After a Week 16 that went mostly as expected, we are one match away from the midpoint of the Premier League season. The league – along with our Power Rankings – have stratified into three distinct tiers (more on this below the table) and any move in our rankings only occurs within those tiers.
As always, these rankings reflect performance in Premier League matches only, and are more about the week-to-week trends instead of the whole season picture. A club is rewarded more for victories against teams there weren’t expected to defeat and vice versa, with draws treated fairly neutral unless there is a massive ranking disparity.
Note: Records presented as W-D-L
Results as of matches played through 16 December 2018
|Rank||Team||Record||Last Week||Change||Table Pos|
|8||West Ham United||7-3-7||9||1↑||9|
|13||Brighton & Hove Albion||6-3-8||12||1↓||13|
The Tiers of the Premier League
The “Group of Five”
The top five clubs have really separated themselves from everyone else. Arsenal, currently in fifth position, remains EIGHT points ahead of Manchester United in the league table, even after losing to bottom-dweller Southampton this past week. The top two clubs have about the same gap from fourth place Chelsea, and have simply been trading spots at the top of the table based on who plays first during the weekend. There is still a lot of season remaining, but if a club from outside this group wins the league, it was because they went on an epic unbeaten streak to end the season even longer than Liverpool’s current 17-match run to start the season.
The Muddled Middle
Between sixth and 13th, it’s currently a five point gap between Manchester United and Brighton & Hove Albion. One of these teams needs to get hot; a 6th (or 7th) place finish might earn a club a trip to Europa League next year depending on how the domestic cups play out, so there really needs to be some separation among this group to claim that mantle. Two clubs have looked stronger recently than the others.
Wolverhampton Wanderers are currently in the midst of a three-match winning streak. The streak began with a surprising win over “Group of Five” club Chelsea, which was followed with victories at Newcastle United and versus Bournemouth, both clubs they were expected to beat. Is this small streak a sign of what’s to come as we head into the back stretch? Or will the Wolves return to the mid-October form that saw them winless in six straight (0-1-5) through the end of November?
West Ham United is on a longer current streak, having won four in a row, albeit against four clubs currently in the “Bottom Seven.” They have struggled this season against clubs not at the bottom of the table – they are 5-1-0 against the bottom of the league – which tends to keep average clubs from becoming good. West Ham has already played the clubs from the “Group of Five,” so they’ll finish out 2018 playing clubs from the middle, so it could be a great opportunity to make up some ground on the rest of the middle before the New Year.
The Bottom Seven
Despite Southampton’s win over Arsenal, they didn’t climb that high in the rankings, primarily because they are still a pretty awful club. That win was just their second on the season, tying them with mainstays in the relegation zone Huddersfield Town and Fulham. They’ve scored enough this season to be much higher in the rankings and league table, but their defense has surrendered the fourth-most goals on the season. They do face off against Huddersfield this weekend, so they have a great chance at turning this victory into a streak, but they will have some work to do to avoid relegation.
Crystal Palace (against Leicester City) and Newcastle United (against Huddersfield) also won this week, which accounts for the move to the top of the Bottom Seven. They have further work to do to reach the muddled middle – Newcastle is still five points behind Brighton – and they aren’t that far removed from the dreaded relegation zone. Nevertheless, Newcastle should enter the weekend with a chance to win (they host Fulham in what I’m sure will be super exciting), while Crystal Palace will meet the opposite fate with a trip to Manchester City.
Until next time…