Chelsea struggled in the first 30 minutes of their game against Manchester United and might have lost a well-officiated match, but Mark Clattenburg certainly had a role in propelling the Red Devils to this week's top spot.
When Chelsea went down to ten men against Manchester United, they had all the momentum. Their start was horrendous, but they probably deserved more than one goal from their late first half flurry, and found an equalizer not long into the second half. Then, Branislav Ivanovic was sent off for denial of a goal scoring opportunity without touching Ashley Young. Fernando Torres was shown a second yellow for diving when he embellished contact that was real, and probably did really cause him to lose his balance. Javier Hernandez went on to score the winner from an offside position.
Mark Clattenburg and crew helped rocket United to our top spot, past last week's nearly unanimous No. 1, Chelsea. Could United could have gone on to win 11 vs. 11? Absolutely, the game wasn't getting out of hand, but they did get outplayed for half of the match that was played pre-red card. Apparently, our voters are putting more stock into the 30 minutes where Chelsea were very poor than they are into the 30 minutes where Chelsea outplayed United.
In other parts of the league, Wigan solidified their standing as a team outside of the true relegation race, while Newcastle and Liverpool inspired a bit more confidence in voters with their performances
The virtually inseparable top-two
No. 1 - Manchester United (Average ranking - 1.73. Last week - 2.46): The three main title contenders, the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea, are all flawed and none of them clearly stand out as the Premier League's clear top side at this moment. United, though, certainly deserve strong consideration at the top of this poll after winning at Stamford Bridge in league for the first time since 2002. Next up in league is Arsenal and after that is a relatively favorable fixture list until the Manchester derby on December 9. United have a very good opportunity to establish themselves at the top of the pecking order in the upcoming weeks. (Gene Um, The Busby Babe)
No. 2 - Chelsea (1.80; 1.08): This weekend was a strange one. Chelsea lost to Manchester United, but having now watched the game several times I just can't get over feeling that they would have won that fixture more often than not. The first 65 minutes of that game were some of the best football I've seen Chelsea play against United in several seasons, and it was hard not to be impressed. Chelsea still have obvious issues with their fullbacks getting caught up the pitch and leaving the center backs exposed, but they look legitimately capable of coming back from nearly any deficit with the band of three playing behind Fernando Torres. John Obi Mikel and Ramires were absolutely immense on Sunday, they more than held there own when pressing a dangerous attacking side. As disappointed as I was by the result, it's hard to be anything but satisfied with the way Chelsea played this weekend. (Stephen Schmidt, We Ain't Got No History)
Blue Manchester, stuck on an island
No. 3 - Manchester City (2.47; 2.46): The result at Stamford Bridge -- United's win over Chelsea -- was a good one for City after they won the day before. The Citizens now sit just a point off the top and are the only remaining unbeaten side in the league, yet they still haven't convinced me enough to place them ahead of either United or Chelsea in the rankings. They're getting closer, though. (Danny Pugsley, Bitter and Blue)
Tottenham a consensus top-four side?
No. 4 - Tottenham Hotspur (4.07; 4.92): Incredibly, Tottenham Hotspur improve their standing in the rankings after putting together a very incomplete and flawed performance away to Southampton. As encouraging as their first half performance was -- especially considering the absence of Moussa Dembele -- their second half performance was very poor. It was an AVB special, and Tottenham only held on for the win because Southampton aren't a good side. Then again, they were better than both Everton and Arsenal this weekend, so there's no reason they shouldn't sit in fourth. (Kevin McCauley, Cartilage Free Captain and SB Nation Soccer)
No. 5 - Everton (5.47; 5.61): Considering Everton went 2-0 down after 20 minutes and then saw a last minute Liverpool winner luckily disallowed due to a foul, I guess I have to be kind of grateful for a hard earned point. However, a third draw in a row is frustrating. Our progress has stalled, with the team developing an alarming habit of conceding early goals. A clean sheet next up would be welcome. (Thomas Mallows, Royal Blue Mersey)
No. 6 - Arsenal (5.60; 5.92): It wasn't easy, but Arsenal managed a breakthrough with a little luck against QPR to get back on track. After the Chelsea - Manchester United result, the pack at the top has remained within sight for the Gunners, but things only get harder with a game at Old Trafford coming up. The offensive wake-up coincided with the arrival of Andrei Arshavin against QPR, and he may have a role to play yet at the club with an injury to Gervinho sidelining the Ivorian. Who would have thought a month ago that the Gunners might be relying on an aging Arshavin to keep them afloat? (Ted Harwood, The Short Fuse)
Comfortably top half
No. 7 - Newcastle United (7.80; 9.31): Newcastle finally have a week to breathe. The rest is welcome, though it would be sort of nice to use a cup game to get one match closer to Cheik Tiote's return. Perhaps they'll use the time to figure out how they can score goals that don't go in off of someone's hand or rear end. Alan Pardew will probably be more focused on goal prevention; the team that racked up 15 clean sheets last season (good for 3rd in the league) has only one so far in this campaign. (Robert Bishop, Coming Home Newcastle)
No. 8 - West Bromwich Albion (8.20; 7.08): Faith in the surprising Baggies is wavering a bit after their second consecutive defeat, but there was really no shame in either of the. A home loss to City and a road loss to Newcastle should have been expected. They face Southampton at home on the weekend, and should be able to get back on track with a victory. (Kevin McCauley)
No. 9 - Fulham (8.33; 8.77): Fulham and Reading played the most entertaining match of the weekend, though the result was a very disappointing one for the Cottagers. They were able to take the lead on two occasions, but threw it away both times. Even though Reading's goals were excellent and the match was on the road, there's not much of an excuse for giving up two equalizers to a team of their questionable quality. Repeat performances against Everton and Arsenal over the next two weeks will see Fulham fumble out of the top half. For now, they get the benefit of the doubt. (Kevin McCauley)
Red Merseyside joins Blue Manchester as its own island
No. 10 - Liverpool (10.40; 11.38): When your team can't defend, just bring on more defenders! Brendan Rodgers' halftime substitutions in the Merseyside Derby -- Jonjo Shelvey and Sebastian Coates for Suso and Nuri Sahin -- stopped the bleeding against Everton and allowed them to earn a draw (and almost a winner). Their draw against a solid Everton team at Goodison Park has more voters thinking that Liverpool will be a solid top-half team, but they simply can't give away two-goal leads in 15 minutes if they want to compete for Europe. (Kevin McCauley)
No. 11 (tie) - West Ham (11.53; 8.85): Even though it came on the road, a 2-1 loss to Wigan is not a good look for the Hammers, especially considering that their one goal came in the 93rd minute. This simply wasn't the same West Ham team that gave Arsenal hell and beat down Southampton. Perhaps they just got caught looking ahead to Manchester City? (Kevin McCauley)
No. 11 (tie) - Swansea City (11.53; 12.00): Swansea lost over the weekend, but their performance was an encouraging one. At Eastlands, they kept City at bay and had a chance at points until the final whistle. They continue to look like a side that is nowhere near the European contenders, but also nowhere near the relegation zone. Next weekend's match against Chelsea will be just as stiff of a test as this week's at Eastlands. (Kevin McCauley)
No. 13 - Sunderland (12.53; 12.08): Sunderland are still roughly a middle of the pack side. If you took our results in context rather than as a run, they aren't particularly bad ones for a club of our stature. Eventually things will come good, there's no doubting that. Things could be a hell of a lot worse, and we could be losing all these games instead of drawing them. I'd rather have one point than none any day of the week. (Simon Walsh, The Roker Report)
No. 14 - Stoke City (13.27; 13.38): I might as well just copy and paste the same thing every week. The only surprising thing about Stoke is that anyone ever votes them higher or lower than 14th. (Kevin McCauley)
Narrowly avoiding the drop
No. 15 - Wigan Athletic (14.47; 15.62): This week, Wigan had a much better performance and a much better a result. What a difference a week can make in football. It is now all smiles at the DW Stadium, and that doesn't look like changing in the next few weeks as we now have a solid base to push on from, and I expect us to go out and win more games. The next trip away to Tottenham will be tough, but the players are geared up for it and know that they can win the game if they just focus.. (Kieran Heapy, Pie Eater's Footie)
No. 16 - Aston Villa (16.60; 16.54): While Paul Lambert was understandably thrilled when his faith in the misfiring Christian Benteke was rewarded with a first half goal, he has major cause for concern as Aston Villa's weak start to the season worsened with a draw at home against his old club Norwich City. The Canaries are easily one of the worst teams in the Premier League, and if Saturday's performance is any indication, Aston Villa are also in the running for that dubious distinction. (Gareth Simpson, 7500 to Holte)
No. 17 - Norwich City (16.87; 16.07): I can't exactly figure out why the Canaries' average ranking dropped this week after they drew away to Aston Villa, a team above them on most people's rankings. It was a second consecutive solid result for Chris Hughton's side, who look to finally be getting their feet under them. They will be in a relegation dogfight all year, but it looks like they have the horses to finish outside of the top three. (Kevin McCauley)
The relegation zone
No. 18 - Reading (18.13; 18.53): While it's now eight games without a win for Reading, the good news is that we've lost just once in the last four, and that was a 1-0 defeat at Anfield. Blowing another lead against Fulham on Saturday was frustrating, but credit to the players for twice fighting back in the last five minutes to sneak a point against a good team. Our goal difference suggests we're better than the table suggests, and we go to Loftus Road on Sunday knowing that we can get a result. (Wimb, The Tilehurst End)
No. 19 - Queens Park Rangers (19.07; 18.77): QPR looked like a side that' good enough to survive the drop for most of their match against Arsenal, until Stephane M'Bia got sent off for violent conduct. They got battered until Arsenal went up, then somehow pressed for an equalizer with 10 men and were nearly successful. This is all indicative of a team with a lot of talent, but no composure. The clock continues to tick on Mark Hughes. (Kevin McCauley)
No. 20 - Southampton (19.13; 19.00): Tottenham Hotspur pulled an AVB special on Sunday, pulling a passer for a defensive midfielder at the hour mark and completely losing their composure. A mediocre side would have taken advantage and drawn the match. Southampton couldn't, because they are a poor side, not a mediocre side. (Kevin McCauley)
SB Nation Soccer writers Ryan Rosenblatt, Callum Hamilton, Zach Woosley and Graham MacAree also voted.