Another week has come and gone, and more unpredictability in the Barclays Premier League. We're now past the quarter mark of the season and there is very little that separates those at the top from teams in the middle of the table. All sides have clear weaknesses, with few clear-cut favourites in matches from week to week.
Not much change in the Power Rankings heading into Match-day 12, not due to a lack of competitiveness, rather teams struggling to show their clear credentials moving ahead.
Here are your latest TSN Premier League Power Rankings:
1) Manchester United (9W-0D-2L, last week: 1) – The comeback kids do it again. Down 2-0 in the second half, United roared back courtesy of a rejuvenated Javier Hernandez. A brace for Chicharito and an own goal forced by the Mexican international and Manchester United escape Villa Park with a 3-2 win. Wins when not on top form have become commonplace for Sir Alex Ferguson. United have won 15 points coming back from losing positions in Premier League matches this season. There is simply incredible spirit within the side. And the team always looks composed and in control, no matter the score-line. While defensive lapses continue, United's 29 goals in 11 matches is best in the league. And no question United won't be taking this soft stretch in their schedule for granted with all the topsy-turvy results going on around them.
2) Chelsea (7-3-1, last week: 2) – More dropped points for Chelsea at home, and three matches without a win for the Blues has raised some concern about the team. The main concern has to be squad depth and rotation used by Roberto Di Matteo. The manager seems set on rolling out the same players, week-in, week-out resulting in fatigue and over-use of his young players. In fairness, proven attacking options are rather thin. Di Matteo will have to trust his bench approaching the busy Christmas schedule. The injury to John Terry complicates matters at the back. And further injuries to veteran players Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard have left a hole in the side. The talent is there. Leadership and squad depth is not at present time.
3) Manchester City (7-4-0, last week: 3) – Manchester City is following in United's footsteps, falling behind in matches and leaving it late to secure points. City came back from a 1-0 halftime deficit at home to down Spurs, 2-1. City have now earned 14 points coming back from losing positions in league play. And much thanks to super-sub Edin Dzeko. The Bosnian forward now has seven goals on the season, six coming off the bench. Altogether, the squad remains uninspiring. The fluidity of last season has been missing. The midfield strength is lacking. And the goals conceded are rather cheap considering their top defensive form a season ago. That being said, they are the only undefeated side in the Premier League. And they are now unbeaten in 35 league matches at home. Lookout when this team hits form.
4) Everton (5-5-1, last week: 4) – There has been no better, and more influential player in the Premier League this season than Marouane Fellaini. Another goal, his 6th of the season, and an assist on the game winner show his importance to the side. His physical ability is second to none. And his growing presence on the ball is an added bonus for the Belgian International. More good news for the Toffees – Nikica Jelavic got back on the score-sheet with the winner over pesky Sunderland; his first goal in over a month. The more you look at this team, the more there is to like. They play fearless at home and have consistency in their roster with players who are familiar with one another. No longer persist questions how much this team can attack. The chances are many and the goals are not a concern. The focus will be to turn away draws into away wins. They are not far off.
5) West Bromwich Albion (6-2-3, last week: 7) – Another week and another impressive win, this time away at Wigan. It was an important win and their first away from The Hawthorns this season. Steve Clarke is early candidate for manager of the year. Every week, he fields a competitive squad, defensively responsible, who seem more than comfortable on the ball and in whatever system Clarke deploys. Internal team competition can be a wonderful motivator when ego doesn't get involved. It seems the team is on the same page. Even two-goal man from a week before, Peter Odemwingie, took his spot on the bench at the DW, only to come on and have a positive influence on the proceedings as a second half sub. Don't think visitors Chelsea will intimidate West Brom this weekend.
6) Tottenham Hotspur (5-2-4, last week: 5) – Spurs couldn't complete the Manchester double, falling 2-1 at City after taking an early lead. Andre Villas-Boas continues to feel his way through the process of grooming Spurs into a title contender. This means growing pains with young players and making unpopular decisions, some right and some wrong. 20-year old Steven Caulker continues to develop at the back, looking strong at times and showing his inexperience others. He looks to be a core player going forward. AVB's rotation up front is becoming problematic. Jermain Defoe has been on top form, yet AVB doesn't start the striker in a key match at City. That's a head scratcher. And when Moussa Dembele returns for injury, AVB will have to decide whether to keep Clint Dempsey in the line-up. The American is still adjusting and has hardly shown anywhere near the superior form he showed at Fulham.
7) Arsenal (4-4-3, last week: 6) – It keeps getting worse for the Gunners. It was a struggle of epic proportions in a 3-3 home draw with Fulham; a team that has never won a league match at Arsenal. And the Gunners were gifted a penalty at the death by match official Phil Dowd, only to have Mikel Arteta's penalty attempt turned away. The goals will be welcome by Arsene Wenger, particularly the brace from summer purchase Olivier Giroud. But what was once one of the top defensive teams in the Premier League early in the year has become mistake prone and altogether inconceivably sloppy. These are proven international defenders making schoolboy mistake across the back-line. It's unacceptable. No cutting edge. And no inspirational leader. Arsenal goes into their weekend match against rival Tottenham as the inferior side for the first time in a long time.
8) Fulham (4-4-3, last week: 8) – The Cottagers have become one of the top teams to watch in the Premier League. Only Manchester United have scored more goals than Fulham's 24. That being said, only Southampton has a worse defensive record away, conceding 15 through six matches. Also, Fulham have given away the most points from leading position in the Premier League (14). The defending needs to be better. There's no question about that. But Dimitar Berbatov has been magnificent (five goals in seven matches) and Bryan Ruiz has superbly filled the attacking midfield role left by Dempsey and Dembele. Martin Jol needs to find a way to stack the midfield, filling the defensive vulnerabilities while maintaining the attacking prowess of his side.
9) West Ham United (5-3-3, last week: 10) – Another big win for West Ham at Newcastle. Each week I feel compelled to rave about the play of Captain Kevin Nolan. No exception this week. Not only was his goal against his former side the match-winner, but his combative, all or nothing approach rubs off on his teammates. West Ham is consistently one of the hardest working teams and sits sixth in the league. They don't have the talent to remain near the top of the table. But this early season cushion will only give the side more confidence. A tough stretch lay ahead, including matches against Spurs and Manchester United.
10) Liverpool (2-6-3, last week: 12) – Luis Suarez is a one man wrecking crew, literally. The Uruguayan has eight goals on the young season, tied with Rob van Persie as top Premier League goal scorer, eradicated any memory of last season when he struggled so much finding goal. Suarez is pushing Fellaini as top player in the league right now. Problem is, Suarez is the only player in the side to have scored more than one goal on the season. And the quality in the rest of the side simply is not there. That being said, Brendan Rogers has the team playing much better as a group. And Liverpool is unbeaten in five.
11) Newcastle United (3-5-3, last week: 9) – There's no way to sugar coat how disappointing the start of the season has been for Newcastle. A suspended manager, multiple player suspensions and various injuries have all left Newcastle 10th in the league after 11 matches: nowhere near good enough for a team with requisite talent. A 1-0 home loss to West Ham won't sit well, even though they were missing Fabricio Coloccini and Cheick Tiote. On the surface, it seems Newcastle is struggling balancing Premier League and Europa League play. Six points separate them and a Champions League spot. They have work to do.
12) Swansea City (3-4-4, last week: 11) – On the surface, a draw at Southampton seems disappointing. But in fairness, the trip to St. Mary's was a tough spot for Swansea coming off a shock result against Chelsea, then facing a desperate home side a week later. And fighting back for a 1-1 draw is a point well taken. Swansea are gaining confidence defensively, after struggling for a stretch. Ben Davies has settled in the left-back role after the Swans lost Neil Taylor for the season with a broken leg. If Chico Flores can find fitness, the Spaniard, alongside Ashley Williams has the making of a formidable centre-back duo.
13) Wigan Athletic (3-2-6, last week: 13) – A setback for Wigan in a 2-1 home loss to West Brom. The Latics were the better side, confident in possession, other than a 10-minute lapse that cost them the match. Thus has been the case in many matches this season. Roberto Martinez, for all he bring to the table, will have to pick up results to build a cushion between Wigan and the relegation zone. The team is largely the same group that won seven of nine to stay alive last season. So they are capable. Midfielder James McArthur's leg injury is a concern.
14) Aston Villa (2-3-6, last week: 15) – Villa came oh so close to pulling off a shocking upset of league leaders Manchester United. Paul Lambert had his side playing a disciplined, well-organized match, before being opened up by a superior attacking squad. Injuries to Villa's back-line have made defending difficult, and United will punish even the slightest mistake. Newcomer Christian Benteke is an absolute handful and has already established himself as a bonafide Premier League striker. Darren Bent's exit is becoming seemingly more inevitable by the week. Reinforcements through whatever funds raised in the January transfer window will be all-important to determining their Premier League fate.
15) Norwich City (2-5-4, last week: 14) – The Canaries played to a 1-1 draw with Reading in a match that can be characterized as nothing but a bore. But that's okay for Norwich. An away draw is sufficient at this point. They are unbeaten in their last four. Eight goals in 11 matches is particularly poor. Chris Hughton doesn't have the luxury of opening things up to create more in attack. So they'll rely on the opportunistic Grant Holt for the foreseeable future. Norwich will attempt to play giant killer with Manchester United visiting Carrow Road Saturday.
16) Stoke City (2-6-3, last week: 16) – Finally, a win for Stoke. But it wasn't pretty. Three points are fine, but you expect much more from a Tony Pulis' side at home, especially against a team as poor as QPR. It's becoming ever more apparent the team is nothing more than a mismatch of players, who happen to be organized enough to be competitive in matches. One thing is for sure; Peter Crouch needs more help up front. Any attacking influence would be welcome.
17) Sunderland (1-6-3, last week: 17) – The Black Cats 2-1 loss at Goodison Park is as close to a win as a loss gets in the Premier League. Sunderland played very well. The side was stuck in and showed glimpses of positive play on the ball. The movement going forward shown at Everton has been a rarity this season. Adam Johnson scored the first goal for Sunderland not by Steven Fletcher. Certainly more goals are to come with players of Johnson's quality. An opportunity to build on the strong display comes at Craven Cottage this weekend, starting a stretch of games where points will be there to be had.
18) Southampton (1-2-8, last week: 19) – It was wonderful to see the home crowd at St. Mary's give embattled Nigel Adkins a standing ovation before last weekend's home match. It would have been even better to see his side be able to hold on to a lead. Instead, another defensive gaffe, this time from Maya Yoshida leading to Nathan Dyer's equalizer for Swansea. The Saints continue to look comfortable going forward. And mistakes aside, Adkins defenders just aren't capable of the rigours of top-flight football. They've relinquished 13 points from leading positions this season. An opportunity is ahead this weekend at Loftus Road. It's another winnable match. Game-on.
19) Reading (0-6-4, last week: 18) – Still winless in their return to the Premier League. And not much reason to believe wins are coming in the near future. It's repetitive in this space every week. A lot of hard work. Decent high pressing on the ball. And a lot of athleticism in the side. Problem is they don't have talent to go along with those other attributes that helped them to success in the League Championship. Without proper talent, it's tough envisioning this side staying up. They seem a better fit in the lower flight.
20) Queens Park Rangers (0-4-7, last week: 19) – How much longer can Mark Hughes remain in charge at Loftus Road? Hughes has failed to win a league match away from home since taking over QPR; a span stretching 15 matches. In fact, they've only drawn twice in that span. QPR have an unbalanced roster despite their big spending ways. But they certainly have enough talent to win matches. It's easy to cheer for Hughes. But this simply hasn't worked out. A win against Southampton at home this weekend for Hughes, or he'll been shown the door … we think.
- Manchester City v Aston Villa from the City of Manchester Stadium airs across the TSN and TEAM Radio Networks Saturday November 17th, with coverage kicking off at 930am ET/630am PT.