A month is a long time in football and there are significant changes at both ends of the all important Football365 Premier League Mood Rankings. And also changes in the middle too. It is the nature of the feature.
January’s rankings are in brackets with the half-baked reasoning behind them to be found here.
20) Chelsea (18)
The ongoing struggles at Chelsea must mean boom time for manufacturers of microscopic violins but it’s not such good news for under-fire manager Graham Potter, his increasingly esoteric collection of enormously expensive players or the club’s cartoonish owner and soccerball expert Todd Boehly.
When he started throwing all the money at the club there was a sense of frustration that the opportunity to enforce a genuine reckoning on Chelsea for the Roman Abramovich era and all it spawned had been spurned. But what if the universe was simply cleverer than any of us daft f***wits? What if Chelsea’s punishment was to have a new owner who spent even more lavishly and gratuitously but this time the team remains shit and wins nothing? Be amazing, wouldn’t it?
I mean, it’s not that. The last time they finished 10th, they won the league the following year. That’s far more likely to be the outcome this time than this absolute dreck being Chelsea’s actual future rather than a mildly annoying bump in the road. But the lack of any coherent plan – hiring a wide-eyed, progressive project-type coach to run a billionaire’s plaything – means the funk could linger a while longer.
We’ve also long since come to the conclusion that Chelsea and Spurs find themselves currently saddled with each other’s ideal manager, and that this situation is precisely what both those silly football clubs richly deserve.
19) West Ham (19)
Unutterably grim. Facing the very real prospect of relegation after spending an awful lot of money on a squad that finished sixth and seventh in successive seasons. Those were overachievements for sure, but jeez. This season has been hard work for all concerned. When the Hammers can’t even get themselves up for the annual Tottenham Away Cup Final you know something’s seriously amiss. David Moyes is apparently if inexplicably unsackable but he has lost his nerve and West Ham have lost their way.
18) Leeds (14)
Jesse Marsch wasn’t the answer. But nor was waiting until just after the January window had closed to sack him. And nor was then just trying to muddle through for a bit with someone from the academy in temporary charge. Travelling across the Pennines for the most six-pointery of six-pointers against a Dyche-fuelled Everton without having sorted their own managerial situation was a dereliction of duty. Even so, it was a touch alarming to see just how unutterably shite they actually were, which was very shite indeed.
Looks like they’re getting Javi Gracia as manager now, which is underwhelming but not bad given the mess Leeds had got into and the troubling thought of Harry Redknapp out there and ready to answer the Big Club’s call.
17) Southampton (20)
To the dismay of the rest of us, they have inexplicably sacked Brendan Rodgers/Tim Sherwood/David Brent tribute act Nathan Jones. We already miss him massively. He was a fascinating proposition, the absurd and misplaced outward confidence a transparent attempt to mask the nagging doubts that ate away telling him he didn’t belong at this level. He was great fun.
He was also taking Southampton nowhere but the Championship and since getting rid they’ve already managed to complete a league double over Chelsea. That’s not as funny as Jones, but it is still funny. The mood has undoubtedly lifted at St Mary’s now they’re no longer quite the butt of the league’s jokes, while the general rottenness of the bottom eight means they retain a thoroughly realistic hope of survival as long as James Ward-Prowse keeps rattling in free-kicks. Still, though. Being bottom of that dungheap isn’t great for the soul even if there is renewed hope it might now only be temporary.
16) Everton (17)
They’re going to be okay. They’re not now going to get relegated. They’re going to Dycheball their way to enough 1-0 Goodison wins to finish above at least three of the other terrible teams in the relegation fight.
But there must be more to life than this, surely? Just subsisting on a diet of grimly stressful home wins under their disc-bearded, gravel-voiced overlord? It’s really not that long ago that Carlo Ancelotti had Everton daring to dream in what now seems like an unnecessarily cruel trick. And it also looks like Liverpool are emerging from their season-long funk to deny Evertonians one small source of joy.
15) Bournemouth (15)
The win at Wolves was as well timed as it was unexpected, but coming on a weekend when Forest, Everton, and even Southampton also enjoyed excellent results there is still little escape from the fact Bournemouth appear the least equipped of the current strugglers both on the pitch and in the dugout.
They’re outside the bottom three, though, and as long as you don’t look too closely at their next three league games that has to be a reason to be if not necessarily cheerful then at least not entirely bereft.
14) Crystal Palace (13)
Just quietly gone a bit rubbish and in slight but non-zero danger of getting themselves embroiled. The last thing you want in February is to be worried about an embroiling. It’s never good, is it? Manchester United aren’t close to becoming embroiled in the title race, are they? Embroiling is only ever bad. And Palace are in danger of it. And there aren’t even any other canary-down-the-mine legendary former Premier League midfielders making a bollocks of things now, which leaves Patrick Vieira and by extension Palace exposed.
They haven’t actually won a game in 2023, which is quite bad because there have been quite a few of them now. In Palace’s defence – and we’ll admit to not having fully crunched the numbers on this one – roughly 83% of their games seem to be against the Big Seven. Which doesn’t really seem fair. Liverpool and City coming up in the next few weeks. Already played Tottenham, Newcastle and Manchester United (twice) since we all bade a fond f*** off to 2022.
We’re not about to presume to tell Palace how to run their business, but if we were them we’d be asking serious questions about why everyone else occasionally gets to play the crap teams.
13) Wolves (12)
Have an actual manager, and an unquestionably good one. There are plenty of teams around them who can’t tick one or both of those boxes right now and there are enough points being picked up that even a jarring home defeat to Bournemouth doesn’t fully derail things.
However, there is a potential turd pie awaiting Wolves that could yet make that Bournemouth defeat more bothersome. They’re still only three points above the drop zone and their next four games are against top-eight sides Fulham, Liverpool, Tottenham and Newcastle, meaning they could yet find themselves back in genuine doo-doo before an easier run against strugglers like Leeds and Forest and Chelsea.
12) Leicester (16)
Tentative promise after the unalloyed awfulness of their immediate post-World Cup form. Beating Spurs into third place in a two-horse race again was good for the soul, and on the back of an equally fun and funny 4-2 win at Villa took a bit of the pressure off back-to-back games against two of the three teams in the Premier League who aren’t a bit shit.
The first of those went very badly, the second is against Arsenal and frankly with that right now who knows?
There is also clearly going to be a team this season that sneaks into the FA Cup final while nobody’s looking and without having to beat anyone decent or ever even playing well. Having scrambled unconvincingly past Gillingham and Walsall with Blackburn at home to come in the last 16, Leicester are as good a bet as any to be that side. Say what you like about the FA Cup, there remains something inside all football supporters that never allows for all hope to be truly extinguished so long as the prospect – however small – of doing something unexpected in the most magical of all the cups remains. And Leicester have very good and recent memories of doing just that. It’s a mood lifter, for sure, even if unconvincing and undignified 1-0 wins at Walsall aren’t particularly enjoyable.
11) Aston Villa (7)
Just the first grey clouds on the horizon for Unai Emery now. Really, it’s the 4-2 defeat to Leicester in a game Villa led 1-0 and 2-1 that’s the issue. With City and Arsenal to follow there was always plenty of scope for what was at the time a blip to become a three-game losing run in the blink of an eye.
The nature of the Arsenal defeat of course makes it worse, following the 1-0, 2-1, 2-4 blueprint to perfection but with far more attention because of its title-race significance, narrative heft, and an awful lot of clowning from an ostentatious goalkeeper the rest of football has decided is a bit of a prick.
They didn’t ought to find themselves dragged into a ‘nervously over their shoulder’ scenario here – they don’t now play anyone else properly decent until Newcastle in mid-April – but a three-game losing run can make anything look choppy. Especially 90 minutes of Goodison Park Dycheball.
10) Manchester City (10)
For most teams, 52 points from 24 games would be absolutely fine. For Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, it represents maddening and unacceptable inconsistent flakiness. Following a 3-1 win at Arsenal that gave them apparent control of a previously unexpectedly ticklish title race by tossing away a lead late on to draw 1-1 at Nottingham Forest is just silly. Very, very silly. And not at all the sort of thing City have spent the last five years doing.
It’s annoying, is what it is. Especially when they’ve got the most absurdly brilliant and successful flop banging in goal after goal after goal that currently serves no apparent purpose because, as discussed, they still keep doing things like tossing away leads late on and drawing 1-1 at Nottingham Forest.
9) Liverpool (11)
Really did look like they might be in the endgame during that defeat at Wolves, and especially afterwards when Jurgen Klopp gave the most world-weary post-match interview on record and sought to disallow goals if they were scored on the counter-attack by teams who had previously been defending a bit because they were already 2-0 up.
They might still be in the endgame. It might be that the two wins since then have been illusory. They beat Everton at Anfield as is customary and then benefited from an unusually hospitable performance from Newcastle. We’ll know more in a month, by which time Liverpool will have played Real Madrid twice and Manchester United.
Right now, though, it’s certainly looking at least less bad than it did a fortnight ago. And despite being mainly crap this season they now find themselves eighth, sure, but also seven points off fourth with two games in hand. And the team currently in fourth should hold no fear for Liverpool because it is…
8) Tottenham (9)
We will refer you here to our exasperated January rankings: ‘As ever, who the f**k knows what these absolute clowns are up to. Are you good or shit, lads? Make up your damn minds.’
Still no nearer to knowing, are we? Performed the now traditional pants-pulling of Man City at White Hart Lane 2.0 and then promptly got absolutely pumped at Leicester and lost the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie to a crushingly mediocre AC Milan before picking a back eight at home to *checks notes* West Ham. That Spurs, having gone with the most miserably defensive team selection imaginable for such a fixture, then scored the opening goal thanks to the two ‘wing-backs’ Ben Davies and Emerson Royal combining in precisely the space and precisely the way one would normally expect to find Harry Kane and Son Heung-min was frankly typical of this utterly unpindownable prick of a team.
How are they back in the top four, for crying out loud? How have the rest of you allowed this to happen? Newcastle don’t play another Premier League game until March now, because Carabao. When they do play again, it’s against Manchester City. There is a very real prospect of Spurs if anything actually strengthening their hold on fourth place over the next few weeks, during which time they should also reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and might well also still do so in the Champions League. Just as likely of course, because Spurs, is that by the middle of March they’re out of both cup competitions and seventh in the league having just lost at home to Nottingham Forest.
Frankly we’re past caring what the mood is at Spurs. We don’t know from one week to the next. Nor do they. What we do know is that they make us confused. Confused and angry.
7) Brentford (6)
Just quietly going about their business and still unbeaten in the Premier League since October 23. It may have taken an absurdly late equaliser against Palace to maintain that run, but it’s still remarkable. In that time they’ve won at Manchester City, given Liverpool a proper doing and drawn with both Tottenham and Arsenal.
With the weekend’s scheduled clash with Manchester United Carabaod off the fixture list for the time being they’re also now guaranteed to carry that unbeaten run into March. They are now below Liverpool in the table, though, so a couple of mood marks lost there.
6) Brighton (5)
The old xG terrors are returning with an annoying vengeance, but let’s not piss about too much here. Brighton have a near-identical record to Liverpool having scored and conceded one more goal while similarly winning 10, drawing five and losing seven of their 22 league games. It’s properly good. And if Liverpool are in the Champions League race – which they are – then so too are Brighton because that is simply how numbers work.
But any kind of European football would represent an astonishing achievement and remains firmly on the cards. Even if they get overtaken by Liverpool, which to be fair is what you would expect to happen from here, then seventh place at least is still right there for the taking: they trail Fulham by three points with two games in hand.
5) Nottingham Forest (8)
The noise at the City Ground after the equaliser against Manchester City was sensational, and Steve Cooper is heading towards manager-of-the-season conversations having steered Forest from apparently certain relegation to something now approaching mid-table comfort.
It’s one defeat in seven Premier League games in 2023 now and, with West Ham and Everton up next, there’s the opportunity to make the last couple of months of the season relatively stress-free. Right now they’ve got a five-point cushion on the bottom three and there are several teams playing worse than those Tricky Trees. And they’ve got a Champions League winner in nets. They seem pretty happy with it all, and rightly so.
4) Newcastle (1)
Hardly the spiciest of takes to say that Newcastle place on this list could be altered significantly by Sunday’s Carabao Cup final because victory over Manchester United there would make everything else a footnote. They don’t really need to finish in the top four just yet, which is just as well because they look quite knackered now and we suddenly don’t think they’re quite going to do it.
Too many draws in games that ought to be won are just catching up with them. Sunday’s the one, though, and Nick Pope selflessly getting himself suspended knowing full well that all laws of banter and narrative dictate that Loris Karius will now grace Wembley with the best display in the history of goalkeeping show that this is a club where everyone is on the same page.
3) Fulham (4)
They are sixth in the Premier League. Sixth. For a club that has spent the last few years in yo-yo purgatory it’s remarkable. Marco Silva should get all the awards. His club certainly gets a high ranking from us here, which is if anything even better than awards isn’t it? Yes.
2) Arsenal (2)
All about timing. Definitely dropped lower than second at various points in recent weeks. Results had gone awry. The Conspiracy was finally kicking in after frankly taking its eyes off the ball in allowing Arsenal to open an eight-point lead over misfiring Man City. Mikel Arteta was showing signs of unravelling. ‘I told you sos’ were being prepared across the land.
And then came the very, very silly end to the Villa game and the very, very unexpected end to the Forest-City game and here we are with Arsenal fans bouncing along again albeit now even likelier than they were before to bang on at you about the stats for bookings and fouls on and by Bukayo Saka while proudly showing you their horrifying hand-crafted Lee Mason voodoo dolls.
1) Manchester United (3)
They’re going to be really proper good again, aren’t they? It’s not ideal for those of us who grew up through the Ferguson years, but at least there are ample silver linings. Erik Ten Hag is a good manager doing a good job and it’s nice to know that you weren’t losing your mind all those years wondering “Would Manchester United not be better off if they got a proper manager, though? Why don’t they just do that?” Marcus Rashford is the most in-form forward in world football, which is also good. And also Cristiano Ronaldo is in the mud. And Piers Morgan is in the mud.
Still, though, Manchester United being good instead of funny is a high price to pay. On current form should definitely end their own quite long trophy drought on Sunday in the Carabao and extend Newcastle’s extremely long one.