably more balance attacking threat. Next up for them is Liverpool, and the Reds will afford a stern test of the early principles implemented by the Argentinean boss.
Jose Mourinho’s side dispatched another promoted side in Week 2 but, although a 2-0 scoreline would suggest that this was a pretty comfortable win for the Blues, Leicester City made things pretty tough for their more illustrious opponents at Stamford Bridge.
But Chelsea were able to ride out the pressure put on by the promoted side and eventually their class told. Diego Costa showed his predatory instincts to notch his second goal in two games, while Eden Hazard notched a typically classy effort, jinking in from the left and firing low past Kasper Schmeichel.
After a prosperous summer in the transfer window plenty is expected of this Chelsea side. But in truth, we’ve yet to see them tested fully against top-quality opposition. In Week 3 they travel to Merseyside to face Everton; coming away from Goodison Park with three points would be a major show of their title credentials.
4. Swansea City
It’s been an unexpectedly fast start to 2014-15 for Swansea City. Having spoiled Louis van Gaal’s first game as Manchester United boss in their season opener, they followed up the win at Old Trafford with an efficient 1-0 triumph over newly promoted side Burnley with Nathan Dyer the man on the scoresheet.
Gary Monk not only has the Welsh outfit playing some fine football, but in the early stages of the campaign the Swans have also showcased a real steel. They’ve stood firm against late rallies from both of their opponents so far, and if they can keep this balance of finesse and fortitude up, the Swans could be a surprise contender to challenge for Europe.
Having fallen behind 2-0 to Everton during the first half at Goodison Park, Arsenal were staring down the barrel of another heavy defeat to the Toffees. But somehow, the Gunners managed to get out of Merseyside with an undeserved point as they capitalised against Roberto Martinez’s tiring troops.
Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud both netted in the final seven minutes of the game to make it 2-2, and naturally the Gunners have received plenty of acclaim for their resilience and spirit.
Arsenal haven’t quite clicked into gear in either of their opening games to date, and with Giroud reportedly set to miss three months with a broken ankle, per Matt Law of The Telegraph, Wenger may feel as though he has to make a few more forays into the transfer market yet.
6. Hull City
Having lost James Chester to a red card early on against Stoke City, Steve Bruce’s side were chasing shadows for long spells against the Potters. But just as they did in Week 1, they showcased a desire and cohesiveness that almost yielded another three points.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Nikica Jelavic’s opener was cancelled out by a late scrambled Ryan Shawcross goal and they had to make do with a point.
Nonetheless, four points from a possible six certainly represents an excellent start for Bruce’s side, who will have to balance both domestic and European commitments this season. As such, getting points on the board early could be vital to their cause.
7. Aston Villa
After their battling win over Stoke City in Week 1, Villa played out a dour draw with Newcastle in their first home game of the season. But despite the turgid nature of the game, there is still much to be encouraged about from a claret-and-blue perspective, most notably due to diligent defending.
For the second consecutive week, Ron Vlaar and Philippe Senderos were superb as a centre-back duo, and the early relationship they’ve struck up looks to have given Paul Lambert’s side a solid platform to build from.
Now they just need to find an added spark in attacking areas, something that should improve when Christian Benteke returns from injury.
8. West Ham
The Hammers bounced back admirably from their opening-day defeat to Tottenham to dispatch of Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Sam Allardyce’s team were by far the better team in this one and will be especially encouraged by the performance of Mauro Zarate, who scored a superb goal.
West Ham struggled for consistency throughout last season and already we’ve seen the best and worst of them at this early stage of the campaign. Allardyce will be hoping his side can produce another performance comparable to the one at Selhurst in Week 3 and accrue some early winning momentum.
The Reds failed to find their best form in their season opener with Southampton in Week 1, and up against the champions on their own patch in Week 2, the same deficiencies that hampered Brendan Rodgers’ team last season were exposed once again.
Liverpool’s back four was dragged around by City’s intricate attacking play and, although there are plenty of new faces settling into this team, the careless and rash nature of the Reds’ defending didn’t do much to suggest major strides have been made in that area.
Without Luis Suarez rescuing them at the other end of the pitch, it’s imperative Liverpool tighten up at the back. In Week 3 they face Spurs and if the Londoners' early-season performances are anything to go by, they’re capable of exploiting those chronic problems at the back too.
Frustratingly for Evertonians, the Toffees could easily be sitting on six points from six at this stage of the season. Indeed, if games lasted for 85 minutes, then they would be. But Roberto Martinez’s side have looked a little undercooked in their outings so far, surrendering winning positions in both of their games to date.
Tony Barrett of The Times thinks Everton should be concerned by this apparent lack of fitness:
The most recent of which was against Arsenal, where a superb performance was undone by seven minutes of sloppiness at the end of the game. There’s been plenty to be positive about for Everton in their two games to date, but Martinez will be well aware of the importance of getting that first win under his belt.
But with Chelsea next up at Goodison Park, things don’t look as though they’re going to get any easier for the Toffees.
Throughout their clash with Manchester United in Week 2, there was plenty for Sunderland fans to be encouraged about. Not only did new signing Jack Rodwell notch his first goal in the red-and-white stripes of the Black Cats, but the Wearsiders played with an industry and vigour that caused United plenty of problems.
Unfortunately for Gus Poyet’s side, they didn’t quite have the guile or the clinical edge to turn one point into three. But having battled from behind to snatch a point for the second game in a row, it’s clear that this Sunderland team have the character to avoid another relegation battle.
12. West Brom
The Baggies followed up a frustrating opening-day draw with Sunderland with another tie away at Southampton. Neither side sparkled in the stalemate at St. Mary’s, although from a West Brom perspective, the improved standard of defending will have come as a positive.
Big-money summer signing Brown Ideye made his debut for Alan Irvine’s team in Week 2, and although the forward failed to make much of an impact, the Baggies’ boss will have been delighted to see him get some game time. He'll be looking to him to bring the goals in weeks to come that can push West Brom up the table.
13. Manchester United
The Red Devils struggled for the second consecutive game under Van Gaal and the hope that gripped Old Trafford in pre-season is quickly disintegrating.
Even when United took the lead against Sunderland it was against the run of play, and after the Black Cats equalised, there was never a period in the game where the visitors asserted a level of control.
It’s abundantly clear that United’s squad needs bolstering, and although the seemingly imminent acquisition of Angel Di Maria will add plenty to this Red Devils team, more must follow if Van Gaal’s side are to be competitive at the pinnacle of the Premier League.
14. Stoke City
After an encouraging end to the 2013-14 season, it’s been a pretty sluggish start to the Premier League campaign from the Potters. Mark Hughes’ side were poor against Villa in Week 1, and in Week 2 they were unable to capitalise on the numerical advantage they held for long spells against Hull.
Hughes has made some astute moves in the transfer market and perhaps the club’s poor start can be put down to the integration of those players. The Welshman will be looking for a bit more cutting edge if his side are to notch their first win of the season, although they may have to wait a little longer yet, for they face the unenviable task of travelling to Manchester City in Week 3.
15. Leicester City
Of the trio of promoted teams, the Foxes are the ones who have acquitted themselves most adeptly in the opening two weeks of the season.
They were able to snaffle a battling point against Everton in Week 1 and, although they lost at Stamford Bridge in Week 2, Nigel Pearson’s side never really looked fazed. Indeed, if it wasn’t for a brilliant stop from Thibaut Courtois, they could have taken the lead.
There are signs that Leicester have a squad that’s capable of staving off relegation and the players seem to be relishing the challenge of playing more illustrious outfits. Their difficult start continues when they face Arsenal at home in Week 3.
The Saints have their first Premier League point under the reign of Ronald Koeman, but aside from that there was little to shout about for the south coast side against West Brom.
They produced a pretty dull performance in front of their own supporters, with the only really moment of creativity in the game coming from a James Ward-Prowse free-kick that brushed a post.
Koeman should be afforded the time to rebuild this team that has been ravaged by the summer transfer window, and there were glimpses in their opening game at Anfield that he’s the right man to do it. But the Dutchman will be well aware of how important notching that first win will be if Southampton are to avoid a relegation scrap.
17. Newcastle United
A summer of big spending for the Toon Army has yet to yield a single goal, as the Geordies have struggled to find any kind of attacking edge in either of their two games so far. Against City the Magpies were simply beaten by a better side, but against Villa a little bit more was naturally expected of them.
Newcastle showed little guile and next to no inventiveness in their attempts to break down a diligent Villa side and that’ll certainly come as a concern to Alan Pardew. He’ll be desperate for a win in Week 3 over Crystal Palace to help stave off any early pressure.
Things were always going to be tough for this Burnley side in the top flight and, despite showing inklings of quality in both of their games so far, they simply haven’t been good enough against Chelsea or Swansea.
Two losses from two games is certainly concerning for Sean Dyche’s new boys, but the boss will be well aware that a victory could inject some much-needed impetus into his team. Could it come in Week 3? The Clarets welcome a struggling Manchester United side to Turf Moor.
19. Crystal Palace
No manager and no points; things haven’t gone well at all for the Eagles in the early stages of this Premier League season. Despite showcasing excellent organisation for long spells in Week 1 at the Emirates, Week 2 saw the return of the poor defending that hampered their early-season form back in 2013-14.
They were second best in every department to West Ham, and whichever boss steps in to replace Tony Pulis clearly has a massive job on his hands if Palace are to maintain their Premier League status for a second consecutive season.
Harry Redknapp’s side put in what was probably the worst performance of any side so far this season at White Hart Lane in Week 2. Admittedly, Spurs should have enough to beat Rangers anyway, but it was the lackadaisical manner of their efforts that will come as the biggest concern to the Loftus Road club.
WhoScored.com provides us with an insight into QPR's lack of cutting edge against Spurs:
QPR have an ageing squad and that showed against Tottenham. The mobility, the energy and the quality just wasn’t there and, although they eventually lost 4-0, it could have been much, much worse for Redknapp’s side.
At the moment, it’s extremely difficult to see them keeping teams out or scoring goals themselves. A far-from-ideal combination for a team fighting for their Premier League survival.
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