If 20 points were deducted from all teams in the EPL, those that were still left in positive figures could probably say they have a chance of winning the title. Those on or below zero (including Tottenham and Newcastle) are realistically not going to challenge, so it’s a 7 horse race for the title at this stage. This is not just based on points but also on form to this stage of the season. Tottenham however will be given the benefit of the doubt based on previous seasons and could potentially start to challenge from now on if their form improves. However without Bale and with their new signings mis-firing it does seem increasingly unlikely.
Top of the table as of 27th November 2013 (with 20 points deducted)
1. Arsenal 8 points
2. Liverpool 4 points
3. Chelsea 4 points
4. Man City 2 points
5. Southampton 2 points
6. Man Utd 1 point
7. Everton 1 point
8. Tottenham 0 points
The leaders Arsenal are 6 points clear but have yet to play Chelsea (h) and Man City (a) in December. They have already lost to Man United, so head to head with fellow title challengers will be the key to Arsenals success or failure. If they remain 6 points clear by mid-January they will have to be taken very seriously as potential champions.
Who to buy in January window: A back up to Giroud.
Below Arsenal are Liverpool and they too have still to play Man City at the Etihad (on Boxing Day). Assuming Man City continue to be invincible at home, then Liverpool will slip back into the pack at this stage. Based on previous seasons, the start of this season has been fantastic for Liverpool but they will find it hard to sustain their early form and will likely suffer from a lack of squad depth if injuries start to mount.
Who to buy in January window: A leader on the pitch besides Gerard and another striker.
Chelsea are currently level on points with Liverpool and will continue to gain strength from the Mourinho mentality that will surely re-surface within his team before long. Like the Manchester clubs, Chelsea have had a bad start to the season by their standards but are now showing signs of strengthening in the league. At the business end of the season they will certainly be in the mix and could easily win the title again under the "not so special one this time round".
Who to buy in January window: No one is required – only improved tactics and mentality.
Manchester City have played open and attractive football at home putting everyone to the sword with relative ease. It is therefore a mystery of epic proportions that they cannot win away consistently. If this can be rectified (and it is still a big "if"), then even Mourinho’s Chelsea will struggle to peg them back. Out of all teams this season it has been City who look most like Champions (at home) but also-rans away.
Who to buy in January window: No one is required – defence is a problem but it’s not just personnel who are to blame; formation and responsibility play a part as well.
Southampton are definitely this seasons surprise package. This time last season it was West Brom who were in 4th position and the season before that it was Newcastle. Both the afore-mentioned clubs fell away towards the end of the season so Southampton may suffer from similar vertigo eventually this time around, however Pochettino is definitely one to watch for the future and a top 8 finish with his Southampton squad is realistic this season.
Who to buy in January window: the squad is light on quality so any quality reinforcement is a good thing.
Man United so far, are a stop-start side and show little of the consistent form that brought them the title last year. They seem to be a team lacking cohesion and the new signings have not gelled at all, especially in midfield. Without van Persie fit and scoring regularly they will not be serious challengers with Chelsea or City this time around come May. However with RvP they cannot be ruled out just yet.
Who to buy in January window: time to look at the midfield cohesion and buy someone in the mould of Wilshere or Silva.
Everton have been much better to watch under Martinez and will no doubt fight it out for European places. They are a long way off being considered title challengers due to a lack of quality in key areas. The blend of youth and experience is however working well enough for top 6 finish and they could potentially challenge for a Champions league spot if Arsenal or Liverpool fall away badly.
Who to buy in January window: similar to Southampton, the Everton squad is light on quality so any top draw reinforcement is a good thing.
So, do we know the likely top 4 yet? Yes we do, it's the same teams that are in the top 4 right now. The order remains to be determined as yet but we should have a good idea of that by the end of January.