West Ham’s debacle and subsequent fan fiasco’s were sobering for supporters. It also helped them climb up the interesting rankings.
20. West Brom (last week: 20)
Another week, another bad loss. The only thing keeping the Baggies from sliding off this list entirely is the unknown regarding Alan Pardew’s near future. That, and the fact I’m obligated to include them because they’re still technically in the Premier League.
19. Bournemouth (18)
Bournemouth will probably stay in the league by the smallest of margins. They don’t do anything particularly well at this point, and losing 4-1 over the weekend after going up by a goal early doesn’t earn any points in this column, nor in the Premier League.
18. Everton (16)
It’s hard to get excited about anything that’s happening with Everton at the moment. They have players who are capable of taking over a match or scoring a spectacular goal like Cenk Tosun did on Saturday, but it’s far too often a chore to watch this side. Sam Allardyce isn’t likely to stay with them after the season is over, and that’s probably for the best.
17. Crystal Palace (14)
Palace have lost four straight Premier League matches and haven’t won since the middle of January. They’ve run the gamut this season in terms of form and expectations. One month they’re nearly unbeatable and the next they can’t find the net if their Premier League lives depend on it, which they do. Palace dropped into the relegation zone again over the weekend, and who knows what lies ahead for them at this point.
16. Burnley (17)
Being the surefire seventh or eighth best team in the league is a wonderful thing for Burnley and their fans. It can be agony for the rest. They’re 17th in goals scored, most of which come from set pieces or scrappy, hard-working play, and fourth in goals against. Sean Dyche cares less about that fact than Bill Gates does about losing a $20 bill.
15. Southampton (15)
The Mauricio Pellegrino era is over at Southampton, and it’s the main reason they remain relevant in these interesting rankings. The manager clearly wasn’t getting the best out of his squad, as evidenced by the 3-0 drubbing by relegation-battlers Newcastle over the weekend. The Southampton board is one of the more patient ones in the Premier League, and they gave Pellegrino every chance to turn it around. It was simply too dangerous to have him continue.
14. Stoke (7)
Predictably, Stoke lost to Manchester City on Monday, but that was only their second in the past seven matches. Unfortunately for them, only one of those has been a win. In the past few months, the Potters have turned their defense into a respectable unit but lost most of their firepower up front. That bodes well for their survival chances, but makes them far duller than earlier.
13. Watford (9)
The middle of these rankings are nearly identical to the middle of the Premier League table. There’s a cluster of teams that are indistinguishable from each other, and any one of them could implode or improve at any given time. Watford are almost assuredly safe from relegation, and that’s the best thing about them right now.
12. Brighton (8)
Brighton took a five-match unbeaten run into a clash with Everton on Saturday and promptly lost 2-0, just a week after taking down Arsenal. That run immensely helped the Seagulls’ survival chances, but as they showed this weekend, they’re still just as capable of a dud as the rest of the mid-table.
11. Arsenal (13)
This bleak era at Arsenal would be infinitely more interesting if it weren’t so predictable. The Gunners followed the lowest point of their season, a 2-1 loss to Brighton, up by beating AC Milan away from home and walloping Watford the following weekend, doing just enough to keep fans interested and the board happy. Might as well copy/paste these words and use them for next year’s column around this time.
10. West Ham (19)
The big winners of this column were the biggest losers of the weekend. West Ham lost 3-0 to Burnley, but that wasn’t even the ugliest part of the ordeal. Fans stormed the pitch early in the second half after going down a goal, and hoards of others gathered around the director’s box to chant “Sack the board,” among other things. It’s getting feisty for the Hammers, who are only three points above the drop zone.
9. Manchester United (12)
Eric Bailly’s own goal was so mind-boggling United moved up three spots in the rankings. You could watch the replays over and over again and still not really have a clear picture as to how he put the ball into his own net. Yes, United beat their bitter rivals Liverpool 2-1 on Saturday, but that doesn’t move the needle more than the best own goal this season.
8. Chelsea (5)
With an eye on the return leg of their Champions League tie, Chelsea took care of Crystal Palace, even if it wasn’t convincing. They continue to hang around in the top four race, thankfully for the neutral fans. The relegation battle is clearly the more intense and intriguing portion of the table, but at least the top four hasn’t already been decided thanks to Chelsea.
7. Leicester (11)
Jamie Vardy’s goal on Saturday is shortlisted with Sofiane Boufal’s mazy solo effort earlier in the year for goal of the season. It’s arguably a harder skill than Boufal’s, even if it’s not as flashy as dribbling through two-thirds of a team. Riyad Mahrez’s pass was sublime, but the finish was a thing of beauty. Taking the ball out of the air over his shoulder on his weaker foot and hitting the inside of the side netting is a once-in-a-career goal. It should be talked about more.
6. Huddersfield (4)
Huddersfield remain in the top six solely because of their unpredictability. This team can lose five straight matches without coming close to a win and then score four goals the next match. In fact, they did that just three weeks ago. So it’s not a surprise to see them battle to a 0-0 draw against 10-men Swansea like they did on Saturday. In the same exact sense, it’s shocking.
5. Newcastle (10)
It will be a minor miracle if Newcastle stay in the Premier League, and for that, Rafa Benitez would deserve a statue outside of St. James’ Park. The Magpies dominated a relegation six-pointer against Southampton in surprisingly aesthetic fashion. Their second goal was a master class in counter-attacking soccer, and Benitez is squeezing every last ounce of talent from his thin squad. Give him an owner who cares and a healthy transfer budget and it wouldn’t be extraordinary to see Newcastle back in the top half of the league next year.
4. Tottenham (6)
Bournemouth took an early 1-0 lead over Tottenham on Sunday, but it was quite clear that it wouldn’t hold for long. Spurs erased a devastating comeback loss to Juventus in the Champions League by crushing the Cherries in the league. Even without Harry Kane, who left with an ankle injury, Spurs made it look easy to score four goals, which can be a fun sight to behold if they aren’t playing the team you support.
3. Manchester City (2)
City need four more wins to clinch the Premier League title. There’s not much more to say about this team right now. They dominate just about everyone on the pitch, play eye-catching soccer and score sumptuous goals. They’ve also made the title race laughable at this point, and, well, they have to be knocked down a peg or two for that reason. They’re so good it’s not fun for the rest of the league. Imagine that.
2. Liverpool (1)
Liverpool were stifled against Manchester United over the weekend, but one bad match doesn’t mean much when their form was scintillating before that result. If they can buy another center-back to partner Virgil van Dijk this summer, and with Naby Keita coming over as well, next season could be far more interesting at the top of the table.
1. Swansea (3)
Swansea are appointment viewing at the moment. Carlos Carvalhal has taken this club from dead-on relegation candidates to one of the most entertaining sides in the league both on and off the pitch, thanks to his infectious personality and new tactical plans. They beat Arsenal and Liverpool back-to-back on a five-match unbeaten run, promptly lost 4-1 to Brighton then switched the score around on West Ham the following week. This past matchweek, they went down to 10 men in the 11th minute and managed a vital point against Huddersfield. There’s no denying it anymore: Swansea are the most interesting team in the league right now.