Another week into the Premier League season, and things just get cloudier.
The transfer window always makes things more interesting, but it also makes things tougher to predict. I've been working on the post all week, so please take it with a grain of salt. If a transfer has happened that I have not commented on for a team, please comment and I will be sure to adjust it to make the rankings as up to date as possible.
That being said, all the teams that are in the hunt should remain in the hunt (Sunderland may have a tough time), and all the teams hanging around the bottom should remain there (minus Aston Villa: I think Bent should carry them out of relegation talks). Now that I have laid the ground rules, let's get to the rankings.
Last 6: D W D W L L (8 Points)
Despite last week's throttling, no one genuinely believed the Hammers would defeat Arsenal, so it shouldn't act as much of a setback. Unfortunately, it hurts their standing in regards to goal differential, but a couple wins would make up for that.
They recently backed manager Avram Grant, which should give the team some confidence moving forward. They have very winnable upcoming games, and it will be up to Grant to inspire his club to win enough matches to avoid relegation.
Last 6: W L L D L D (5 Points)
Aston Villa are down here now, but that won't last long.
They just transferred Darren Bent to help their woeful offense. Given that defense has been their biggest problem this year, Bent should keep games close.
By no means are they going to compete with the top 6, but with Bent's help, they should avoid relegation and the ensuing embarrassment.
Last 6: W L W L W L (9 Points)
Wolves scored 3 goals! They won right! No? Well, a draw? No? Huh? Well, they were on the road. Nevertheless, when you are battling to avoid relegation, you can't squander a 3 goal explosion.
It's weird, while watching the game, I never had a legitimate doubt (after Wolves brought it to 4-3 with 5 minutes left) that either (1) Manchester City would find a way to hold on to win the game or (2) Wolves would find a way to lose it.
It may be sad, but that is the major difference between a top team and a bottom team. The best teams find ways to win matches while the bad teams find ways to lose games. Despite the setback, Wolves are only 1 win away from escaping the relegation zone, and at this point of the season, isn't that all that matters?
Last 6: L L L L L W (3 Points)
The Baggies finally won again last week, but what does that mean for them?
First and foremost, they are 3 points clear of the relegation zone, which is always nice. In addition, other than Manchester City, they do not face a top 10 team until the end of February.
While this easy part of the schedule is an advantage, it could easily turn into a disadvantage if Albion are not able to capitalize and earn 3 points each match. It will be interesting to see how they respond, but if they do not respond successfully, they will end up in the relegation zone with a slew of tough games.
No team wants to be trying to climb out the relegation zone against the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, or Spurs, which is why the Baggies must win now.
Last 6: D W D L D D (7 Points)
Wigan Athletic have not been very active in the transfer window, yet. So, will they choose to be active or not?
It's tough to say, but something needs to be done.
They have only lost once in the league since November, but they still can't escape the relegation zone. They are much better on the road than Villa, which is why I have them higher, but they need to start winning or they aren't going to be in the Premiership next year.
Last 6: L L W L L D (4 Points)
How many different ways can you say disappointment?
Liverpool fans have found themselves making more and more excuses, but the truth is simple. The Reds are simply not a good club.
I don't think they will have trouble avoiding relegation, but then again, what do I know? They aren't getting any better as the season goes, and all the players seem to do is talk about how everyone is improving.
Unless the place on the table improves, you are not actually improving! Optimism is one thing, but denial is useless. Sometimes, it is best to face the facts and just try to end the embarrassment as quickly as possible.
Last 6: D L D L W D (6 Points)
Birmingham City boasts one of the stiffest defense in all of the league, but they are losing a key component of that defense. Scott Dann is likely out for the remainder of the season.
So, what does that mean?
In simple terms, the Blues are in serious trouble. They don't have much of an offense to speak of, and now a central defender is out? I like to stay optimistic, but this doesn't bode well for a club trying to avoid relegation.
Last 6: D L W L W L (7 Points)
The Rovers have been looking for help all season, and they may have finally found it in American midfielder Jermaine Jones.
Although he is only on loan, he can provide the team with some new life. He is a great all-around midfielder: he can defend, attack himself, and start attacks with tremendous passes to the wingers and forwards.
The Rovers may not have him for good, but they definitely have a talented midfielder to help them compete at a very high level for the rest of the season.
Last 6: D L W L W D (8 Points)
Fulham have been a solid squad all season. They do not score many goals, but they respond with one of the stoutest defenses in the league.
Clint Dempsey has led the Cottagers' attack all campaign, but he may not have to anymore. They are currently in talks with bringing in Manchester City winger Shaunn Wright-Phillips to Craven Cottage.
Their upcoming schedule features teams with top-notch wingers (Etherington, Kuyt, Lennon/Bale), and SWP would help them tremendously at that position. While he hasn't been too active at City for almost 2 seasons now, he is still a great, speedy asset that the Cottagers could use.
Last 6: D W D L W D (9 Points)
Everton have played well this season, but that form could take a hit. It is confirmed that Steven Pienaar will be leaving the club to join Spurs. He had a great run at the club, and they will miss him, but how much? He didn't help much with their offensive woes, so where will they miss him?
His experience and leadership was a key component to Everton's success. With him out, the team could have a tough time facing adversity. If they are unable to recover from this blow, their could be some serious trouble at Goodison Park.
Last 6: L W L L D L (4 Points)
Speaking of trouble, look no further than the Bolton Wanderers.
After looking like they could compete with the top 4, they all of a sudden look no better than a bottom table team. I understand teams will go through rough patches, but only 2 wins (in the league) since the middle of November? That simply won't work.
It's tough to think of a transfer they could use (a defender perhaps?) because of how well they played for the first portion of the season, but it may be necessary. Sometimes, teams need a wake-up call. A transfer may not be the answer, but the Wanderers need to find out the answer, and quick.
Last 6: W W L L W L (9 Points)
Is there a team that is more entertaining than Blackpool? Their games are open and always fun to watch. Unfortunately, that doesn't exactly mean too many points.
Still, they are in the top half of the table, with the ability to move up. They don't have an incredibly difficult schedule, which means they could win a couple matches and find themselves within a reasonable distance of the top 6.
I don't necessarily think that will happen, but in their 1st Premier League season, discussions about the top 6 aren't bad at all, are they?
Last 6: L W L W L W (9 Points)
Stoke are at a crossroads.
They are currently 15 points out of first (all but unattainable), but they are only 4 points out of the 6th spot. With Sunderland suffering the loss of Darren Bent, the Potters have a very good chance of leap frogging them for the Europa League spot. They need to play a bit better on the road, but I trust that Pulis will have his squad playing to their true form soon enough, and they will make the move up the table.
Last 6: W L L W W D (10 Points)
I think it's safe to say that Newcastle have had a successful return to the Premiership.
Now, when does the return become a successful season?
Not a lot can be asked of a team that was playing Queens Park Rangers and Plymouth Argyle last season, right? Nothing against those clubs, but they just don't ring the same bell that Manchester United or Arsenal do.
Still, I think Newcastle have played well, but not quite well enough. Their tremendous fan base was embarrassed with their fall to the Championship, and I think the current players need to return Newcastle to their prestigious status.
Obviously, it's not going to happen in one campaign, but a top 6 finish could skip a few stepping stones in catapulting them back to the top.
Last 6: W L L W W D (10 Points)
Just when you think Sunderland have a shot of crashing the top 4's party...Darren Bent is gone.
So, now what?
Clearly, they are not as dangerous as they are with the top striker, but they can still compete. They have the 5th best defense in the Premiership, and at this point, that's what Steve Bruce is going to need to carry his club to a top 6 finish.
I'm not saying it won't happen, but without Darren Bent, Sunderland are going to have a difficult time finishing the campaign strong.
Last 6: D W W W L D (11 Points)
Although Spurs had a rough start to the year, they picked up the slack. Now, they sit 8 points back of the leaders and need to make a push.
So, what do they do? Go out and transfer in Steven Pienaar. Good move.
In my opinion, they needed a little extra help to continue their climb up the table, and they did it. Now, with Pienaar's skills and leadership ability, Spurs have a legitimate shot of reaching the top of the table. I'm not saying it will happen, but there is a lot better chance of it now, and I would definitely keep an eye on Spurs if I were the leaders.
Last 6: D L W D L W (8 Points)
I know better than to put too much stock in Chelsea after a single victory. Blackburn are not a great squad, and the Blues just did what defending champs are supposed to do at home.
Now, they travel to Reebok Stadium and the Stadium of Light in consecutive weeks, which will be a true test. If they are able to win both matches on the road, I may start believing in their title defense. If they are unsuccessful, well, I just don't want to think about that.
Last 6: L W D W D W (11 Points)
The Gunners cruised last week (as they should have), and they should continue this cruise through the league. For most Arsenal fans, they know better than to get ahead of themselves, but this could be a special season.
I think United will lose at some point, and Arsenal will be in a great position to take the top spot. When that time comes, the Gunners will need to seize the opportunity. If not, they will finish just another disappointing season.
Last 6: L W W W D W (13 Points)
I keep trying to poke holes in Manchester City's run, but it gets tougher and tougher. The Toure brothers have been on top of their game since Kolo came back from injury and Yaya adjusted to the Premiership's style of play. Despite conceding 3 goals last week, Joe Hart has still been the best goalkeeper in the league all season. And by the way, Carlos Tevez is tied for first in goals scored.
So, basically, City have the best goalkeeper, one of the best central defenders, one of the best midfielders, and one of the (in my opinion, the best) best strikers in the league this year, and people still doubt them?
I know they have played 2 more games than United, which makes their position a bit of an illusion. Still, they have played well all year, and I think it is about time they have earned our respect. That being said, I'm not believing anything until I see it.
Last 6: W W D W W D (14 Points)
Another road match, another draw. Despite their supposed road woes, they are undefeated in league play, they have the 4th most points on the road, and they are at the top of the table.
Oh, by the way, they have played 2 fewer matches than Manchester City. 2 FEWER MATCHES!!!
Am I the only person that thinks that's absurd? Ferguson is working some serious magic this season, and I think United remains the team to beat. Their road draws could come back to bite them, but until then, we should just sit back and enjoy the show.
Last Week: 6-1-4
Wolves 1 Liverpool 0
Arsenal 2 Wigan Athletic 0
Blackpool 2 Sunderland 1
Everton 1 West Ham 0
Fulham 1 Stoke City 2
Manchester United 3 Birmingham City 1
Newcastle United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2
Aston Villa 1 Manchester City 3
Blackburn 2 West Brom 0
Bolton 1 Chelsea 2
Blackpool 1 Manchester United 2
Wigan Athletic 1 Aston Villa 2
Liverpool 2 Fulham 1