English Premier League Power Rankings, Week 5: Separation Between Top Four Minimal

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Manchester United top this week's power rankings, having won four straight since their season-opening loss. It appears that the top four should shuffle frequently throughout the season.

Almost by default, this week's power rankings have a new leader. Manchester United played a very average -- in fact, some might call it poor -- half against Liverpool on the weekend, but did enough to pull out a comeback victory. They were partially aided by the official, but neither of Mark Halsey's calls that went against Liverpool were clearly wrong.

Meanwhile, Manchester City were nowhere near their best in a 1-1 home draw against Arsenal, while the bad taste of Chelsea's 0-0 draw with Queen's Park Rangers is still lingering in the mouths of voters. We also have a new bottom team, and they finished last on all but four ballots.

The Contenders, now a group of four

No. 1 - Manchester United (Average ranking - 1.60): Perhaps these are obvious statements to those who witnessed the events at Anfield last weekend: United were fortuitous with some refereeing decisions and also the result. Nonetheless, when one considers the context of the rivalry between United and Liverpool, a victory is something to always be celebrated. United continue to play relatively poorly but they are masters at consistently grinding out results over a 38-game season. For me, this still makes them as big of a threat for the title as any other club in England -- every contender's squad has their weaknesses this season.

Most worrisome for me though -- in Europe and in big domestic matches -- is how poor United are on the counterattack now. They're ace in a proactive approach versus weaker sides, but they're completely disjointed in a reactive approach. This practical and humble balance made them a genuine great side just a few seasons ago. (Gene Um, The Busby Babe)

No. 2 - Chelsea (2.40): I just can't justify putting anyone above the league leaders at this point. United are only a point back, but Chelsea have looked much stronger defensively for the first five weeks of the season. We'll get a look at both Chelsea and United against better competition this weekend though. (Stephen Schmidt, We Ain't Got No History)

No. 3 Manchester City (3.47): They've been leapfrogged by United, but I'm not unduly concerned at this stage. Looking at the fixtures in isolation City aren't far from what as expected and given the late signings in August added to the various summer expeditions means that August/September was almost an extended pre-season. Sure there are concerns but unless it extends into October some of the reaction has been a touch excessive. (Danny Pugsley, Bitter and Blue)

No. 4 - Arsenal (4.13): Arsenal passed their first "real test" of their Premier League season on Sunday as they held on and then equalized against Manchester City at the Etihad. Both sides had periods of dominance in the game. Arsenal looked probably the more solid defensively except for two or three moments, including the disorganization on the corner for City's goal. They tested the City defense on numerous occasions and didn't look at all out of their depth against the reigning champs. (Ted Harwood, The Short Fuse)

Overachieving, or just awesome?

No. 5 - Everton (4.67): Everton's fine start to the season continues. The only complaint from Saturday's 3-0 win at Swansea was that they did not score more goals - 30 efforts shots is an outstanding stat for an away team but should have brought more than just three goals. There is, however, genuine excitement at what the team can achieve this season, injuries permitting of course. (Thomas Mallows, Royal Blue Mersey)

Slowly creeping into your consciousness

No. 6 - Tottenham Hotspur (6.80): Spurs were not convincing in their win over Queens Park Rangers, but they've ascended to this spot almost by default after two consecutive wins. If they can manage to avoid defeat against Manchester United, it'll be time to start believing that this team can compete for fourth place. For now, they deserve to be behind Everton. (Kevin McCauley, Cartilage Free Captain and SB Nation Soccer)

Comfortably top half

No. 7 - West Bromwich Albion (7.13): Perhaps the Baggies are slipping a bit? They were poor two weeks ago against Fulham, and a 1-0 home win over the bottom team in the league is not impressive. Their match away to Villa Park will be an important test for both teams involved. (Kevin McCauley)

No. 8 - Newcastle United (8.07): Newcastle earned a win Sunday for the first time in ages by beating up on Chris Hughton's new squad. Fixture congestion and squad health continue to be an issue, but they'll happily look forward to (but not past) the next league date with Reading. If they can ever get Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse rolling at the same time, watch out.

No. 9 - Fulham (8.27): We've had our best start to a season since 2002 so things are looking positive at Craven Cottage. We still have concerns over the centre of midfield but Giorgos Karagounis has yet to feature and he could - though it's unlikely - go some way to solving that problem temporarily. The 2-1 win over Wigan was hardly inspiring but it proved a point in that we can win a match without playing well for the whole 90 minutes. Oh, and we won away! (Kristian Balkin, Cottagers Confidential)

Mid-table mediocrity

No. 10 - Swansea City (10.80): Swansea have failed to score in two straight games, both losses. They're going to struggle to score this weekend at Stoke as well. The good news for Michael Laudrup is that this rough run is followed up by home games against Reading and Wigan. If he gets six points from those two matches, the Swans are in good shape. (Kevin McCauley)

No. 11 - Sunderland (11.47): Still unbeaten, but the lack of wins is starting to concern some fans. I'm very happy with us defensively - even Titus Bramble is looking useful - and when the attacking threats get up to speed we'll be moving up everyone's rankings. (Simon Walsh, The Roker Report)

No. 12 - West Ham (12.00): Should we be surprised by this? Sam Allardyce knows how to take a relegation fodder side and get them comfortably into the mid-table positions. (Kevin McCauley)

No. 13 - Stoke City (12.80): The Fightin' Tony Pulises are the same every year, and they will continue to be the same for the foreseeable future. They're probably never going to Europe, and they're probably never getting relegated. Good for them. (Kevin McCauley)

Slowly, but surely, destroying your faith

No. 14 - Liverpool (13.67): If Lucas Leiva was healthy and playing in midfield instead of Jonjo Shelvey, Liverpool might have beaten Man United on Sunday and skyrocketed up the rankings. Instead, they're without both Lucas and Shelvey next week, and they're also winless on the year. Voters are still giving them some benefit of the doubt by placing them in 14th, but that might not last if they can't beat Norwich at the weekend. (Kevin McCauley)

Narrowly avoiding the drop

No. 15 - Wigan Athletic (15.46): This week was poor, just downright awful. We will be lucky if we aren't relegation candidates soon, hopefully we will pull together and start scoring. No one wants to shoot, so we don't score, then we wonder why. It could be another long season. (Kieran Heapy, Pie Eater's Footie)

No. 16 - Aston Villa (15.93): If Villa fans thought that the Everton loss was the lowest point the team was capable of, they were wrong. If Villa fans thought that the pathetic capitulations of last season were strictly down to Alex McLeish's presence, they were wrong. Aston Villa's best player had to leave early due to injury, and perhaps more worryingly, was Stephen Ireland. The only positive from the grim 4-1 defeat to Southampton was that Darren Bent finally scored. And that (hopefully) it can't get any worse. (Gareth Simpson, 7500 to Holte)

No. 17 - Southampton (16.13): The Saints finally saw their solid attacking play and ambitious tactics work out in their favor with an impressive 4-1 win over Aston Villa this week. If their defense can improve to the point of being just serviceable, they'll stay in the Premier League. (Kevin McCauley)

The relegation zone

No. 18 - Norwich City (18.20): Chris Hughton's a good enough manager to keep a below-average team in the Premier League, but it's starting to look like Norwich are just a poor side, and that Paul Lambert was a miracle worker. Hopefully Hughton's not on the road to yet another sacking that he doesn't deserve. (Kevin McCauley)

No. 19 - Queen's Park Rangers (18.27): This weekend's loss to Tottenham Hotspur was brutal. They were the better side for about 80 minutes, but got absolutely streamrolled in a five-minute stretch where Tottenham scored two great goals. Still, they proved that their summer signings have helped the team, and that they have a chance to stay up. They play a crucial home match against West Ham on Monday. (Kevin McCauley)

No. 20 - Reading (19.40): I can't deny that it sucks being bottom of the table but considering the calibre of opposition we've had to face, I'm comfortable that we're in a false position right now. A home game with Newcastle offers little respite this weekend but things slowly ease up from there and the returns of Jimmy Kebe and Jason Roberts will make a big difference. (Wimb, The Tilehurst End)

SB Nation Soccer writers Ryan Rosenblatt, Callum Hamilton, Zach Woosley and Graham MacAree also voted.

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