by Zack Lambert
November 1st, 2020
Arsenal have lost a pair of their last Premier League matches, both 1-0 events to Leicester and Manchester City, but neither game was a necessarily poor showing. The Gunners deserved to win the Leicester match and looked dominant in their Sunday match with Manchester United, beating the Red Devils 1-0 for their first away victory over a top six club in 30 matches. Gabriel looks to be a world class center back and half of the answer at the back of the formation and other youngsters like Saka, Tierney, and Ceballos, are making good impacts as well. The midfield is stable with Thomas and Elneny putting forth great showings recently.
Benfica are one of the few remaining teams in Europe yet to drop a point in their league. Their only losses this season knocked them out of the Taça and Champions League, and those were back in August and September. A team that was rebuilt with starters bought from around the globe, Benfica are dominating the Primeira Liga. Éverton, Núñez, Waldschmidt, Otamendi, and Jan Vertonghen are all impact starters who were brought in this summer while even more are making a splash off the pine. It could be premature, but Benfica look like they could run away with the competition and will struggle to lose a match this season.
18. RB Leipzig
Leipzig’s only losses on the season have come in their past two matches, a Champions League mauling at the hands of Manchester United and a narrow loss over Gladbach in the Bundesliga. Julian Nagelsmann didn’t help his case as a potential replacement at Old Trafford by losing there 5-0, but his team are still performing well on the season. The top 11 have yet to be completely healthy together, but the return of Marcel Sabitzer and Angeliño’s terrific streak of form should get them back in the right direction, no matter their recent form. Dani Olmo looks to be a world class midfielder in the making and the emergence of Amadou Haidara can only make things easier.
The spot was initially going to belong to Napoli, but the head to head match between the Naples side and Neroverdi finished 2-0 in favor of Sassuolo, so they win the right to be here. The club have taken 14 points from their six matches and sit behind only AC Milan in Serie A. Sassuolo have yet to play any extremely demanding side outside of their match with Napoli, but we’re grading off their body of work and they’re yet to drop points. Sassuolo are beating even Atalanta in goals so far this season and while that will likely change by December, they’re a very strong attacking team and will press for a full 90 minutes. A charge for a Champions League position should be in the books.
16. Borussia Mönchengladbach
A slow start to the season had Gladbach in the metaphorical dumps, but a really strong recovery shows the true colors of the team, one who can continually compete for Champions League appearances. In fact, Gladbach showed that they’re ready to compete and move on to the knockouts of the Champions League after being unlucky to draw with Real Madrid 2-2, conceding late twice to split the spoils. Jonas Hofmann is in mercurial form in league play with two goals and four assists in six matches, helping die Fohlen claw their way back into the top five of Germany. Finding Pléa, Thuram, Embolo, and Bensebiani in form will only make this team more formidable.
15. Real Sociedad
If there was ever a doubt about the effect that David Silva could have on a football match, take note that Manchester City are 10th in the Premier League and Real Sociedad are topping the Madrid sides in La Liga. Of course the reasons for those placements run far deeper than the presence of Silva, but the stability that the Spaniard brings to the midfield should not be undervalued. Silva has a goal and two assists so far, but his passing is his most valuable asset, creating space and chances for his teammates to operate. The quality of Portu and Mikel Oyarzabal shouldn’t be overlooked either, with both players on two assists each. Portu is on four goals while Oyarzabal has five. I don’t believe Sociedad can win the Spanish top flight but I have no doubts of their ability to beat out a team like Barcelona and finish third.
Were I a member of the Juventus board, I wouldn’t be concerned with the players or with Pirlo or anything like that, I would be much more concerned with the lack of thought put into decisions made by myself and my counterparts. For years the solution for large clubs has been to throw cash at an issue, and be it players or coaches, or even something a bit more clandestine, the problems usually went away. That method doesn’t work these days as clubs are becoming better at identifying talent and keeping it at the club. Juventus are a prime example of that. They’ve thrown millions of euros at players and Pirlo and they have a superior roster or players but are lucky to be third instead of ninth in the table. Juve don’t seem able to beat teams who are anywhere close to their quality and I’m not sure that will resolve itself when Ronaldo returns.
Ajax sit locked with Vitesse at the top of the Eredivisie, both winning six of seven matches and losing the seventh. Even while losing wonderkid Mohammed Kudus in their loss to Liverpool, things look bright for the Amsterdam side who responded to the loss with a 13-0 drubbing of VVV. Even in a normally tallied win, though, Ajax would still be the highest scoring team in the Netherlands and own one of the better defenses in the country as well. Davy Klaassen is in great form along with Tadić and Antony.
A strong start to the Champions League might trick a casual fan into believing that Barcelona are having another strong season, but it’s far from the case. Barcelona is 12th in the Spanish top flight and that’s legitimate. The Catalans were blasted in El Clasico, lost to Getafe 1-0, and have draws against Sevilla and Deportivo in which they deserved to lose. Despite a greatly reduced goal impact Lio Messi is still topping the ratings chart with Ansu Fati in Coutinho close behind him. Dest and de Jong also seem to be coming into form which should help Koeman’s case to stay at the club. The issues with the board will be prominent for the next few months but I expect them to be less of a focus among regular fans.
Inter started the season well but struggled in the month of October, only earning a single win over Genoa. Inter lost to AC in the Milan derby and drew both of the Champions League matches with Gladbach and Shakhtar. Their quality is undeniable with two of the best strikers in Italy along with a wealth of young talent in the form of Hakimi, Barella, and others, but like Atalanta their defense is concerning. They’ve allowed 10 goals in six matches and are only sixth in a wide open Serie A because of it. The quality of this side suggests they could win the trophy, but this start will make that difficult.
10. Shakhtar Donetsk
For the first time in a while Shakhtar aren’t the best team in Ukraine, but I’m not allowing domestic results to solely dictate the rankings on this list. Sure, Donetsk have some bad draws to teams like Vorskla, Zorya, and Densa, but an occupation with beating Real Madrid and drawing with Inter will take a bit of precedent to those other matches. Tetê and Israeli national Manor Solomon have starred in the Champions League success while the rest of the team really haven’t reached their stride in the competition, bad news for the other clubs in the group. If Alan Patrick, Dentinho, and Marlos hit their stride I wouldn’t be surprised if this team made it to the quarterfinals. They’re really that good.
Outside of their loss to Liverpool early in the Premier League season, Chelsea are yet to lose a match this season, quietly creeping up the table. While the Blues are currently sixth, they ought to be far higher than that considering their 3-3 draws with West Brom and Southampton. The defense is improving rapidly and have produced shutouts in five of their last six matches, including games with Sevilla, Manchester United, and Crystal Palace. Two smashing wins over Krasnodar and Burnley have one of the world’s priciest attacks rolling, moving into a stretch of mouthwatering matches on the horizon.
8. Borussia Dortmund
Dortmund have worked their way into the second place spot in the Bundesliga, one reserved for them at the end of the season, but still lack that oomph to break through and become a team who demands respect and strikes fear into opponents. While the famous youth is still performing well they’re still struggling to be truly dominant, losing a match 2-0 to Augsburg and dropping points to Lazio, 3-1 in Rome. Of course the usual suspects are performing and scoring goals, but even with everyone in form I don’t think this side can top the league while Bayern are in the condition that they are. Maybe a perfect scenario could help them luck into a title, but I don’t see it happening.
7. Real Madrid
Things are far from perfect in Madrid, especially in the Champions League, but the club are still able to find themselves second in La Liga and with a chance to move on internationally. A loss to Shakhtar and a draw to Gladbach were both shocks (plus it was a lucky draw), but a lack of points in the other matches keep a knockout berth in reach for the Spanish holders. Real played well to beat Barcelona 3-1 last weekend and carried that momentum into their match with Huesca this Saturday, winning 4-1 to inch closer to Sociedad.
6. Paris Saint-Germain
After a horrid start to the season Paris find themselves back at the top of Ligue 1 after nine matches. Their only flaw since that miserable match with Marseille on September 13th was their Champions League opener, when they inexplicably lost 2-1 to Manchester United at Parc des Princes. There have been issues with team cohesion and playing as a unit as opposed to individuals under Tuchel, but there’s only so much one can do when the likes of Neymar and Mbappé are on the team. Speaking of Neymar, he’s back injured for a spell, but three wins and a combined score of 9-0 in their past three matches indicates that PSG will fare well without him.
5. Manchester City
A pair of stale draws with Leeds and West Ham aside, Manchester City have been indomitable since their 5-2 loss to Leicester early in the season. While an irregular start to the season does have City 10th in the table, they’re in the best form possible without Agüero or Jesus on the field. The emergence of Cancelo on the right plus the health of Laporte has shored up the defense, plus Ferran Torres is taking some of the load off the normal playmakers up front. With a massive date with Liverpool looming large this weekend, City will be needing a good result with Olympiacos to carry them into the match.
Despite popular belief, Liverpool are yet to drop points since the loss of Virgil van Dijk and other center backs. Now, the quality of opponents hasn’t been great and none of the wins have been dominant, but the defense has been fine so far and that’s all Klopp can ask for. Mané, Salah, and surprisingly Diogo Jota have been the best front three for the Reds to date and all three are scoring with great quality. Alexander-Arnold and Robertson aren’t playing to their world class abilities just yet but the team is winning and that’s all that’s necessary, especially in a poor Champions League group.
3. AC Milan
It’s tough for a club to jump from unranked to third in the world, but if there’s a side that deserves it then it’s certainly AC Milan. The club just dropped their first points of the season to Roma in a 3-3 draw on the 26th of October, but they’ve been flawless otherwise. An investment into youthful players like Hernández, Kessié, Leão, and others is paying off tenfold while the reemergence of Zlatan is turning this team from a solid side to one who can win Serie A. A dominant showing in the Milan derby earned the win for the storied side and their intense defending has allowed just five goals, tied for second best in the country. Milan are way ahead of schedule and if Inter and Juve are this off all season then AC have a chance to win the title.
2. Atlético Madrid
Atléti didn’t move in the rankings, which could seem a bit odd, but I promise it’s for a good reason. Sure, they lost 4-0 to Bayern in the Champions League, but the team were trying to find themselves without Thomas and caught Bayern on one of those days. Atléti could have played a perfect game and lost; we’re not shaming anyone for losing to Bayern this season. Plus, Atléti have turned on the scoring jets with Félex finally finding his form and Lucas Torreira fitting right in to the midfield. Los Colchoneros are still third in La Liga and I really doubt they’ll fall below that spot for the rest of the season, especially if the attack continues to be this good.
1. Bayern Munich
I mean, come on. Bayern have played six matches and already have three players with five or more goal contributions and two more on four. They beat Atléti 4-0 without Gnabry or Sané. They lost Thiago to Liverpool and replaced him with an internal upgrade in Joshua Kimmich who was a star at right back last season. Lewandowski is on ten goals already. If you can find a flaw in this side or even a reason that they won’t win everything they’re playing for this season then please let me know, because I’m not seeing anything of the sort.