New Year, New Me: The Biggest Changes in Stats Perform’s Power Rankings
Soccer

New Year, New Me: The Biggest Changes in Stats Perform’s Power Rankings


The return of European knockout football has us once again watching teams from across the continent go up against one another. But tournament football, clearly, doesn’t see every team play each other, and the beauty of it is that the best team doesn’t always win. And that’s absolutely fine.

But what if there was a global league system, rather than one-off knockout ties, that could help us gauge the comparative strength of teams across the world?

Well, that’s exactly what Stats Perform’s Power Rankings seek to do.

The rankings rate an enormous number of teams (19,008 across 391 domestic leagues) across the globe based on a system that scores the current strongest side 100 and the weakest zero. The ratings evolve each day based on the results of both an individual club and those of other teams within its own domestic league. Domestic and European fixtures are taken into account, as well as the strength of each league.

A lot has changed since we last ran the numbers back in November 2021. Let’s see how the rankings have shifted since then.


The Top 10

February Power Rankings - top 10

The mighty Ajax continue their ascent. The Dutch side started the season in 20th spot in our Power Rankings, but an impressive first third of the campaign saw them leap 11 places into our top 10 by November. The latest rankings have them even higher than that, moving up two spaces into spot 7.

Erik ten Hag’s side continue to dominate the Dutch Eredivisie. They’ve conceded a scarcely believable five goals in total from their 23 matches, 12 goals fewer than any other team in Europe’s big five leagues (Manchester City, Napoli and Sevilla all level on 17). Ajax boast an expected goals difference of 2.3 per game. Only Manchester City have a better ratio in Europe’s big five leagues (2.5), while in the Eredivisie, Feyenoord are the next highest at 1.4.

But domestic wins will only get Ajax so far and it’s in Europe where their performances have contributed to their continued rise up our rankings. One of three sides with a 100% record in the Champions League this season, ten Hag’s men scored 20 goals on their way to romping Group C. Almost three years after their impressive run in 2019, Ajax seem ready to repeat that stunt.

While this weekend’s home defeat to Tottenham will smart, Manchester City’s dominant run of form in recent months has seen them rise into top spot. Since their 2-0 home defeat against Crystal Palace at the end of the October, Manchester City have won 19 out of 23 games in all competitions, including an effortless 5-0 away win at Sporting last week. Bayern and Liverpool have fallen one spot each, but that’s more a reflection of Man City’s hot streak than any failing on their behalf, although the Bundesliga leader’s 4-2 loss to Bochum last weekend will rank highly in the end of season ‘shock results’ awards ceremony.

Under the new management of Xavi, Barcelona have regained their place in our top 10. The former club legend has brought some stability to a club that was in free-fall under Ronald Koeman. Since taking over, Barca have picked up 26 points in 13 La Liga matches at a rate of 2.0 points per game. Only Real Madrid (2.3) have bettered than mark over that time frame. Xavi has a difficult job of balancing the obvious need for a Barcelona rebuild with the absolute necessity of a top-four league finish, and the financial reward that playing in Europe brings. The new signings of Ferran Torres (aged 21) and loan signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (32) show this delicate balance perfectly.

Sticking in Spain, it’s Sevilla who’ve broken into our top 10 for the first time this season. Julen Lopetegui’s side are unbeaten in their last 11 La Liga matches (W5 D6), keeping a clean sheet in six of them. It’s that defence that has been the foundation of their successful campaign so far. They have kept the joint-most clean sheets in the competition this season along with Real Sociedad (13) and have kept opponents at bay in terms of chances conceded as well, conceding just 0.93 expected goals per game. Only Atlético Madrid (0.90) have conceded fewer in Spain.

Failing to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League has meant they’ve dropped down to the Europa League, where they are once again favourites to pick up their beloved trophy.


11 to 20

February Power Rankings - 11-20

Atlético Madrid’s current crisis sees them fall out of our top 10 into 11th spot. One of Atlético’s main characteristics throughout Simeone’s time as a coach has been defensive solidity. That defensive strength has completely gone in 2021-22. In all competitions, Atléti have conceded 46 goals in 34 games, already nine more than in the whole of last season (37 in 48 games) and kept their first clean sheet in 13 leagues games at the weekend with a 3-0 win over Osasuna. Despite underlying solid defensive numbers, there is a newfound fragility to the side at the moment.

At rank 12 and 14 respectively, the Champions League tie between Juventus and Villarreal on Tuesday night mirrored their parity in the list above. Both clubs have risen in our rankings since November. Juventus are unbeaten in 12 Serie A games, equalling their best run last season under Andrea Pirlo, yet they remain nine points off Serie A leaders Milan.

Villarreal’s 3-2 victory over Atalanta in the final round of the Champions League group games seems to have galvanised Unai Emery’s outfit. Since then, they’ve scored 35 goals – only Man City and Real Betis have scored more. The Yellow Submarine have the second-strongest attack in La Liga according to expected goals (42.8), with only Real Madrid (51.4) amassing more in front of goal.

Sandwiched in between those two sides are Porto, who have now wrestled control of the Primeira Liga. Sérgio Conceição’s side are now the only team unbeaten in the league, and are exceptional at both ends of the pitch, leading in terms of expected goals for, and second-best for expected goals against. A home victory against Lazio in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 tie has also helped their rank.

Elsewhere, Manchester United drop a further five places to 15th as the side still struggle with inconsistency. Real Betis are big risers, up 13 places, and are perhaps playing the most attractive, exciting football in Spain at the moment. Betis have scored 4+ goals in five different La Liga games this season, their highest such tally in a single top-flight, and took their attacking prowess to Russia last week in a 3-2 win against Zenit.


The Biggest Risers

February Power Rankings - Biggest Risers

Celtic are our biggest risers since the middle of November. The Bhoys have already won the League Cup thanks to their 2-1 win over Hibernian in December, while they now find themselves in the Scottish Cup quarter-final following a 4-0 victory over Raith Rovers at Celtic Park. The Scottish Premiership is now in their hands too, with a three-point lead over Rangers. Despite a disappointing defeat to Bodø/Glimt in the Europa Conference League – a game which Celtic are still not out of – a domestic treble remains on the cards. For a deep dive into the data behind Celtic’s success so far this season, you should click here.

Elche and Getafe have both managed to claw their way out of the La Liga relegation battle. Elche are unbeaten in their last five home La Liga games (W4 D1) and have won three home matches in a row in the top-flight for the first time since 1977. Meanwhile, Getafe have relied heavily on Enes Ünal to drag them up the table. Ünal has scored 11 of Getafe’s 23 goals (46%) in La Liga this season. Only Joselu of Alavés (63%) has scored a higher proportion of their side’s goals in La Liga.

Elsewhere, Bochum are big risers. Beating Bayern Munich 4-2 will do that. Thomas Reis’ side have already collected more points this season (29) as they did across their 34 games in their last Bundesliga campaign back in 2009-10.

Fellow Bundesliga side Arminia Bielefeld are up 37 spots into 100, having lost only one of their past eight Bundesliga matches, fewer than any other team in that period. During this time, they’ve picked up 15 points, one more than the next best, Bayer 04 Leverkusen (14).

In previous Power Ranking recaps, clubs from Spain have consistently been among the biggest fallers in our rankings. Some of that slide appears to have been halted, with six of the top 10 biggest risers coming from Spain, with half of those playing in La Liga.


The Biggest Fallers

February Power Rankings - Biggest Fallers

It’s two Bundesliga teams that are our biggest fallers since November last year.

Wolfsburg are struggling big time in the Bundesliga right now. Defeat at the weekend to Hoffenheim was their 12th loss of the season, their joint-most ever after 23 games in a season. Throw it back to this time last campaign and the Wolves had only lost twice at this stage.

Borussia Mönchengladbach suffered a 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Borussia Dortmund at the weekend, their second 6-0 defeat of the season. Only in 1998-99, when they were relegated, had they previously suffered two six-goal defeats. They’ve kept just two clean sheets so far in the league, the fewest of any side.

Premier League sides account for four of our biggest fallers. Burnley’s 3-0 win away at Brighton was a lifeline for the Clarets, who will be hoping to use their two games in hand to climb out of the relegation zone. Burnley scored as many goals in that victory at Brighton as they had in their previous nine league games combined.  The first of their games in hand is against Tottenham at Turf Moor. Burnley have won just one of their last 20 Premier League home games (D11 L8), scoring just 15 goals across those fixtures and blanking on nine occasions.  

Everton under Frank Lampard are a curious side, seemingly lurching from the sublime to the chaotic from one week to the next. One thing’s for sure, they’ve lost 13 of their 23 Premier League games this season, as many defeats as they suffered in the whole of 2020-21. 12 of those defeats have come in their last 16 games in the competition (W2 D2). Lampard needs to bring some stability to Merseyside asap.

Brentford, who started life in the Premier League so strongly, are now winless in their last seven Premier League games, drawing one and losing six. No side is on a longer current run without a victory in the competition than the Bees, and they are sliding down the league table and our rankings as a result.

Leeds just can’t keep the goals out. They are one of just two sides to have conceded at least 50 Premier League goals this season, along with Norwich City. The Whites have conceded at least three goals in their last three Premier League games, last doing so in four consecutive league games in March 1960. The fact they remain ranked higher overall than Mönchengladbach will be no solace.


Honourable Mentions

The above analysis only included clubs within the top 100 in Stats Perform’s Power Rankings, but there are some great (and not-so-great) stories outside of that list.

We covered the fall of the Turkish ‘big three’ earlier this year on the site, and the Power Rankings confirm this. Besiktas have fallen to spot number 221, eight places behind Fenerbahçe. Galatasaray don’t even rank in our top 250. There is a changing of the guard happening in Turkey. For some context on those numbers, Preston North End currently sit in 198th, higher than all three of the Turkish trio.

Minnows Gil Vicente are on an eight-game unbeaten run in Portugal, and currently punching well above their weight. Part of that run includes a 2-1 victory away at Benfica in early February, which was some result.

Luton Town are flying in the Championship and sit just two points outside the playoff spots. They rise 86 places in 162, nestled in between Gent and Genoa. Very exotic.

Similarly, Sheffield United are enjoying life in the Championship right now. The Blades are unbeaten in eight games and have kept six clean sheets in that run. They move up to rank 128 in total and are now officially ‘better’ than Bologna.

Keeping it in the Championship and West Brom are hefty fallers, dropping 50 places to rank 178. One league win in their last 11 games sees Albion sitting rather uncomfortably in 11th place in the Championship. Stoke City and Dynamo Moscow sit either side of the Baggies in our rankings, which clearly have no respect for local geography.


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