By KEVIN LINSEY
This past week, most European soccer leagues had no games scheduled, as players joined up with their international teams for friendlies to prepare for the next world tournament. This allows a chance to reflect on the season so far, with a focus on the world’s most popular soccer league, the English Premier League. Six games in, I’ve seen enough from each team to know what to expect from them in 2014-2015. My current power rankings are as follows (current league position in parentheses):
Chelsea (1): The Blues have been far and away the best team so far. Unbeaten and only held to a draw once, Chelsea will be looking to remain at the top all season long.
Manchester City (2): The champions of England last season are showing signs of returning to form. Sergio Aguero’s four goals in four games has been the catalyst.
Arsenal (8): The Gunners are starting to look more and more like a team that could place in the Top-four by the end of the season. Danny Welbeck, the striker signed from Manchester United, will be a very important player.
Manchester United (4): Speak of the Devil! The Red Devils will be looking for their world-class offense to carry their injury-depleted defense all season. With Angel Di Maria, Falcao, Wayne Rooney, and Robin van Persie, defenses facing the Reds will be running for their lives.
Southampton (3): Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic, two new signings from the Eredivisie, have impressed. Although many pundits predicted a poor year for Southampton, these two have led the team to a solid record so far.
Liverpool (9): They haven’t quite hit their stride yet, but the Reds will surely figure things out. With Mario Balotelli, Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling, they have the potential to contend for the championship if they figure things out soon.
Tottenham Hotspur (6): Spurs always seem to occupy that region below the top five or so teams and above the rest of the league. Again this year, they have at times looked really impressive, and at other times downright awful. Stability is the key, if they can find it.
Swansea City (5): The only remaining Welsh team in the English top division has shocked everyone with a wonderful start to the new campaign. Icelandic attacking midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson has been at the center of it all for the Swans.
West Ham (7): The Hammers were a candidate for relegation throughout last season until a strong run in the spring. This year, they’ve wasted no time. New signing Diafra Sakho has scored four goals already.
Aston Villa (10): The team from Birmingham was another predicted to possibly finish last this year. This seems unlikely, as they’ve gotten off to a strong start, even without injured star striker Christian Benteke.
Everton (17): The Merseysiders are struggling to open the year, there is no question about it. However, injuries and a tough early schedule are to blame, and the Toffees have plenty of time to turn it around.
Stoke City (16): It’s been a bit of an odd beginning for Stoke, losing to Leicester at home and then beating Man City on the road. The team should figure things out eventually, under the guidance of ex-Barcelona player and current manager Mark Hughes.
Leicester City (12): Who saw this coming? The Foxes, behind the four goals of striker Leonardo Ulloa, have really impressed after just being promoted from the second division. Leicester is definitely a team to watch this season.
Newcastle United (18): Everything possible that could go wrong has gone wrong. A team that should be challenging for sixth place finds itself in a relegation spot six games in. No wonder there is talk of firing the manager, because there is too much talent on this team to be playing so poorly.
Hull City (11): Now that the Tigers have been eliminated from European competition, they should be able to focus on the Premier League. They can do better than they have so far.
Sunderland (13): The Black Cats have been tie specialists up to this point in the season, with a draw result from most of their games. They need to win more games at this level to stay in the top division, though.
West Bromwich Albion (14): West Brom has played well over the last few games. Many people, including me, wrote them off after appointing a nobody as a coach in Alan Irvine, but he might just prove the doubters wrong.
Crystal Palace (15): Crystal Palace seems set for another battle to escape relegation to the second division. It’s a shame Tony Pulis, the former manager, left the club, because they played well last season with him at the helm.
Burnley (19): One of two Premier League clubs yet to win a game, they’ve only scored two goals all season. The defense has been impressive, but without goals they’ll be sent immediately back down to the second division.
Queens Park Rangers (20): The mercurial London club seems set to have a terrible season. The team is a mixture of overpaid loaned players, old players on their last legs and youngsters whose potential has not panned out. Don’t bet on them winning more than five games this year.
This year’s Premier League campaign will surely be a thrilling one. Check back the week of every international break (every six weeks or so) for an update of these Power Rankings.