There is no debate: Manchester City are the unanimous choice for No. 1 by the nine writers from around SB Nation Soccer that participated in our Week 15 English Premier League Power Rankings. Although City failed to qualify for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, Roberto Mancini's side are deserved of their lofty status as they are unbeaten in league and five points clear of nearest competitor Manchester United.
Surging Tottenham Hotspur, unbeaten in their past eleven matches while impressively achieving victory in ten of those, is the voter's pick for No. 2. In both the league table and in this poll, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, and Wigan Athletic are rated as the bottom three sides.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all explanations are by Gene Um
1. Manchester City - The past week saw the league leaders power past Norwich City 5-1 and defeat German giant Bayern Munich 2-0 -- both matches at the Etihad Stadium. Unfortunately for City though, the victory over Bayern was not enough to qualify them for the knockout stages of the Champions League as Napoli earned qualification at their expense when the Italian side defeated Villarreal in Spain. Mancini's men will travel south to London for a Monday night clash with Chelsea FC.
2. Tottenham Hotspur - Spurs claimed a club record sixth successive victory when they cruised to a 3-0 victory over 10-man Bolton. Harry Redknapp's side trail United by two points for second standing in league but Spurs do have a game in hand. The north-Londoners next face Stoke City on Sunday night (a cold night?) for a clash at the Britannia. Spurs will be heavy favorites to march on for their seventh successive victory.
3. Manchester United - Perhaps their current lack of form, which is exhibited by their seventh straight league match with only one goal scored and by their shocking failure to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages, may make this ranking questionable. Sir Alex Ferguson's side certainly appears vulnerable at the moment and the injury to Nemanja Vidic during the defeat by Basel is very worrisome. However, the Red Devils are still sitting second in the table and their squad depth, along with their history of finding form for the run-in, provides belief still for title contention.
4. Chelsea FC - The pressure on manager Andre Villas-Boas has been eased a bit following Chelsea's 3-0 away victory over Newcastle and their 3-0 victory over Spanish side Valencia at Stamford Bridge. The latter achievement allowed them to finish atop of Group E in Champions League and the Blues will now be able to avoid the likes of FC Barcelona, Real Mdadrid, and Bayern Munich when the knockout stage draw comes. Chelsea abandoned their high-line tactics against Valencia and brilliantly broke at speed on the counter-attack. Similar tactics may suit them best when they clash with City on Monday night -- Mancini's side has struggled at times this season versus sides that defend deep.
5. Arsenal FC - The Gunners climbed up to 5th in the league table after their convincing 4-0 away defeat of Wigan Athletic. Arsenal also impressively topped Group F in the Champions League and just like Chelsea, they will be able to avoid some of Europe's giants during the first round of the knockout stages. Left-back Andre Santos was injured during the midweek in a meaningless defeat to Olympiakos. With Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson also injured, Arsene Wenger has a short-term problem at left-back.
6. Liverpool FC - Liverpool played their first match without influential holding-midfielder Lucas Leiva and the result was a bad away loss to Fulham. Lucas' replacement, Jay Spearing, was not nearly as positionally sound or as quick with his distribution and to make matters worse, he was shown straight-red for a reckless challenge on Mousa Dembele. With Lucas unavailable for the remainder of the season, it leaves many wondering if manager Kenny Dalglish has a viable replacement through Liverpool's youth system or will he use the January transfer window to address this problem?
7. Newcastle United - The loss of Steven Taylor for the season has and will hit Newcastle hard. They will have their hands full reshaping their identity as a team. Suddenly, the holiday program looks like a bigger challenge than the stretch of tough fixtures they just went through. - Robert L. Bishop, Coming Home Newcastle
8. Stoke City - The middle of the table is packed pretty tight and an away win (versus Everton) at their key challengers for "best of the rest" status is enough to move them into 8th on the list. - Neal Thurman, Never Manage Alone.
9. Fulham FC - Fulham provided the first test for Liverpool in life without Lucas and it was the Cottagers who took all three points when Clint Dempsey scored a late winner. Although the southwest-London club sit 13th in the table, they have a goal differential of 0 and that is best after the top seven.
10. Everton FC - A failure to even register a shot on target against Stoke highlights David Moyes' severe attacking problems. A winter of struggle awaits unless the club can somehow find some January funds. - Thomas Mallows, Royal Blue Mersey
11 (tied). Aston Villa - Villa are becoming specialists in the realm of deceptive scorelines. Losing 1-0 to the reigning champions is far from a sign of crisis, but anyone who watched the match will know that Villa were absolutely turgid. Manchester United played one of their poorest games of the season, but still emphatically deserved the three points. Aston Villa were booed off the pitch at the half and at full-time, and one has to wonder if Randy Lerner (who was reported to have been in attendance) will be reconsidering this summer's controversial hire of Alex McLeish - Gareth Simpson, 7500 To Holte
11 (tied). Norwich City - It is Norwich that sits highest amongst the three promoted sides, albeit the difference comes down to goal differential when compared to QPR. Their 5-1 defeat by City is far from an indictment as the leaders have been thrashing nearly everyone. Paul Lambert's side will face Newcastle in Week 15 and that should provide a more accurate indication as to where Norwich stacks up against the rest of the Premier League.
11 (tied). West Bromwich Albion - Points on the road against other mid-table teams (1-1 last weekend versus QPR) look much better at the end of the season than they do at the time. -Thurman
14. Queens Park Rangers - The West Londoners are holding steady at the moment by sitting 12th in the table. Shane Long's late equaliser for West Brom at Loftus Road was surely disappointing. The importance of those two points dropped may be magnified after their difficult upcoming fixtures at Anfield versus Liverpool and at home versus United.
15. Swansea City - The form of the Welsh side appears to be dropping as they have failed to earn victory in their past four league matches. The Swans have struggled mightily away from home and perhaps their four goals conceded this past weekend while away to Blackburn exemplifies this best. Swansea will have the comfort of home when they host Fulham this weekend.
16. Wolverhampton Wanderers - Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson failed to convert a penalty in the 73rd minute when the Black Cats were up 1-0. Within 30 seconds of that miss, Wolves broke the other way and Steven Fletcher was able to level the match. Eight minutes later, Fletcher struck again and it proved to be the winner. Wolves now face a trip to Old Trafford where they will clash with a reeling United.
17. Sunderland AFC - How soon can Martin O'Neill get there? It won't be soon enough. On the plus side, Bishop Magic Dong-Won got a start which made me smile even if Larsson's dive had to make just about everyone sick. -Thurman
18. Blackburn Rovers - I told you last week that Rovers terrible point total had more to do with their schedule to-to-date rather than them being abjectly terrible. One chance against a lower end team and three points to show for it. -Thurman
19. Bolton Wanderers - Some good news came to Bolton as Gary Cahill won his appeal after he was sent off last weekend during his side's 3-0 loss to Spurs after his tackle on Scott Parker. The center-back will now be available for Bolton's upcoming home match versus Villa. The tie is a decent opportunity for the Trotters to accumulate some badly needed points.
20. Wigan Athletic - Not a great past weekend, but who would have expected any better? Lactics have a tendency to build you up then drop you back down again. Signs looked good to start but they crumbled and our back five (or three as it appears to be) still not having any form of stability. Antolin Alcaraz coming back next weekend will help to build up again. - Kieran Heapy, Pie Eaters Footie
How It Works: The rankings were determined by a poll of 9 voters. Each voter ranked the clubs 1 through 20 and the final rankings were determined on the average of those votes.
Who Participated: Gene Um (SB Nation, Soccer and The Busby Babe); Graham MacAree (SB Nation, Soccer and We Ain't Got No History); Kevin McCauley (SB Nation, Soccer and Cartilage Free Captain); Robert L. Bishop (Coming Home Newcastle); Neal Thurman (Never Manage Alone); Ted Harwood (The Short Fuse); Gareth Simpson (7500 To Holte); Kieran Heapy (Pie Eaters Footie); Thomas Mallows (Royal Blue Mersey)