This year's parity in the Premier League has truly been a treat, as it's hard to predict what will happen on any given week, but it also makes doing power rankings an interesting challenge.
Some teams—Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Sunderland—have remained fairly consistent with their place on the table. Others, like surging Manchester United or their inconsistent neighbors, Manchester City, are a bit harder to judge.
But hey, that's the fun of power rankings, right? Here, we'll break down this week's Premier League power rankings after a Matchday 12 with plenty of twists and turns.
Analysis: Despite battling through several injuries to key performers, Arsenal keep on producing. Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey have been revelations, Mesut Ozil has been everything advertised and the team got another big boost this weekend when Theo Walcott returned to action.
The Gunners have very winnable games against Cardiff City and Hull City next week, but then the schedule heats up, with Everton, Manchester City and Everton on tap in consecutive weeks. By the time we enter the January transfer window, we'll know if Arsenal are a true title contender or a team once again fighting for a top-four finish.
Analysis: Chelsea responded to a loss against Newcastle and draw versus West Ham with a convincing 3-0 victory over West Ham this weekend. Oscar was superb, while Frank Lampard's brace led the way. You get the impression this Chelsea side and Jose Mourinho are still trying to figure out the best combination of talent on the pitch, but the Blues remain as deep as any squad in Europe.
3. Manchester City
Analysis: When you beat a team like Tottenham by six goals—a team coming into the weekend that had allowed just six goals on the season—you justifiably shoot up the rankings.
City's inconsistency is pretty remarkable—before the international break they lost to Sunderland, for heaven's sake—but the one constant this season for the Citizens is that they are unbeatable at home. Literally. Well, almost literally—in all competitions, only Bayern Munich has beaten them.
In fact, they haven't even drawn at home this season. Nine home matches, eight wins. There isn't a better homefield advantage in the Premier League.
Analysis: Liverpool is shaping into the type of team that will feast on inferior competition but will struggle against the elite sides on the table. In six matches against top-10 teams, Liverpool have taken just six of 18 available points. In their six other matches, they've nabbed all 18 points.
That's not a good sign for Liverpool fans hoping the team can crack the top four this season.
But hey, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have been absolutely brilliant this season. The pair has combined for 18 league goals, which is more than 15 Premier League clubs. That makes them, at least at this point in the season, the most dangerous attacking pair in England.
5. Manchester United
Analysis: Just when you think Manchester United are about to get their fourth straight win and jump into the fray with Liverpool and Chelsea, just four points behind Arsenal, they go and give up a late goal against Cardiff City.
Still, United haven't lost a Premier League game since September 28th, taking 13 of a possible 18 points in their last five games. It looks like David Moyes and the Red Devils have figured things out, a bad sign for the rest of the Premier League.
Analysis: How good is Romelu Lukaku? Answer: Very, very good. How much do Chelsea regret loaning him to Everton? Answer: Probably very, very much.
Lukaku's brace against Liverpool appeared as if it would lead Everton to a brilliant comeback win in the Merseyside derby, only to see a late Sturridge goal end the proceedings in a 3-3 draw. But Lukaku certainly served notice for the rest of the Premier League that he and the Toffees will be a headache all season long.
Analysis: Take away two pretty dumb mental lapses and Southampton played fairly well against Arsenal. Yes, the Gunners were the brighter side, but Southampton mostly held their own behind organized, disciplined play. They probably won't be able to remain in the top five much longer, but they are unquestionably a top-10 Premier League side this year.
Analysis: From disaster to edge-of-your-seat excitement—that's Newcastle in a nutshell over the past two years. Their 17 goals are tied with Everton for seventh in the league. Their 17 goals allowed are tied for 15th. Behind in-form striker Loic Remy, the Magpies have the firepower to keep pace with any opponent. But playing sound defense, well, that's another story altogether.
Analysis: Much like City rises up the rankings for scoring six goals, Tottenham has to drop after doubling the amount of goals they've allowed on the season. It's pretty amazing that Spurs have managed to score just nine goals in 12 matches, and last year's savior in that department, Gareth Bale, isn't walking through the door.
Someone—Roberto Soldado, Christian Erksen, Erik Lamela, etc.—needs to step up, and in a hurry.
10. Swansea City
Analysis: Finally, the Swans got back on track, earning their first win in over a month by defeating Fulham, 2-1. Swansea is pretty much as expected—a somewhat inconsistent team that plays an aesthetically appealing style of football, doesn't want for goals and struggles to keep teams out of the net.
A 10th-place spot on the table seems just right.
11. Aston Villa
Analysis: We'll know more about Aston Villa after they face West Brom on Monday, but they are certainly trending in the right direction, taking four points from their last two matches after back-to-back losses to Tottenham and Chelsea. A win would vault them past Aston Villa on the table, though it will be no easy task at West Brom.
12. West Brom
Analysis: Like Villa, it's hard to place West Brom until Monday's game is played, but they too have taken four points in their last two games, including an impressive 2-2 draw versus Chelsea just before the international break. Anything less than a draw versus Villa will be a major disappointment.
13. Stoke City
Analysis: Stoke have quietly gone unbeaten in their past three, with nice draws against Southampton and Swansea and a convincing 2-0 win over Sunderland this weekend. There isn't a ton to get excited about with this Stoke team, but they seem sturdy enough to avoid the relegation discussion this season.
14. Cardiff City
Analysis: Cardiff's 2-2 draw against Manchester United is worth its weight in gold, as the confidence it should engender in this squad is worth far more than the one point on the table. The defense remains a concern—they've given up four goals in their past two games—but this team will remain competitive.
15. Hull City
Analysis: When you lose to Crystal Palace, in your own building, your stock drops hard. Worse, when you are held scoreless to a team that has given up 21 goals on the season, your stock really drops hard. A dreadful loss for Hull.
16. Norwich City
Analysis: Only Sunderland (24) have given up more goals than the 23 sacrificed by Norwich, a sign that this team's struggle to remain in the Premier League next season will be an epic one. If they can't earn all three points against Crystal Palace at home next week, the relegation nerves will start early despite the season being just a third of the way done.
17. West Ham
Analysis: With just two points in their last five matches—including a dreadful loss to Norwich two weeks ago, 3-1—West Ham is regressing. They've given up a whopping six goals in the past two weeks, though hosting Fulham this weekend could remedy their recent woes.
Analysis: With four straight losses, Fulham have turned a solid start into utter disaster and despair. With just two goals in that time, a punchless offense will need to find a few combinations that actually land. A trip to West Ham could be just what the doctor ordered, however.
19. Crystal Palace
Analysis: Well how about that? Crystal Palace now have four points from their past two contests, including an impressive draw against Everton before the international break and a gritty win over Hull. With Tony Pulis entering the fray, maybe there is hope yet for a squad that looks like one of the weakest in the league on paper.
Analysis: With a goal differential of minus-16, there seems to be little hope for this Sunderland side. How this team managed to beat Manchester City before the international break remains one of life's great mysteries.