Arsenal have looked a bit shaky all season. While they've shown off a few flashes of brilliance, they've been mostly lackluster, in all competitions. Over the weekend, they were much worse than lackluster against Manchester United. The Red Devils were at nowhere near their best, but still outclassed the Gunners in what was almost certainly their worst performance of the season.
Up until this point, they had received the benefit of the doubt from voters, due to the talent on their squad and the experience of their manager. This week, they've dropped below West Bromwich Albion, and deservedly so.
Also taking a nice plunge in the rankings are Sunderland, who have received the benefit of the doubt this season for similar reasons. Martin O'Neill has produced consistent results during his career, but his team is still struggling after 10 weeks of play. It might just be a rough patch for them, but they're looking more and more like a team who have no chance to finish top half with each passing week.
The top two, still not separated by much
No. 1 - Manchester United (Average ranking - 1.40. Last week - 1.73): Between 1997-2005, Manchester United and Arsenal was consistently one of the best fixtures in the world as they involved tension, drama, and a plethora of brilliant moments. This past weekend, though, was a drab affair as a United side, far from their best, comfortably defeated a very mediocre Gunners team. Things have changed. Despite the Red Devils having some obvious warts, their standing at the top of the table and their victory at Chelsea two weekends ago -- which was obviously quite controversial -- makes them as viable as anyone to top this poll. (Gene Um, The Busby Babe)
No. 2 - Chelsea (1.93; 1.80): Chelsea need to win games like Saturday's match Swansea if they want to overtake the two clubs from Manchester this season. While they weren't impressive by any means, they played well enough that it would be three points more often than not. They failed to capitalize on a number of decent chances though, and deserved to drop points because of that. The lack of production from Fernando Torres is really starting to be an issue, as the team can't continue to rely on the defense and midfield to score all of their goals. He's dropping far to deep to get the ball, and he's not providing any sort of runs to open up space for the players behind him to work with. It might be time to give Daniel Sturridge an extended run at the position to see if he can provide more space, or at the very least create a few more chances. (Stephen Schmidt, We Ain't Got No History)
Blue Manchester, still stuck on an island
No. 3 - Manchester City (2.67; 2.47): There's isn't as much wrong with City's play as is being made out. Against West Ham they played some nice football and were patient in buidling attacks but lacked the clinical edge when it mattered. The defence has tightened of late and they have more shots on target than any other side but are not converting at the rate they were last season. If they can resolve this (and there is no reason why they shouldn't) expect the goals to return. A tough run of fixtures awaits in November though; will it be the spur they need? (Danny Pugsley, Bitter and Blue)
West Brom enters European discussion
No. 4 - Everton (4.73; 5.47): I still cannot fathom how Everton failed to beat Fulham on Saturday. It was arguably the team's finest performance of the season -- and certainly offensively -- with the superb Marouane Fellaini leading the charge, ably supported by the likes of Kevin Mirallas and Steven Pienaar. But despite dominating the game they failed to take their chances and were made to pay in the last minute. Still, David Moyes said the club's start to the season could only be judged after 10 games, so to sit fourth by that stage is still very satisfying, despite Saturday's frustration. (Thomas Mallows, Royal Blue Mersey)
No. 5 - Tottenham Hotspur (5.53; 4.07): Without their best midfielders, Tottenham Hotspur are a mess. They're probably the fourth best side in the Premier League when Sandro, Scott Parker and Moussa Dembele are all healthy, but they are an absolute trainwreck when all three are unavailable. They weren't good enough in any way over the weekend against Wigan, and thoroughly deserved their loss. A poor result against Manchester City is more or less expected this weekend, but they'll need to bounce back for the North London Derby the following week. (Kevin McCauley, Cartilage Free Captain and SB Nation Soccer)
No. 6 (tie) - West Bromwich Albion (6.07; 8.20): Southampton is pretty clearly going to be involved in a relegation battle all season, so it's not entirely clear why a fantastic home performance against the Saints is what has everyone believing in West Bromwich Albion. They're obviously a very good team and favorites to finish top half at this point, but a comfortable home win over Southampton shouldn't change anyone's mind about any team. (Kevin McCauley)
No. 6 (tie) - Arsenal (6.07; 5.60): Against a Manchester United side that didn't necessarily look like world-beaters on Saturday, Arsenal simply offered next to nothing going forward. Sir Alex Ferguson made tactical arrangements given his opponent, and Arsène Wenger did not. Wayne Rooney took Mikel Arteta out of the game, but the rest of the Arsenal players simply looked out of ideas for the time being. This is an Arsenal side that looks more and more to have reached rock bottom in terms of creativity relatively speaking--if the players do not rediscover the form they had in September and October, that impression will only calcify. (Ted Harwood, The Short Fuse)
Comfortably top half
No. 8 - Fulham (7.07; 8.33): Fulham probably had no business getting a result against Everton this week, but did very well to grab a point against the Premier League's most pleasant surprises. Fulham has the same strengths and deficiencies as they have since around the time Roy Hodgson took over the club, just with different names on the backs of the shirts. They're going to continue to earn points they shouldn't drop points they shouldn't, and finish somewhere near the center of the table. (Kevin McCauley)
No. 9 - Newcastle United (9.20; 7.80): The Liverpool match should have been an easy one to get motivated for, but the Toon were flat, save for a moment of brilliance from Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye. Another red card suspension after another foolish challenge means they will be without two of their key defenders in Fabricio Coloccini and Cheik Tiote for the next two league matches. At this point it's hard to see this team qualifying for Europe again, especially now that the fair play route is well out of reach. Thankfully for supporters, they've hit a soft spot in the schedule, so a confidence boost could be on the horizon. (Robert Bishop, Coming Home Newcastle)
No. 10 - West Ham (9.93; 11.53): A 0-0 away draw to Manchester City is an impressive result, and a Sam Allardyce classic to boot. It's incredible how many tipped this side for relegation before the year started, as if we didn't watch Allardyce easily keep poor sides in the Premier League -- if not the top half -- for the better part of a decade. (Kevin McCauley)
We haven't decided what you are
No. 11 - Swansea City (11.33; 11.53): The Swans put in a fantastic performance against Chelsea on Saturday, earning a late draw through a brilliant goal by Pablo Hernandez. They still don't have quite the defensive talent to compete with the likes of Fulham, Newcastle and West Brom, but their attacking players and Michael Laudrup should keep them much closer to the center of the table than the drop zone this season. (Kevin McCauley)
No. 12 - Liverpool (11.47; 10.40): Voters lost faith in Liverpool because of a 1-1 draw with Newcastle? This seems a bit reactionary. Not that Liverpool are a good side, but they've obviously recovered a bit from their early season woes. There's nothing embarrassing about a draw with Newcastle, and it certainly doesn't indicate that Liverpool are further away from being top half. It's pretty surprising that thy dropped more than one place on the average ballot this week. (Kevin McCauley)
Poor, but not fighting the drop?
No. 13 - Wigan Athletic (13.67; 14.47): We had a great weekend with a very much unexpected win. Wigan looked a much better side than in the previous weeks. They were stronger both going forward and defending, and they are finding that mix of being able to work well as a team and individually just right. It is showing in our results. Not only did we beat Tottenham, we stopped them from playing their brand of football, and that has to be the sort of performance that this Wigan team turns out week in, week out. There's more to come, I hope. (Kieran Heapy, Pie Eater's Footie)
No. 14 - Stoke City (14.46; 13.27): Hey, look! Stoke are 14th! They're like a permanent fixture here. (Kevin McCauley)
No. 15 - Sunderland (14.53; 12.53): Yep, we're still on a slide. There's not a lot of positivity around at the moment after some fairly abject performances. The next few don't look like they're going to be particularly great either. Aston Villa, despite the result, showed signs of improvement, however we're still quite a way from where we really should be. On the balance of power, you'd have to put us in the lower reaches. (Simon Walsh, The Roker Report)
No. 16 - Aston Villa (15.20; 16.60): Aston Villa were able to take comfort in a reasonably decent away showing at the Stadium of Light, beating a poor Sunderland team for their first away win since January. Villa fans will need all the comfort they can get, as they face an unenviable stretch of fixtures through the rest of November, starting with the league-leaders' trip to Villa Park next Saturday.(Gareth Simpson, 7500 to Holte)
No. 17 - Norwich City (15.87; 16.87): Well, maybe Norwich won't end up in a relegation race after all. They did something this weekend that Liverpool and Arsenal failed to do: Defeat Stoke City. They look like they might become masters of scoring before their opponents, then packing it in and holding on for 1-0 victories. (Kevin McCauley)
A clearly defined bottom three
No. 18 - Reading (18.47; 18.13): This wasn't a good week for Reading, between blowing a four-goal lead against Arsenal in the cup, then watching most of their main relegation rivals win over the weekend. Some hope came from a decent performance at Loftus Road on Sunday, but it's now nine without a win and if they fail to pick up all three points against Norwich, confidence could drop to critical levels. (Wimb, The Tilehurst End)
No. 19 - Queens Park Rangers (18.87; 19.07): How can a team with so many entertaining footballers manage to be so painfully boring? How is that even possible? Just tell them to go out there and make something happen. This isn't a relegation-battling team on talent, but they seem to have it in their heads that 17th place should be their goal. (Kevin McCauley)
No. 20 - Southampton (19.73; 19.10): Unless Southampton lose by five goals this weekend, this is probably as close as we're going to see a team to being a consensus last-place side. Southampton's defense is absolutely woeful, and they're going to have trouble climbing out of the bottom three. (Kevin McCauley)
SB Nation Soccer writers Ryan Rosenblatt, Callum Hamilton, Zach Woosley and Graham MacAree also voted.