That’s right. The rumours were true. Everything you’ve been hearing – from the press, from social media, from your friends – was correct. The Full 90 Football Power Rankings have returned.
If this is your first edition of the F90F Premier League Power Rankings, they’re not exactly rocket science. This is simply a prediction of where I think each team will finish, when all’s said and done. I’ll try to be as accurate as possible right now, at the time of writing, but they’ll be updated periodically as the season goes on.
Tangibles they’re based on include recent form, historical form, recent transfers (have they settled? will it matter once they do?), and squad depth.
Intangibles include squad quality, manager quality, and simply which way the wind is blowing (proverbially… obviously).
Overall, they’re a mix of art and science. Take Fulham in 2018/19, for example. They had a good manager, deserved their promotion, splurged plenty o’ cash, and seemed to enter the season with a mid-table squad. I ranked them 12th in the first edition of my Power Rankings. By the halfway point, though, it was pretty clear that the stink was just on them – even if it didn’t make logical sense – and they’d be in a relegation scrap. They dropped to 16th in the December edition, and it turned out they should have gone further!
Here’s the Premier League table, as things currently stand:
(Larger version here).
We’re six games in, which seems like a reasonable place to start. I did actually begin drafting a version of this after four games… and promptly found myself writing “It’s too early to draw any conclusions” over and over again. That piece wouldn’t have been much use to anyone.
It’s still early, of course, and we shouldn’t take the table particularly seriously yet. While City and Liverpool will be the top two, for example, Wolves and Watford are highly unlikely to be the bottom two. These rankings take into account the small sample size, try to be realistic about what we’ve seen so far, and are weighted slightly more towards historical rather than current performance.
Finally, before we get started, I thought it would be interesting to see how my first edition of the 2018/19 season turned out.
(There’s no danger whatsoever of me losing all credibility before we even start this, right?).
Here’s how I had the 20 teams ranked, with their final positions in brackets:
1 – Manchester City (1)
2 – Liverpool (2)
3 – Chelsea (3)
4 – Manchester United (6)
5 – Arsenal (5)
6 – Spurs (4)
7 – Watford (11)
8 – Wolves (7)
9 – Everton (8)
10 – Bournemouth (14)
11 – Leicester (9)
12 – Fulham (19)
13 – Newcastle (13)
14 – Brighton (17)
15 – Crystal Palace (12)
16 – West Ham (10)
17 – Southampton (16)
18 – Burnley (15)
19 – Huddersfield (20)
20 – Cardiff (18)
Overall, that’s not too bad.
Nine were either correct or within one place. I’m probably most pleased with picking Wolves not to miss a beat after promotion, Newcastle to finish upper-mid table (despite the team itself being poor, #InRafaWeTrust), and Sarri to take Chelsea back into the top four (they finished 5th the previous season). Liverpool only came 4th in 17/18, too, and weren’t automatic picks to finish 2nd.
Huddersfield and Cardiff were obvious relegation picks. No back-patting needed there.
Fulham was my biggest discrepancy, but I doubt many people expected them to be that bad. Man U looks stupid now, but they’d finished 2nd in 17/18. I still failed to take Mourinho’s Third Season Syndrome seriously enough, though. West Ham and Tottenham are my most annoying misses – I severely underrated Pellegrini’s impact… and I might have been a season too early on Spurs!
Anyway, that’s quite enough preamble. Let’s get started, shall we?
This edition will be split into five tiers:
- Guess Who
- Scrappy Little Superclubs
- Thursday Night Hopefuls
- Mired in Mid-Table
- Be Afraid
Here are your inaugural 2019/20 Premier League Power Rankings.
Tier 1 – Guess Who
1) Manchester City
League Position: 2nd
Finished 18/19: 1st
Thanks to the quality of the opposition (see below), a five point gap after six games actually does feel a teeny bit significant. When a team has dominated like Pep’s City, though, you have to give them the edge.
Laporte’s injury is obviously the biggest question mark. Ederson aside, he’s probably City’s most irreplaceable player, given that they started the season with only three natural center-backs. Otamendi always has a calamity in him (as he showed against Norwich recently); Stones likewise.
Rotating Walker and Fernandinho along the back line as the fixtures pile up will see them past most teams; City’s system doesn’t place a big defensive burden on their CB’s anyway. In a title race decided by such fine margins last time out, though, this could prove a decisive loss.
As the two-time champs, City merit confidence… for now. But this is the biggest test they’ve faced since the 17/18 season began.
League Position: 1st
Finished 18/19: 2nd
For the second time in two seasons, Liverpool have won their opening six games. They’ve conceded three more goals this time, but they’ve scored three more too.
Their defence certainly doesn’t look as impenetrable as expected. Losing your £66 million keeper in the first half of the first game does excuse that somewhat, though.
Regarding the attack, it’s the same… but more so.
Salah somehow becomes more selfish by the month, with Mané’s temper tantrum before the international break entirely justified. Mané continues to prove himself as basically the best finisher in the league, a trend which has been building for a couple of years now. He led the league in outperforming his xG by a distance last season – +6.88, with Hazard second on +5.47 – and he’s already on +2.36 in 19/20. Firmino’s creativity manifests itself in increasingly flamboyant ways:
— Daily Sport (@DailySport12) September 16, 2019
This is an incredible side, and should be appreciated as such. They’ve clearly been the best team so far this season, but it’s simply too early to stick them in the top spot of the Power Rankings. In the next edition? Well… we’ll see.
Tier 2 – Scrappy Little Superclubs
League Position: 7th
Finished 18/19: 4th
Who knows what’s going on with this team? Not even Pochettino, apparently. Requiring an hour-long team meeting to piece together the mess left after a trying summer was not a good look. That emergency maneuver was followed by a win… which was subsequently followed by another loss. And then they got knocked out of the League Cup by Colchester.
The cracks are there to be seen by all now. If Spurs struggle in Europe, or hit a bad run of form, it’s not inconceivable that these might become fully fledged fractures.
With all that said… who the hell else is going to finish third?! Of this higgledy-piggledy quartet, Spurs have shown the most consistency in recent years. They’ve achieved top four finishes in the last four seasons, and – despite their dysfunction – must be considered favourites to do so again.
League Position: 4th
Finished 18/19: 5th
(Disclaimer: I’m an Arsenal fan, and I’m just going to say ‘we’ instead of ‘they’… deal with it)
Generally speaking, I like Emery. I despise his decision to not only start the awful Granit Xhaka in the heart of midfield every week, but to give him the captain’s armband (full rant here). But you can’t argue with a seven point improvement between his first season and Wenger’s last, nor with reaching the Europa League final.
Several times already this season, though, I’ve been forced to question whether much – if anything – has actually changed. There was our annual drubbing at Anfield. There has been woeful defending on the counter, which crushingly cost us a North London derby victory. For the third straight season we struggled at Vicarage Road, clinging on to a lead in cowardly fashion in exactly the same manner as the ill-fated Cojones Derby.
The players have changed. The manager has changed. The top-level staff have changed. But when the same old story is played out on the pitch… has anything actually changed?
Fit and healthy, I’d say Arsenal have a better squad than Man United or Chelsea. They have a vastly more experienced manager too. They inspire no confidence whatsoever in me, but – for those reasons – I have to place them in fourth for now.
5) Man United
League Position: 8th
Finished 18/19: 6th
Man U so far this season:
- 4-0 at home to Chelsea
- 1-1 away to Wolves
- 1-2 at home to Crystal Palace
- 1-1 away to Southampton (who had 10 men for the last 20 minutes)
- 1-0 at home to Leicester
- 0-2 away to West Ham
Yup. Good luck drawing any conclusions from those results.
Man U’s performances seem to bear no relation whatsoever to opponent, home/away or team selection. They are… unanalyseable. Six games in, and we still have no idea if the defence is fixed, the attack can live up to its potential, Pogba can finally turn the corner (actually we do – that one’s not happening, move on), Solskjær deserves to stick around, or basically anything else for that matter.
One thing we can all be thankful for, though, is that United’s topsy-turvy start to the season has inspired plenty of brilliant content on Sky Sports:
League Position: 11th
Finished 18/19: 3rd
To be honest, you could flip a coin to guess who will finish higher out of Chelsea and Man U at this stage. Chelsea’s inconsistency hasn’t been quite so wild as Man U’s, but they’re still all over the place.
From a sheer entertainment perspective, a least, perhaps only Norwich can top Chelsea right now. Their attack isn’t just surprisingly potent, but fun to watch too. Almost, if not more fun to watch is their defence, to the extent that I almost feel better about Arsenal’s. They’ve conceded an impressive 13 goals already, third-most in the league after Watford (who just shipped eight in one go) and – you guessed it – Norwich.
I like this Chelsea team a lot, and – naively, perhaps – hope the hierarchy do indeed stick with Frank for a while, and let him bring the youngsters through. With that youth, though, and a relatively lean squad which they can’t bolster in January, I just don’t see them finishing in the top four.
Tier 3 – Thursday Night Hopefuls
7) Leicester City
League Position: 3rd
Finished 18/19: 9th
I’ll hold my hands up and say that I wasn’t as enamored with Brendan Rodgers’ appointment as most.
Regarding his time at Liverpool, everyone seems to remember the swashbuckling 13/14 title challenge… and conveniently forget that he finished 7th and 6th in the seasons either side of that. Liverpool’s sole Champions League appearance during his tenure was an embarrassing group stage exit, and they didn’t even make it out of the round of 32 in the Europa League. Defensively, his Liverpool were poor, conceding 50 in 13/14 and 48 in 14/15. Winning a bunch of trophies with Celtic is not an achievement, so I was frankly baffled by the near-desperation with which Leicester chased him.
Well, that’s why they run a football club and I don’t, I guess. Rodgers seems a manager transformed, having apparently gained the ability to craft an extremely organised and coherent team. Leicester’s attack isn’t quite there yet, but when Maddison gets going again and the brilliantly creative Ayoze Pérez settles in, that will come.
Far more impressive is their defence. They already had the best non-Big Six pair of full-backs in the league, in Chilwell and Pereira. Söyüncü’s emergence has made getting £80mill for Maguire look an even more ludicrous piece of business. The brilliant Ndidi – one of my favourite players in the Prem, and a slam-dunk pick for my All-Stats XI last year – continues to provide an efficient screen. It’s no surprise that Leicester have the joint-best defensive record in the league, with only five goals conceded in six games.
Considering how weak this year’s Arsenal, Chelsea, Man U and Spurs teams are, they’re unlikely to get a better chance at the European spots than the one they’ve got right now.
League Position: 14th
Finished 18/19: 8th
Leicester, basically, are everything Everton had hoped to be.
Given the investment, and a more intangible sense that this was ‘their time’, Everton fans may well be sounding the alarm bells after the Toffees’ sluggish start. They’re languishing in lower mid-table, with seven points from six games and a -4 goal difference, having played a pretty friendly schedule. No disrespect to a solid Sheffield United team, but losing 2-0 at home to a newly-promoted side is a crushing result.
Hardly inspirational statistically, then, and Everton haven’t passed the eye test either. Even in the 3-2 against Wolves – which sounds their most exciting game of the season – they actually played dreadfully dreary stuff for most of the match, only turning it on at the beginning and end of the game.
Most of this seems to come from a disconnect between the team’s three units. That’s understandable, given brand new arrivals Iwobi, Delph and Kean have been given big minutes, and are yet to settle. Once they gel, this certainly looks a better team than the one which finished 8th last season.
The talent is there to turn it around, and finish 7th or 8th… but I could also see Marco Silva being sacked a month from now, and Everton never being able to make up for their slow beginning.
9) West Ham
League Position: 5th
Finished 18/19: 10th
Is Pellegrini the most-liked manager in the Premier League? I say yes. Seriously, who doesn’t like Manuel Pellegrini? He’s been around forever, has won trophies, tells it like it is in his interviews, plays attacking football, and is simply a bloody good coach.
It wasn’t so long ago that West Ham were an absolute mess, with some fans storming the directors’ box and many more simply refusing to attend games. They employed David Moyes for six months, for God’s sake. Now, with the mercurial Arnautovic finally gone, they look an utterly stable squad which should finish mid-table every season, with a deep and talented attack ensuring they’ll be fun to watch too.
Hardly an inspirational diagnosis, I suppose, but considering where they were less than two years ago West Ham’s turnaround towards stability has been extremely impressive. They’ve had a pretty easy schedule so far, and certainly won’t finish top six, but they’re pretty clearly the ‘best of the rest’ outside of that top eight.
League Position: 19th
Finished 18/19: 7th
Wolves were stupidly good last season, going from the Championship to a 7th-placed finish in the Premier League. They invested plenty of money, sure, but that’s still not supposed to happen.
Now they’re 19th in the table, and still haven’t won a game. The squad is the same, the manager is the same… but they’ve had to play 13 games already this season, and football teams aren’t really supposed to do that. Leicester and West Ham have played eight and seven respectively, at the time of writing.
You don’t need to be a world-class detective to work out that the Europa League has worked its magic once more. Almost exactly the same thing happened to Burnley, who went from 7th in 17/18 to 15th in 18/19 with the same squad and manager.
It’s a crappy thing to say, because the game is about winning, but the best thing right now would be for Wolves to get knocked out of a couple of competitions. Otherwise the fatigue will pile up, injuries will follow, and it’ll be a long and miserable campaign.
The team itself is markedly better than any of those below, and I’m banking on this quality to see them to at least 10th. Based on what the Europa League has done to so many before, though, I’m not wholly confident.
League Position: 9th
Finished 18/19: 15th
Wow, haven’t Burnley bounced back nicely? They suddenly look like the team who finished 7th again, not the one which struggled to 15th. What a mystery!
Burnley never actually made it to the group stages of the Europa league last season, but playing an extra six games before the start of September was a burden from which they never recovered.
Now they’re back to doing what they do: suffocating teams of a similar quality at home (and keeping clean sheets in the process), and battling to low scoring draws on the road. If we take out obvious losses to Arsenal and Liverpool, Burnley have won their two home games 3-0 and 2-0, and have earned 1-1 draws in both their away games.
Burnley have never been the most entertaining team, and they never will be under Dyche. But they’ve found a recipe that keeps them competitive in the Premier League, and they’re back to executing it very well once more.
Tier 4 – Mired in Mid-Table
League Position: 6th
Finished 18/19: 14th
People seem to think Bournemouth are an exciting and interesting team, but they’re not really. They play fairly attacking football, but – whether it’s through lack of investment or lack of tactical nous on Eddie Howe’s part – are perennially incapable of anything but a mid-table finish.
They’ve been getting steadily worse, finishing 9th, 12th and 14th in their last three Premier League seasons, and will almost certainly finish in the mid-to-lower-mid-table range this year too. They’re a solid home team, and a pretty poor away one (I’m not getting carried away with early season wins at Villa and Southampton), with a mediocre (to put it kindly) defence.
What’s exciting or interesting about that?
13) Crystal Palace
League Position: 12th
Finished 18/19: 12th
Palace are hardly a thrilling team either, but I’ve got a whole lot more respect for what Roy continues to achieve than I do for Eddie Howe.
Just look at the most recent team he put out, against Wolves:
For an average manager, that’s a team which would be scrapping to stay out of the relegation zone. It’s certainly no better than Fulham’s from last season.
It’s dotted with cast-offs from bigger Premier League teams – Cahill, Sakho, Kouyaté, Schlupp. The most league goals their starting striker – Jordan Ayew – has ever scored in 11 seasons as a senior player is 12, for Lorient back in 2014/15. Zaha aside (who’s wanted to leave for a while now), would any of this lot fetch more than a £20 million transfer fee? Milivojević… maybe? Their only natural forward right now is man, myth and legend Christian Benteke.
And yet, in his two seasons as manager, Hodgson has taken this club to 11th and 12th-placed finishes. That is an incredible achievement. Pound-for-pound, it’s probably more impressive than anything achieved by any other Premier League manager in that time.
You probably already knew that Roy was a good manager, but it’s time to appreciate just how good he is. The man’s 72, and he’s doing it all over again, with Palace safely entrenched once more in 12th place. Amazing.
14) Norwich City
League Position: 16th
Finished 18/19: 1st (Championship)
All hail the people’s champions. Number 14 in my power rankings, number one in my heart.
Norwich announced their Premier League arrival by going to Anfield and attacking the league’s best defence from the off. They haven’t really stopped attacking since, with their 3-2 home win over Man City easily the biggest result of the season.
In Norwich’s six matches so far this season, 23 goals have been scored; an average of almost four per game. Only Chelsea and Man City have seen more, with the latter vaulted into that discussion solely thanks to their 8-0 demolition job against Watford.
Will this approach actually work? Like most fans of the league as a whole, I sure hope so. With my analytical hat on, I’m really not sure. Simply trying to outscore every opponent sounds like a great idea, but rarely works in practice. It’s usually a good idea to try defending a bit too, but Norwich are yet to keep a clean sheet this season.
The bad news is that they’re only two points above the relegation zone, and Wolves – currently 19th – will surely rally past them at some point. The good news is that they’ve already gotten their first games against Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City out of the way, and have a much more friendly schedule in the next few weeks.
We’ll know a lot more about Norwich’s chances after winnable upcoming games against Palace, Villa, Bournemouth, Man U (yes, at home that’s eminently winnable), Brighton and Watford. Like every other fan without a dog in those particular races, you’d better believe I’ll be rooting for them.
League Position: 13th
Finished 18/19: 16th
On balance, Southampton are probably the most boring team in the league over the past few years. At least Newcastle have provided us with plenty of off-field hilarity (this article about Mike Ashley’s “unconventional working life” continues to astound, two years on).
Since the glory days of four top eight finishes in a row between 2013 and 2017 – before Liverpool completely ravaged their first team squad – Southampton have finished 17th and 16th. Nathan Redmond is probably their most (only?) exciting player, and their top scorers in those two seasons have registered seven and nine goals respectively.
Aaaand… they’ll probably finish between 15th and 17th again this season too!
Let’s move on.
Tier 5 – Be Afraid
League Position: 20th
Finished 18/19: 11th
For one season, Watford did flirt with being a normal club. They kept the same manager for a whole year, finished a respectable 11th in the league, and reached a cup final.
Well, obviously that wasn’t going to last! After a mere four games – and, bizarrely, straight after a 1-1 away draw to Newcastle – Gino Pozzo ‘did a Pozzo’ and sacked Javi Gracia. Who could ever have imagined Gracia had such little job security?!
For those counting at home, in just over seven years since he started running the shop in June 2012, Gino has made 10 managerial appointments. That now includes Quique Sanchez Flores, twice over. Only four of those have actually seen out a full season, start to finish, and – of that quartet – Gracia had the highest win percentage. The aforementioned 11th-placed finish was also Watford’s best ever in the Premier League, and it was their first FA or League Cup final since 1984.
There’s a temptation to be sniffy about this kind of chopping and changing; to bemoan a lack of patience among football’s higher-ups. It can work, though, whether you like it or not. It certainly has at Chelsea, and – since the Pozzos took over – Watford finished 3rd and 2nd in the Championship, and have become a solid lower-mid-table club over four seasons in the top flight. Not bad, for a team who’d only previously spent two seasons in the Prem… both of which they’d finished in last place.
So, now they’re back on Flores. He began his return with an impressive draw against Arsenal, which should have been a win, and a considerably less impressive 8-0 defeat to Man City. Watford sit bottom of the league, with two points from six games (eek), but I’d be extremely surprised if they actually went down. They’re only fifth-favourites to do so, per William Hill, and I think they should be higher than that.
Let’s not panic on this one just yet.
17) Aston Villa
League Position: 18th
Finished 18/19: 5th (Championship)
This may well prove a ‘be careful what you wish for’ season for Villa fans. You’d always rather your team play in the top flight, I suppose… but there’s simply a sense that this all arrived too early.
Aston Villa only came 5th in the Championship last season, after all, and seemed less Premier League-ready than Leeds, West Brom, and probably Derby too. They finished a hefty 13 points worse off than Sheffield United, and this form has carried over so far. The Blades have adapted well, winning two, drawing two and losing two, and are settled nicely into mid-table. Villa have only won once – at home to a thus far dreadful Everton side – drawn once, and lost four times.
The obvious hope is that the massive summer outlay – over £133million – starts to pay dividends soon. The obvious counter is that signing a ton of players at once – that £133mill was spread across 12 players – rarely works. Just last season Fulham made it rain after their promotion… and ended up finishing with 26pts from 38 games.
I certainly wouldn’t be shocked to see Villa go straight back down again, but they do have Premier League pedigree, and if they hit with just a couple of those (many) signings, they should have enough to cling on to survival.
18) Sheffield United
League Position: 10th
Finished 18/19: 2nd (Championship)
Sheffield have picked up eight points from their first six games, which is absolutely fine, and have already drawn away at Chelsea and won at Everton. Impressive stuff… but the realist in me doubts that they’ll stay up.
This isn’t really even a reflection on them. They just happened to get promoted into a particularly strong Premier League. If they’d come up for the 18/19 season – when dross like Cardiff, Fulham and Huddersfield were around – I’d have backed them to stay up.
With the possible exception of Villa, though, I just don’t see who they can finish above this season. It’s really as simple as that.
League Position: 17th
Finished 18/19: 13th
They’re slightly outperforming my dismal expectations for them right now, but I still think this has all the making of another Ashley-era Newcastle dumpster fire.
Somehow I don’t think Newcastle will make a habit of winning away at Big Six clubs this year, and if you take out the freakish 1-0 win at a discombobulated Spurs, they’d be joint-bottom. Even if they’d drawn that game they’d be 19th. That’s their one win so far, and they’re averaging an apocalyptic 37% possession. 37%. Even Burnley are managing 42%!
Letting Rafa Benitez walk was one thing; a classic Mike Ashley money-saving maneuver. Replacing him with Steve Bruce was basically inviting relegation.
Rafa somehow managed to take last year’s rubbish team to 13th. I still think Roy’s 12th-place finish was more impressive, but either would have been worthy Manager of the Season winners. Steve Bruce will not be in the discussion for that award. His last two jobs have been at Aston Villa – who promptly got promoted immediately after sacking him – and Sheffield Wednesday, who he binned off for Newcastle after only five months in charge.
Newcastle’s transfer business continues to be comical. They won’t be buying their way out of trouble… whether they actually attempt to or not.
Please don’t be fooled by their record-breaking transfer last summer. The most promising part of their team late last season – the classic no.9/no.10 combo of Rondon and Perez – was immediately broken up for a combined cost of around £46 million, and it was £40 million of that which went on Joelinton. Joelinton, of course, is the prolific striker who managed a mighty seven goals for Hoffenheim last year, and has one goal in the Prem so far. Almiron – their headline-grabbing signing in January – has literally 0 goals and 0 assists so far in his Newcastle career.
This is a club which deserves to go down. Not the fans, who are the actual victims here, but the club itself. It’s a terribly-run mess, with a squad that’s not far above Championship-level anyway, and I really hope that’s where they’re playing their football next season.
(If Newcastle somehow stay up, and Norwich go down, I’ll renounce football).
League Position: 15th
Finished 18/19: 17th
You know those terrible, schmaltzy, cringe-inducing scenes in American movies, when the little girl looks up at her mother and says, “Momma, why did grandma have to die?” And the mother smiles sadly and strokes her hair and replies, “Oh, darlin’… it was just her time.”
Well, sorry Brighton… but it’s just your time.
You clung on for one more year. Cardiff were just that little bit worse than you, and Fulham and Huddersfield were godawful.
But there are no Cardiffs, Fulhams or Huddersfields this season. There’s a Newcastle – they’ll do their bit. But then there’s a Sheffield United, an Aston Villa, a Watford, a Southampton, a Norwich. They’re all a bit… good, aren’t they? Not that you can’t finish above them… but will you actually get more points – over the season – than two of them? Sorry, but I just don’t think so.
You’ve made a good go of it these past few years, though.
Well, that just about does it for the first edition of my 2019/20 Premier League Power Rankings. If you stuck with me all the way through, then good on you!