EPL Pressure Power Rankings: Who is feeling the heat in England?
This season’s Premier League has already thrown up some surprise results and some dramatic storylines, not least of which have come at Stamford Bridge, where defending champion Chelsea has lost as many games this season, three, as it did in total last year, and Jose Mourinho has already had a run-in with his medical staff and benched captain John Terry.
We are only five games into the new season, but already coaches are under pressure and big-name players are supposed to be performing to their high expectations.
With that said, here is a rundown of just who is feeling the heat the most in the inaugural SI.com Pressure Power Rankings (in reverse order of just how warm the hot seat is):
Hughes deserves credit for looking to adapt Stoke’s style of play from the Tony Pulis era. He wants to make his side as hard to beat as always but with a front four including Bojan Krkic, Ibrahim Afellay, Xherdan Shaqiri now has some creative class to go with it. In recent weeks the balance has not looked quite right, perhaps because the team is missing the talismanic Ryan Shawcross in defense. Up against in-form Leicester this weekend, Hughes will be reunited with Robert Huth, just the type of physical leader at the back that Stoke misses. Stoke is stuck in the bottom three, and Hughes needs a win.
Hazard was the best player in the league last season and has been talked up by Mourinho as a potential successor to Cristiano Ronaldo. Not on this form, though; while Ronaldo has scored eight goals in two games, Hazard missed the target from a penalty for the first time in the midweek win over Maccabi Tel Aviv. Hazard knows he is a marked man but that has never bothered him before. “Eden is the best player playing in this country,”said Mourinho in his Friday press conference. “It's not because a bad performance or a penalty missed, or not scoring goals for three or four weeks. He's the best. He'll be the best again. I don't know if it's tomorrow or next week, but one of these days he's man of the match.”
What is it with the northeast clubs at the moment? This season Sunderland and Newcastle (see No. 5) have played 10 league games between them and won zero. The outlook at Sunderland is a little cheerier than it was last week, despite the home defeat to Spurs. The host was unlucky to lose and gave a decent account of itself. More significantly, Yann M’Vila, Ola Toivonen and Jeremain Lens all look like decent signings. Sunderland travels to Bournemouth Saturday and cannot risk being caught adrift at this early stage of the campaign. Popular Dutch boss Advocaat needs points on the board.
Kane’s first league goal last season didn't come until November, even though it was only his third appearance (all of the bench). This season he is yet to score despite decent chances against Everton, when he fluffed a one-on-one, and Sunderland, when he air-kicked a cross. Cristian Eriksen’s injury has reduced his supply-line, but a partnership with Son Heung-Min could be fruitful for the England forward. It’s only been five games, but Kane knows he needs a goal soon.
Newcastle is home to newly promoted Watford in what already feels like a decisive game for coach McClaren. The former England boss must be ruing the decision not to buy Charlie Austin in the summer–instead Newcastle went for Aleksandr Mitrovic, who has more red cards than goals so far–and his side, which only survived relegation on the last day of last season, could be in for another tense campaign. The likes of Papiss Cisse, Moussa Sissokho and Cheikh Tiote all wanted to leave this summer but were retained. Unhappy players = unhappy results. Another bad one against a resilient Watford side won’t help.
Luke Shaw’s broken leg looks set to keep him out of action for at least six months, giving Rojo a chance in the United back four. Louis van Gaal’s defense had balance with Daley Blind as the left-sided center back, and it may prove significant that PSV Eindhoven’s winning goal in the midweek Champions League tie came from the area Rojo (center back) and Blind (switched to left back) should have been covering. Rojo hit the headlines last week when he reportedly called van Gaal “dog face” but that had an element of cultural misunderstanding (in Spanish, cara de perro refers to someone who doesn't smile much). Rojo can afford no misunderstandings against Southampton, where van Gaal will face his a fellow Dutchman, but most certainly not his friend, Ronald Koeman.
The Liverpool boss left six of his senior players behind for Thursday's 1-1 draw with Bordeaux, a sure sign that he is taking Sunday’s visit of Norwich to Anfield seriously. After a decent start results-wise for Liverpool, it’s time for the performances to reflect that, but they have been lacking so far. This is make-or-break time for Rodgers, and with every defeat, the status of Jurgen Klopp (unemployed) is invoked (even if this week, not for the first time, Klopp was linked to Bayern). Philippe Coutinho is back from his suspension and without him, Christian Benteke has looked isolated in attack. Rodgers has also been criticized for sticking with Dejan Lovren when fan-favorite Mamadou Sakho is now available. Anything less than a home win against the newly promoted opponent will leave Rodgers having to come up with a new line of excuses.