It's said that by Christmas you can gauge who will be fighting it out for the title come May. The hectic festive period is usually the point at which to determine each team's season-finish and often separates the men from the boys.
Regardless of which team and their position in the league, 10 games in a month is a tough task. Those that sneaked through December 2013 relatively unscathed, though, will have done their title credentials a world of good.
In the end, it is pretty much “as you were” regarding which team is at the top of the Premier League at the half-way point. Arsenal, to their credit—and maybe to many people's surprise—have been hugely consistent so far this season and have been the league leaders at one point during every single month since the campaign started.
The Gunners last won the Premier League a decade ago and have come close in seasons gone by, though they've fallen away during the business end of the season. Arsene Wenger's men look more resilient than ever this year, though. Having dropped just 15 points from their 20 fixtures, they look likely to collect their first trophy in nine years.
Others, though, will hope to usurp the Gunners at the top of the table and claim the Premier League trophy.
Manchester City are the odds-on favourite with most bookmakers, and going by their home form, it is not hard to see why. The Citizens have been in irresistible form at the Etihad during the 2013/14 campaign, winning all of their 10 home fixtures and having scored in 60 consecutive matches on home turf.
Manuel Pellegrini's men have sat atop the league table on a number of occasions this season—and moved above Arsenal for a few short hours on New Year's Day—though the Gunners confirmed their place as league leaders with a win over Cardiff City.
Also vying for league success is Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea side, who have been consistent throughout the season but hit form during the festive period. The Portuguese manager is hoping to lift the Premier League trophy during his first season back in charge of the Blues. Despite his side's relative shyness in front of goal—scoring the least out of those in the top four—they look like strong candidates to mount a challenge during the final 18 games.
Then there's Liverpool.
Everything looked to be going swimmingly on December 25. Brendan Rodgers must have thought that his next 10 Christmases had all come at once, as his Liverpool side were at the top of the pile.
Now, however, it all looks so different.
Of course, there's no saying that the Reds can't go on to lift the league trophy, but before their match against Hull City on New Year's Day, they sat fifth in the table after three disappointing defeats in December.
If Luis Suarez continues the sort of form he has shown all year and Daniel Sturridge picks up where he left off prior to injury, then there's no telling where Rodgers' men could end up.
“What about Manchester United?” you ask.
Oh yes. That's right, them.
If truth be told, nobody really expected them to win the Premier League this year. Not even the most ardent United fans—putting aside all of the club's history, tradition and knack for grinding out results and winning the league year after year—could have envisaged their side claiming a 21st league trophy.
It's probably a good job, because it's not going to happen. It is a year of transition for United, and it may take a couple of years for them to win. Who knows?
The Red Devils have started, stuttered and spluttered all season long, losing six of their opening 20 fixtures. They are seventh in the Premier League.
In between Liverpool in fourth and United in seventh are Everton and Tottenham.
Roberto Martinez's Toffees have surprised many and are just seven points off the summit, in fifth place. With just two defeats all season, Everton are worth a mention for a shot at the title, even if it is highly unlikely.
Wherever Martinez's team finishes this year, they will have gained plaudits for their excellent style of football—free-flowing and aesthetically pleasing when going forward, and extremely resolute at the back.
If you gave the Spanish boss the chance to finish the season now, he'd probably snap your hand off, but he'll enjoy the second half of the season as much as the first, especially if Everton can break into the top four.
Like Everton, Spurs won't win the league either, but their current confidence under new boss Tim Sherwood is a breath of fresh air, and they are one of the more exciting teams to watch in the league.
Three wins in their last four games—including a win over Manchester United at Old Trafford—will surely inspire them to give it their all during the final 18 fixtures.