Some will reason that the table is not worth a look until at least ten matches have been played. And only then, a cautious approach should still be taken when trying to determine the pecking order of the English Premier League. I share similar sentiments.
Each team is now 11 matches into the season -- with the exception of Spurs and Everton whose opening weekend match against each other was canceled due to the London riots -- and the current November international break offers up a good opportunity to examine each side. The rankings that I am about to offer up are not necessarily reflective of the current table, but rather more of current form and overall talent. If two teams being compared played a one-off at Wembley, the team that I rank higher is the side I would wager on. This is obviously quite subjective. Without further ado, here are the TBB Premier League power rankings at the November international break:
1. Manchester City -Yes, this is painful to type. But five points clear, only two points dropped, and a 6-1 drubbing of rival Manchester United at Old Trafford merits 'Citeh' first on this list. David Silva has been the creator in attack while the likes of Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, and Mario Balotelli have been bagging goals at an impressive rate. The result is 39 goals scored in just 11 matches. Captain Vincent Kompany has lead the back four and along with England No 1 Joe Hart, City has conceded less than a goal per match (0.91). This is the first adventure for manager Roberto Mancini's side into the Champions League and it will a stern test for them to battle for the first time on two massive fronts.
2. Manchester United - Coming into the season, the Reds were considered the favorites to expand on their record 19 league titles. The additions of Ashley Young and Phil Jones were expected to bolster an already deep squad -- which they certainly have. It was an impressive start for United as they defeated Spurs 3-0, demolished Arsenal 8-2, and outgunned Chelsea 3-1. There had been warning signs with the alarming high number of shots on target conceded during the impressive start. It caught up to them versus City. Enough on that. Since then, United have won 1-0 in consecutive weeks in league. They have fortified their defense again but perhaps at the expense of their early season attacking flair. Can manager Sir Alex Ferguson achieve a balance between attack and defense?
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUALIFICATION CONTENDERS
3. Tottenham Hotspur - August was a tumultuous month for Spurs as manager Harry Redknapp was forced to deal with the transfer saga of Luka Modric. Since then though, the North London side has recovered nicely and the little Croatian playmaker has seemingly put his Summer transfer saga behind him. In addition, 'Arry bolstered his side with the additions of Emmanuel Adebayor and Scott Parker at the end of August. Spurs have shown impressive form as of late and the likes of Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon, Kyle Walker, and Benoit Assou-Ekotto have brought searing pace down the flanks at White Hart Lane. If Spurs are to defeat Everton in their postponed match, they then would be level on points with Newcastle for third in the table. The battle for the final Champions League qualification spots likely will come down to the final weeks of the season but Spurs have the added benefit this season of not having to balance the rigors of that competition with their league ambitions.
4. Chelsea FC - New manager Andre Villas-Boas grinded out results in a relative unimpressive fashion in the early portion of the season but his side got going after Juan Mata settled in to his new club. Frank Lampard has begun scoring goals again in trademark fashion as well with his late-arriving runs into the box. Chelsea looked to be on their way to title contention and their early impressive form in Champions League group-stage ties hinted at this. But recent defeats to Queens Park Rangers -- albeit with nine men-- and to Arsenal in league and a recent draw with Genk in Champions League -- a side they had defeated 5-0 two weeks to their most recent encounter -- have many questioning Chelsea's title contention credentials. Most still favor the Blues to finish third and at the very least fourth, but their form will certainly have to improve after the break.
5. Arsenal FC - Much like their North London rival Spurs, August was a difficult month for Arsenal -- both in their results and with their own transfer sagas. While stars Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri have recently departed the Emirates, newly acquired Mikel Arteta and Gervinho have settled well into the club. The rise in Wales captain Aaron Ramsey has also played a vital role in the Gunners' recent improved form. The most important figure is certainly talisman Robin van Persie -- the Dutchman has already scored 12 goals this season. No one would consider you a fool if you anticipated more ups and downs for Arsenal as the season progresses. Can they stay consistent enough to earn a top 4 finish? Can van Persie -- whose minutes are being closely monitored by manager Arsene Wenger -- stay healthy for the majority of the season? The latter might be the key to Arsenal's season.
6. Liverpool FC - After struggles in recent seasons, expectations were high at Anfield for King Kenny and his lads. Fernando Torres was offloaded for £50-million back in January and Liverpool has since invested heavily in new players during the two most recent transfer windows. Some appear to quality signings (e.g. Luis Suarez, Jose Enrique) while others are being questioned (e.g. Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson). Liverpool have played quality football at times this season but they undoubtedly have let a number of points slip away already. Whether that is a result of bad luck or a lacking in ability to grind out results is up for debate. After missing out on Champions League football these past few seasons, the objective for Dalglish is a top 4 finish. They likely will be competing with Chelsea, Spurs, and Arsenal for the final two qualification spots. Odds are that Liverpool's only participation in Europe next season will be in the Europa League.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUALIFICATION PRETENDERS
7. Newcastle United- Outside of City's rise this season, the story over at Toon may be the story of the season thus far. If you anticipated that Newcastle would be sitting third in the table after 11 matches -- and only one point back of United -- then you most certainly are a crazy person. After the recent departures of Andy Carroll, Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan, and Jose Enrique, many felt that the Magpies would be sitting mid-table if things went well. Jonas Gutierrez's industry and drive has been the embodiment of Newcastle's early-season success. They have only conceded a league best 8 goals. It is unlikely that Newcastle finishes top 4 -- or even top 6 -- by season's end, but who would have thought that they would be sitting top 3 at this point of the season?
8. Aston Villa - Attendance has been somewhat low as the mood at Villa Park has been perhaps apprehensive at times. Villa's hiring of manager Alex McLeish from rival Birmingham City certainly did not go down well. McLeish's side currently sit 8th in the table and prior to the season's start, the most optimistic Villa supporter realistically would have pegged them to finish 7th if things went well. Newcomer Charles N'Zogbia has struggled to fill the void of the departed Ashley Young and Stewart Downing but Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor have formed a nice partnership up top. It would be a surprise to see this 'second city' side not finish top 10 in the table.
9. Everton FC - The Toffees currently sit 17th in the table but they and Spurs have a game in hand on the rest of the league. They are also notoriously slow starters in league play. David Moyes has done well in his nine seasons at the club with limited finances. However, that financial situation appears gloomier as the days roll by. The hope is that Everton's current search for new ownership brings funds that can be invested in the club. The first-choice XI is a solid side and there are promising youngsters in Jack Rodwell and 17-year-old Ross Barkley. Another mid-table finish appears to be the destiny.
10. Sunderland AFC - Manager Steve Bruce has been incredibly active in recent transfer windows. While Darren Bent, Asamoah Gyan, and Jordan Henderson are no longer playing for the club, many promising youngsters and trophy-laden experienced players have joined the Black Cats. As a result, expectations were high at Wearside. Sunderland currently sit 15th in the table and there are rumblings that Bruce needs improved results soon or he may be sacked. It should noted that Sunderland have a +1 goal differential, good for 8th best in the Premier League.
PROBABLY STAYING UP BUT YOU NEVER KNOW
11. Swansea City - The Welsh side have been a breath of fresh-air as their possession based football has been a joy to watch. Many wondered whether this promoted side could effectively use this style in the Premier League but the Swans currently sit 10th in the table. Manager Brendan Rodgers has expanded on what previous manager Roberto Martinez implemented at Liberty Stadium. Through 11 matches, Swansea have enjoyed 56% possession of the ball -- which is impressively third in league. Their pass accuracy is 84% -- good for 4th in league. Rodgers' side have played well enough to show that they belong and at the current moment, they appear to be a good bet to stay up.
12. Stoke City - Since their promotion to the Premier League in 2008, Stoke have finished a respectable 12th, 11th, and 13th in the table. Last season even saw the Potters reach the FA Cup final before losing 1-0 to City. Tony Pulis' side maybe play the most direct style in England's top-flight and it's a style that has proved effective. Stoke is balancing playing in Europe -- in the Europa League -- with league responsibilities. This may be the best Premier League squad that Pulis has had but this balancing act may make it difficult to improve on their recent league standing. A mid-table finish appears likely again.
13. Queens Park Rangers - QPR currently sit 11th in the table and despite being a recently promoted side, this perhaps is not shocking to anyone. The London-side earned their promotion after finishing 1st last season in the Championship. In addition, the squad was bolstered in August with the additions of Joey Barton, Luke Young, Armand Traore, Shaun Wright-Phillips, and Anton Ferdinand. Expectations at Loftus Road road are that QPR will stay up and they may even contend for a top 10 finish. They likely possess the most talent of the three promoted sides.
These next seven clubs are quite boring to write about. I'll just provide a quick comment on each.
15. Norwich City - Another promoted side doing well. Paul Lambert seems to be getting the maximum out his squad as Norwich currently sit a surprising 9th in the table.
16. West Bromwich Albion - Roy Hodgson did well to save The Baggies from relegation last season and many felt that they could possibly challenge for a top 10 this season. They likely won't.
17. Wolverhampton Wanderers - ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Giant killers last season. Not so much this season.
18. Bolton Wanderers -It's too cold in England for manager Owen Coyle to keep wearing shorts during games.
19. Wigan Athletic - I wonder if Roberto Martinez wishes he would have taken the Villa job this past summer.
20. Blackburn Rovers - I'm guessing their Premier League privileges will be plucked by season's end. Yes, another terrible chicken joke. Junior Hoilett is quite good though.