United, City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs are all still in with a shout of lifting the Barclays Premier League crown as we speed towards February. This was not in the script. When the starting gun sounded in August, it was meant to be like that old Milky Way advert: the red car and the blue car having a race. Nobody could see past United and Chelsea. But neither of the superpowers have pulled away and the whole top five have been weighed down by dropped points.
Spurs showed us last weekend they are not ready to rollover. 'Arry and company represent a new era at White Hart Lane. The Lillywhites have seen what big boys can do and now feel they're ready to match it. Indeed they've already spent part of this season ahead of Ancelotti's ageing eleven. Carlo can finally call on a patched-up Frank Lampard to rally his men but Chelsea have a lot to do after under indulging around Christmas. After sweeping everyone aside in August, September and October, the Stamford Bridge boys are now counting the cost of a bout of relegation form as the decorations were going up.
Arsenal are looking down on Roman's empire and mustn't be discounted, at least not yet. We're still waiting for the Gunners' much-maligned soft centre to rear its head. So far, Arsene Wenger's troops have been typically free-flowing going forward and decently resolute at the back. Critics still question what will happen if the goals run out and the rearguard becomes a bit more flakey. But then, maybe it won't.
Then there's City. So often Manchester's footballing bridesmaids, now their owners have set about purchasing an upgrade from economy to first class. There is a solid confident off-field swagger about the Blues at the moment which isn't always evident on the pitch. They have the players to be a real threat this season but the team seems to be strangled by defensive urges and rumours of infighting and pay-packet wars. Both method and madness in equal measure.