Manchester United and Chelsea make bizarre table-toppers after pretty unconvincing campaigns against poor opposition, while Manuel Pellegrini was a silly boy...
On a weekend when just about everybody else around them dropped points, why should Liverpool's title hopes be dismissed? David Moyes is a loser, of course...
Arsenal and Aaron Ramsey
Five successive Premier League victories, nine on the bounce in all competitons (if you count beating West Brom on penalties, which I expect you won't, just to be difficult), plus 20 goals scored and only six conceded in the six weeks since the 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa. After that miserable opening day at the Emirates, who would have thought that Arsenal would recover so quickly and so comprehensively? It's a transformation embodied by the emboldened performances of Aaron Ramsey, who was simply superb at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday evening.
Many Arsenal fans were concerned by the Gunners' absence from this column last week, but such is their consistency at the moment - and such is my faith in their quality, I might add, tenuously siphoning credit - that their omission was destined to be shortlived. A routine victory over Stoke was the least Arsenal have to shout about at the moment, unlike another sensational display from Ramsey against Swansea.
Although the midfielder's goals have grabbed the headlines - he notched his eighth in eight matches on Saturday - the improvement in his all-round contribution is quite astonishing. That no-one has made more tackles than Ramsey (33) in the Premier League this season emphasises his abrupt return to form and the confidence that was previously lacking following the harrowing collision with Ryan Shawcross in 2010.
The consequence of that leg break saw a promising 19-year-old retreat into his shell seemingly never to fulfil his obvious potential, but Ramsey has burst back to become the Gunners' most important player in their stunning start to the season. "It took him a long time to get completely over that, especially in the duels, in the fights," said Arsene Wenger. "He had a little resistance to go into the fights for a long time. He has a great engine, great spirit and has an obsession - he wants always to be better."
The idea of Ramsey being better than his current displays is a frightening thought. As well as scoring, assisting and completing the most tackles of any player on the pitch against Swansea, the 22-year-old made 20 more passes than any of his teammates, created the most chances and made the most interceptions. He was involved in everything, even nipping off at half-time to sell a few programmes before driving the team bus back to London.
Ramsey wasn't the only bright spark for Arsenal, either, as Jack Wilshere, Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil combined well in the Gunners' ruthless counter-attacking system that saw Swansea dispatched with little fuss. The contribution of Serge Gnabry was also a huge plus, with the 18-year-old placing a firm strike into the corner to open the scoring and exhibiting maturity and composure throughout. For a young winger to complete 91% of his passes is quite remarkable, while Gnabry also showed his strength to get the better of Ben Davies on several occasions.
"He is surprising," said Wenger in his post-match interview. "He has the talent, but he has the personality on the pitch as well. He doesn't look timid, he looks to play with belief and, of course, talent.
"He was one-year-old when I came to Arsenal, I can't believe it."
There were some disappointing aspects to Arsenal's performance - Ozil missing a clear-cut chance to open his account and Giroud dragging his solitary attempt well wide when in a good position - but it seems their form is set to continue. Unbeaten Napoli will provide a tough test on Tuesday, but Premier League fixtures against West Brom, Norwich and Crystal Palace in October provide the Gunners with an opportunity to maintain their impressive run.
Saying that, West Brom did beat Manchester United on Saturday, although coming out on top in a mid-table clash perhaps isn't much to boast about.
Steve Clarke will be particularly pleased with his team's cutting edge at Old Trafford as the champions were defeated by two excellent goals. Concerns over the Baggies' lack of firepower have dissipated after five strikes in back-to-back victories and with Matej Vydra still to return from injury, Clarke finally appears to have the attacking options that were a long time coming in the transfer window.
It's difficult to decide whether the acquisition of influential duo Morgan Amalfitano and Stephane Sessegnon was by luck or design, with the Frenchman joining on loan from Marseille on September 1 and the Beninese only arriving due to Paolo Di Canio being a bit of a berk. West Brom were desperate for anyone at that late stage of the window, but it just so happens that the warm bodies they recruited are especially, erm, clammy.
Perhaps clammy isn't the right word (is it ever the right word?) after Amalfitano was as cool as the other side of the pillow with his neat finish to give the Baggies the lead against United. Saido Berahino's first top-flight goal was also a cracker after a sumptuous build-up from Amalfitano and Sessegnon and West Brom will cause problems for Arsenal on Sunday if they can continue to demonstrate their intelligence in the final third.
Another unlikely winner on shock Saturday as Aston Villa profited from Manchester City's sheer incomprehension of the events that were unfolding around them at Villa Park. "I think today we play well. We deserved another goal, but the score says something different," said a stunned Manuel Pellegrini at full time. "Twice we had the advantage in the score, but in five minutes we did two things that threw away all we did in the rest of the game."
Although Villa's victory was very smashy and grabby, that shouldn't undermine the efforts of Paul Lambert's young side, who were playing the first of four or five matches without Christian Benteke. The hosts showed unerring opportunism to make the most of their chances, with Leandro Bacuna providing a crucial contribution by assisting Karim El Ahmadi's equaliser and then firing in one of his own with a brilliant free-kick.
As Sarah Winterburn wrote here, there are concerns over Lambert's summer recruitment drive, which this column also stated following the close of the transfer window. The big man up top, Libor Kozak, looked rather isolated for much of Saturday's match and that he failed to have a single attempt on goal in 90 minutes underlines Villa's need to improve their service to the striker during Benteke's absence. Gabby Agbonlahor's imminent return should help in that respect.
As I said last week, Daniel Sturridge looks as though he already needs a rest after missing most of pre-season, and the striker was woefully off the pace against Sunderland. Just one goal and two assists, Danny? You look worn out.
While I questioned the wisdom of Brendan Rodgers putting Sturridge through another 90 minutes in the midweek defeat to Manchester United, that decision laid the foundations for Liverpool's strike partnership to put Sunderland to the sword on Sunday.
Of course, Sturridge was fortunate that the officials missed the ball hitting his arm for the Reds' opening goal, but he has now scored 18 strikes in only 24 matches for Liverpool, while his two assists at the Stadium of Light emphasise his growing maturity and willingness to forge an effective partnership with Suarez.
Rodgers warned that "neither Luis or Daniel will be the main man. This isn't the type of club for egos" in mid-September and the England forward's performance against Sunderland suggested that he has heeded that advice. There was a time when Sturridge would have blasted the ball into the side netting when Liverpool broke clear to wrap up the victory, but his selfless pass to Suarez was a pleasing sight.
It will also have been pleasing to Rodgers that his team scored three goals for the first time this season after averaging a goal a game in the previous five matches. Liverpool's displays have certainly dipped since the international break, but the return of the Reds' apex predator will surely be the catalyst for another spurt of form, with a gimme at home to Crystal Palace followed by a trip to Newcastle - the setting for a 6-0 win last year - and the visit of West Brom.
The test of Liverpool maintaining their impressive start may rely on Rodgers settling on his preferred defensive combination after starting the last two matches with a 3-5-2 formation. While there are clear advantages to this system in terms of maintaining possession and attacking down the wings, it also seems that Rodgers is playing a tense game of Jenga as he juggles his small squad.
That Jose Enrique and Jordan Henderson found a teammate with only three of 17 crosses between them on Sunday suggests that Rodgers might not possess the personnel for such a set-up and, should Enrique suffer an injury at any stage, the manager will be forced to return to a back four owing to Aly Cissokho's ongoing absence and the lack of another alternative to play a wing-back role on the left.
So if Enrique falls, the 3-5-2 falls with him, and if Lucas Leiva falls, a central midfield that has looked rather sluggish in recent matches loses its defensive spine. Why Rodgers didn't pursue a midfielder of Gary Medel's ilk - more on him in just a second - in a summer dedicated to strengthening the team's top and bottom is a mystery and Liverpool's bench on Sunday is evidence any sceptic can cite when dismissing optimistic hopes of a title challenge.
The pitbull's reputation for being a spoiler with a peculiar hatred for garden furniture does a disservice to his distributive talents. "What is a tackle if not the first brick in the house of attack?" said someone somewhere, perhaps, when noting Medel's skill for getting and giving and giving and getting and...what the hell is that gazebo looking at?
The solid platform the Chilean provides allowed Cardiff to venture forward for 22 attempts on goal against Fulham, as Medel made more tackles than anyone else on the pitch and completed 68 of his 69 short passes and eight of nine long balls. The 26-year-old is the perfect midfielder for a promoted side hoping to make themselves hard to beat, but one can't help but feel that his talents should have been appreciated further up the table.
It's also worth noting that Medel is yet to receive a booking this season, while Lucas will be suspended for Liverpool's next game after picking up five yellow cards so far.
The Premier League
Both Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger have claimed that there are up to six teams in the title race this season and the weekend's results support the theory that it will be an open battle at the top. Champions League performances will tell us much about a perceived decline in quality, but the Premier League needs a revival of competition.
Equal on points with Man City after the first six matches. Hull have a chance to build on a fine start with consecutive home matches against Villa, Sunderland and Palace before the end of November.
Spurs and Chelsea
Proactive and reactive winners, respectively, for decisions discussed at length in 16 Conclusions.
A third strike in three Premier League games to match his top-flight total last season and to pick up four valuable points. Sigurdsson struggled to make much of an impact in his first year at Spurs but, unlike Brendan Rodgers with regard to Fabio Borini, Andre Villas-Boas has stuck with the Icelander and is seeing his faith repaid in Sigurdsson's promising performances.
Fifth and flying after Dani Osvaldo's first goal and Rickie Lambert's third in 13 top-flight matches defeated Crystal Palace.
"I think it is complete happiness for every manager is what happened today, a clean sheet and your two strikers getting on the scoresheet," said Mauricio Pochettino after Saints' win.
A victory that relieves some of the pressure but solved few of Norwich's problems in attack.
A fourth match in which the Hammers failed to score this season and still no news on Andy Carroll's return. Modibo Maiga is clearly not the answer after scoring only twice in 23 Premier League appearances and Sam Allardyce has his work cut to solve his team's impotency.
Pros: Seems like a nice guy, kept Dimitar Berbatov in the Premier League, great accent.
Cons: Since when was that important, Berbatov is playing terribly, now you're just being silly.
Signing Scott Parker for £4million and handing a player who will be 33 in two weeks a three-year deal was a sackable offence in itself, and Jol appears to be hanging on to his job by his fingernails after Fulham fans again called for him to leave following the 2-1 defeat to Cardiff. In truth, it wouldn't be a surprise if the manager decides to walk after assembling a team that brings nothing but visions of a bleak and slow, very slow, future.
To see Parker and Steve Sidwell bustling aimlessly around the midfield is to see midweek trips to Barnsley and Yeovil, the fading sparkle in the eyes of a loved one, the unforgiving expanse of retirement, and then, at long last, the gentle kiss of sweet, relieving death, as your life passes before your eyes for one last time and you wish you had eaten more pudding.
A few stats: Fulham have allowed their opponents more shots on goal than any other team this season, Berbatov completed only 55% of his passes on Saturday and Darren Bent didn't manage a single attempt in 86 depressing minutes. Despite the League Cup victory over Everton, the task of turning Fulham's fortunes around increasingly appears to be beyond Jol and it may only be a matter of time before new owner Shahid Kahn pulls the trigger.
Still, at least the manager can take solace in knowing that he outlasted the Michael Jackson statue.
A big leap forward in the stunning victory over Manchester United, a small step backwards with defeat to Aston Villa. City shouldn't dwell too much on Saturday's loss as they dominated the match before losing concentration in three key minutes. Of course, it is the second time this season that City have slumped in such a fashion, but two games is not yet a pattern, and Manuel Pellegrini will drill the need for consistency into his team before Wednesday's big test against Bayern Munich.
While that fixture is important, City must ensure that they don't become a team who performs in the tougher battles but takes the lesser-weights lightly. That Sergio Aguero's absence was an issue against Villa - particularly in the last 15 minutes as they chased the game - is worrying and the return of the Argentine and David Silva is crucial to City building momentum.
Samir Nasri is also pivotal to that aim, and the midfielder's substitution on Saturday proved costly. Pellegrini praised Nasri's recent performances in midweek but, with Munich in mind, subbed the Frenchman off after 60 minutes against Villa before City imploded. The sudden need for Nasri's subtlety left City floundering, and they managed only three attempts on goal in the final period after Villa had taken the lead.
The Bayern clash will tell us much about the strength of this City side, their focus and their ability to recover. But equally, Everton's trip to the Etihad on Saturday will provide early evidence of whether they are in the title race for the long haul. It's a fixture City have struggled in in recent seasons, but it is now a match they must win after throwing away three points at Villa.
"We are not thinking about the title at this moment," said Pellegrini on Saturday. "We are thinking about winning the most amount of matches."
Three away wins in the last 11 Premier League away fixtures is an indication of where form must improve.
David Moyes and Manchester United
Six matches into David Moyes' six-year contract and Manchester United lie 12th in the Premier League, two points behind Aston Villa, for whom the fixture computer fiddled an even harder start. Only Swansea and the bottom three have conceded more goals than the champions, who haven't scored from open play in the top flight since the first match of the season. It's really not going to plan.
Perhaps the worst part of United's dreadful form is that Moyes still hasn't got to grips with the increased media exposure. Since his first day in the job on July 1, the manager has looked like a rabbit in the headlights, and that uncertainty has translated to the players' performances.
First came Moyes' wide-eyed admiration of the strength in depth he suddenly had at his disposal. "The squad Manchester United has, without any additions, will be tough opponents for any team this year," said the manager of July 29. "That is the squad that finished 11 points clear in the Premier League. I am confident in that squad."
Then, after United's mixed pre-season form, Moyes voiced fears of a fixture-list conspiracy before the Premier League kick-off. "I find it hard to believe that's the way the balls came out of the bag, that's for sure," he said on August 15.
The 1-0 defeat to Liverpool was "the best we've played this season" while Moyes also added, "I wouldn't be worried if I didn't add to the squad." But then, after only Marouane Fellaini arrived on deadline day (for £4m more than his expired release clause, in case you need reminding) and following a 4-1 thrashing by City, doubts began to creep in, with the manager claiming that the reason for United's title victory "was probably the (form) of other teams that were poor".
Now United need "one or two to go right into the team". The squad lacks "five or six world-class players" to win the Champions League" and, in what is the most small-time quote for a manager of Manchester United, Moyes insisted after the defeat to West Brom that: "We will just go out and try and win the next one."
We will just go out and try and win the next one.
This is the inevitable collapse foreseen by this column last season, as goals were shipped to Reading, Stoke and Newcastle, as Norwich strived to victory in November, as record-chasing title winners took their foot of the gas to win just three of their final eight matches. Moyes certainly has a point about the deficiencies within his squad, although in persistently playing an exhausted and once sparingly used Rio Ferdinand - at fault for goals against City and West Brom - the manager hasn't heeded his own warnings.
Moyes also hasn't helped himself by haemorrhaging signs of weakness as the questions become more pointed. There is an art to saying very little that Sir Alex Ferguson mastered - mostly by banning journalists - but the apprentice is yet to realise he is carving a rod for his own back. It was the same for Brendan Rodgers last season after he stepped into Kenny Dalglish's shoes at Liverpool, and the Reds' boss is still yet to learn, boasting that his team were "churning out wins" before back-to-back defeats.
But why did Moyes claim that United aren't good enough to win the Champions League on the back of a hugely disappointing home defeat to West Brom? That may be true, but with the champions' confidence lower than it has been in a long time, the last thing the squad needed was another kicking. Moyes has already suggested that last year's title victory owes much to the weakness of United's Premier League rivals and undermining his team in this manner is unlikely to engender improved performances.
That United are struggling when Wayne Rooney is enjoying one of his purple patches is particularly worrying, and it's difficult not to feel that more woe lies ahead in Wednesday's trip to Donetsk.
Sunderland and Crystal Palace
Another week, another defeat. With 24 goals conceded between them, there is already a risk of Sunderland and Palace being cut adrift by Christmas.
Matthew Stanger - follow him on Twitter
"coming out on top in a mid-table clash perhaps isn't much to boast about" is perhaps the most delightfully bitchy comment of the season so far- quoththeraven