Spurs were 20th in the last Premier League mood rankings; they are not there anymore. And the Quad is still on but Liverpool sit 3rd.
In a way, Spurs’ split-personality leaps up and down this table reflects the truest essence of Spursiness. And also our clear inability to make an instant snap judgement on a player. Dejan Kulusevski, we are very, very sorry…
You can revel in the full majesty of our wrongness in the last instalment here…
1. Tottenham (20)
When dropping them from third to 20th last time out we admonished ourselves ‘for putting them as high as third a month ago’. We’re not making that mistake again. They go straight to number one because right now they are giddy and frankly unbearable. The last update was written in that period when Spurs’ new signings looked underwhelming – we foolishly said they had been ‘absolutely diddled’ on Dejan Kulusevski based on his ponderous early substitute appearances, a jerk of the knee which has now ruled us out for the season – and they were losing meekly at home to your Wolveses and Southamptons.
We noted that their third-place rating in January was based on ‘a decent unbeaten run, favourites to finish fourth, and the at least theoretical prospect of significant improvement to the first team before the month was out’. Turned out that February was a mirage and Spurs are now on another even better run, are definitely favourites to finish fourth, may have made the single most impactful improvement to a starting XI in the history of January Transfer Windows and have seemingly transformed overnight into a peak Conteball outfit. Seven games ago after a defeat to Burnley that seemed to tip Conte over the edge, Spurs had a negative goal difference. It now stands at +19. After the Burnley match, Spurs had 31 goals from 24 games. They’ve scored 25 since then. Yet undoubtedly the most fun part of all this is the sure and certain knowledge they will be 14th when we do it again in six weeks’ time. It is the history of the etc and so on.
2. Brentford (13)
‘Just need to be ever so slightly careful that a generally encouraging first season in the Premier League doesn’t have a needlessly choppy end.’ Done and done. Four wins in five, including back-to-back dismantlings of Chelsea and West Ham mean Brentford have in fact done far more than avoid a difficult end to the season; they’ve ensured an optimistic one. Christian Eriksen has made an obvious and tangible difference – the one defeat in that five-game run was the solitary game he missed – while Ivan Toney has as many Premier League goals this season as Harry Kane.
3. Liverpool (3)
Ten Premier League wins in a row ended with a 2-2 draw at Manchester City that at least keeps the title race going. Liverpool do have the tougher run-in, but with one foot firmly in the Champions League semi-finals and the #Quad dream still entirely alive, the mood at Liverpool – who are of course the clear and obvious Neutral’s Choice in the opinion of those who are not – is understandably buoyant. The odds may suggest that a Manchester City Treble remains far more likely than a Liverpool Quadruple, but the vibes say different and here we are concerned only with vibes.
4. Manchester City (1)
The grip on the title is significantly looser and the Champions League quarter-final lead over Atletico Madrid slender, but the 2-2 draw against Liverpool – while frustrating – should end up working in their favour more than that of their title rivals. They definitely have the easier run-in on paper, but as any pundit worth his PFM salt will tell you, this game isn’t played on paper. That would be madness. It is played on grass and that is that. Clearly things are not anywhere near crisis point but we can’t shake the notion that City currently look far more likely to chuck in a random 0-0 draw against a no-mark than Liverpool are.
5. Newcastle (4)
Defeats at Chelsea and especially Spurs served as a reminder that Newcastle still have a long way to travel to get where they want to be, but any lingering fears of relegation were squashed by a timely win over Wolves and the mood remains understandably upbeat for those Newcastle fans able to apply barcode-striped blinkers to avoid paying any attention to what is happening at Chelsea. Leopards will never eat Newcastle’s face.
"I think it's right what the government have done, yeah." 🇷🇺
"It's just sour grapes, that's all it is." 🇸🇦
This Newcastle fan agrees with sanctions against Roman Abramovich, but has no concerns over Newcastle's Saudi ownership 🤷♂️ pic.twitter.com/1MNXogkFHB
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) March 13, 2022
6. West Ham (2)
A drop-off as it all threatens to end in an exhausted whimper but still, what a season. A European quarter-final (at least) is a huge achievement, as was continuing last campaign’s league overachievement for so long despite the strains of Thursday-Sunday action that better-resourced local rivals Arsenal and Spurs didn’t have to contend with in the run-in. Or at all in Arsenal’s case.
7. Crystal Palace (11)
An absolute testament to the power of vibes. Accrued their Premier League points last season at 1.16 per game and this season so far at 1.19 per game but the whole mood of the place is so much brighter. And you know what? Fair enough. Palace have gone from a humdrum mid-table side to a very exciting and fun mid-table side and that is absolutely worth something. Tangibly, it’s worth an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea which definitely isn’t nothing. The floor remains the same, but the ceiling is certainly higher now. And the spanking they gave Arsenal really was fun.
8. Brighton (6)
A horror run was partially halted by a classically Brighton goalless draw against Norwich before a law-of-averages win at Arsenal really lifted the mood. They were probably already safe but it was still a much-needed win, not least to avoid the prospect of bad vibes spilling into next season because they still have five of the top eight to play in their seven remaining games.
9. Chelsea (2)
A lot has happened since these last rankings. On the field they have endured the most painful Champions League exit imaginable: a piss-poor home performance that appeared to leave them doomed followed up with two-legged football’s cruellest trick, the heroic but ultimately futile away win. For five gloriously improbable minutes, Chelsea were 3-0 up at the Bernabeu and going through. Then came some genuine wizardry from Luka Modric and it all went wrong again. It is the most agonising exit possible from the position they were in after the first leg, but there will be plenty of pride to go with the endless ‘what ifs’ offered up by 180 absurd minutes. But whatever the on-field drama we can’t ignore the elephant sat in the corner. The news circus has moved on for now, but at some point it will roll back around to what is actually going to happen to Chelsea this summer and beyond. It could still be seismic and means that a team pretty much guaranteed to finish third whose last two games have been a 6-0 league win and a glorious (albeit futile) victory at the Bernabeu, and who have a cracking chance of winning the FA Cup have to sit in mid-table here. Even basement dwellers Norwich don’t face an existential threat to their very being and those things tend to be a bit of a downer.
10. Leicester (16)
Premier League form has turned around at the precise point it ceased to matter with four wins and a draw at Old Trafford in their last six games, but the season now hinges on Thursday night’s Europa Conference clash with PSV. If that goes wrong – and it’s currently goalless after the first leg at the King Power – then the last month and a bit of the campaign potentially becomes an exhausting box-ticking exercise as the Foxes cram nine chiefly pointless matches into 36 days. Beat PSV and the vibes are better but the fixture congestion even more pronounced, albeit with something real to aim for. Shut up, the Europa Conference is real.
11. Wolves (10)
They are going to finish eighth. That is very, very decent and absolutely everyone involved should be happy enough with that result. But it’s hard to get too excited about it either way if we’re honest with ourselves. A couple of quite silly defeats – most notably the Leeds debacle – have cost them a chance to shoot for something slightly higher than eighth, and that has to rankle a tiny bit no matter how much overall season objectives have been comfortably met.
12. Aston Villa (7)
Steven Gerrard now has a worse win percentage as Villa boss than Frank Lampard does at Everton, and you have to say that’s quite funny. West Ham, Arsenal, Wolves, Spurs – four of the top eight – is a nasty little run of fixtures but you’d expect to pick up a point or three somewhere along the way. Especially on the back of three straight wins with nine goals scored and none conceded immediately prior to that. Showed enough in the first half against Spurs that the inevitable step down in standard that now follows could see a swift return to winning ways, but they do also still have to play Manchester City and Liverpool. Indeed, while the remainder of Aston Villa’s season is of little consequence to them – could be ninth, could be 14th but it’s all mid-table at the end of the day – they might have a big hand in the interesting bits at the top and the bottom. As well as the two title-chasers they also still have a game left at home to Norwich and two against Burnley.
13. Southampton (8)
Very possibly our favourite Premier League club. For a mid-table perennial they are capable of the most absurd highs and catastrophic lows. Their very best is top-six standard; their worst pure relegation fodder. We lurch constantly from thinking Ralph Hasenhuttl should be at a bigger club to wondering how he’s still in a job after another twatting. In January and February, they picked up 11 points from a five-game run that included Tottenham and both Manchester clubs. Since then, one point from a five-game run that included Newcastle, Watford and Leeds. And the real bad news for Saints fans is that, despite 4-0 and 6-0 thrashings in that current forlorn run we still await this year’s mandatory 9-0 defeat. In unrelated news, they also still have to play Liverpool.
14. Everton (12)
Surely below even Manchester United after the Burnley game but that was 90 minutes to stir the soul and certainly merits swapping the two clubs around and then some. Still think Lampard is a bad Tory fraud, but he’s now quite likely to achieve the bare minimum in this first half-season at Everton and for that we will give him the most grudging respect if we absolutely must. We are incredibly annoyed that his win percentage is better than Gerrard’s. Everton fans are still entitled to think that scrambling clear of a relegation fight they had no business being in merits relief rather than celebration and the mood could not exactly be described as buoyant.
15. Leeds (14)
To be honest, I was struggling to put into words the curious case of Leeds, where results have certainly improved since Marcelo Bielsa left but the vibes have not. Luckily, Ian King has done it for me. It’s a fascinating battle between the head and the heart and, in a curious way, it’s quite joyous and life-affirming to see the heart apparently win out. Whether that’s despite or because Leeds fans are still a bit miserable is up for you to judge.
16. Arsenal (9)
Certainly went far higher than ninth in the interim period between our arbitrary updating of these arbitrary rankings. Now far lower after what had appeared to be admirably stoic calm in swerving the January bedlam now seems to have been a monumental gamble that has backfired. The lines are fine in elite football, and even more so in the ethereal world of vibes. A team with Arsenal’s resources that had no European distractions and got knocked out of the FA Cup in round three have no business looking spent in April. A clear advantage in the top-four race is now a tangible deficit after grim successive defeats to Palace and Brighton, and they still have to play Chelsea, Manchester United, West Ham and Tottenham in their eight remaining games.
17. Norwich (15)
Going down with more of a fight than they managed two years ago and, most importantly, appear in precisely the right place to launch next year’s inevitable promotion push. There appears to be some acceptance that this is how life is now for Norwich. There are worse ways to be, I suppose.
18. Watford (17)
Still going down, still chucking in the odd really striking result – almost all away from home as well – amid some absolute churning shod. They have, for instance, lost five of their last seven games and conceded 16 goals in those defeats. The other two games have produced a win at Southampton and goalless draw at Manchester United. Talking of Manchester United, they were also the last team to emerge from Vicarage Road without the three points. The Hornets have lost nine straight league games at home since spanking United 4-1. It’s almost like they’re a team deliberately designed to anger and confuse. And so are Watford wahaaaaay.
19. Burnley (18)
We enjoyed Sean Dyche’s “They don’t know how to win” jab at Everton immensely, but in hindsight it was a premature take in the heat of the moment that always had the potential to bite him upon the bum. However bad Everton have been, Burnley had still recorded only their fifth league win of the season. They’re hardly relentless winning machines themselves. Sure enough, a win for Everton against Manchester United and defeat for Burnley at Norwich later, and the whole momentum of the relegation fight has shifted. Not for the first time in these rankings, we see the truth of how hope rather than despair is the cruellest emotion. Burnley fans had been expecting relegation for a while now, but were then shown a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel once again only for it to be extinguished by f***ing Norwich. That’s got to hurt.
20. Manchester United (16)
Fans are apparently planning a protest ahead of the Norwich game, which still appears to be going ahead despite United being handed a timely boost in their top-four hopes.