Has fortune favoured Premier League's brave?
While the top of the Premier League might have a familiar look to it this season, a more interesting story appears to be emerging when you cast your eyes down a little further at places six to 10. In recent seasons this is where you might usually find the likes of Liverpool, Everton, Aston Villa, or perhaps Birmingham and Fulham, all chasing European places with more than half the season gone. Not this term. Those sides already mentioned are further down the league. Six to 10 in the table currently reads: Sunderland, Bolton, Stoke, Newcastle and Blackpool. A lot can still change between now and the end of the season, but there are suggestions that these teams, which include two promoted sides, have benefitted from playing in a positive manner.
While the top of the Premier League might have a familiar look to it this season, a more interesting story appears to be emerging when you cast your eyes down a little further at places six to 10.
In recent seasons this is where you might usually find the likes of Liverpool, Everton, Aston Villa, or perhaps Birmingham and Fulham, all chasing European places with more than half the season gone.
Not this term. Those sides already mentioned are further down the league. Six to 10 in the table currently reads: Sunderland, Bolton, Stoke, Newcastle and Blackpool.
A lot can still change between now and the end of the season, but there are suggestions that these teams, which include two promoted sides, have benefitted from playing in a positive manner.
"The teams that have come up [Newcastle, West Brom and Blackpool] have shown no fear and have tried to be attacking," Blackpool boss Ian Holloway told BBC Sport.
"That's the very nature of how we all tried to get out of the Championship."
West Brom aside, are their positions a coincidence or a reflection of how attacking play has been rewarded this season?
Much has already been written about Blackpool's playing style this season, which has relied on in-demand midfielder Charlie Adam spreading the ball wide so that the attack can penetrate quickly from the wings.
But their approach has been a lesson in what taking the game to another team can achieve if it is done in the right manner.
"I've watched the Premier League since it began and there are very few promoted teams that can play that way and get away with it," said former Liverpool defender and Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen.
"You can count many sides that have come up and tried to play openly; Burnley last season and they got decimated, Derby two or three years back, but Blackpool have done it and got the results as well.
"That must mean they have a semblance of organisation, and going forward, they have guys who can score goals and create goals too. Everybody says they have been a breath of fresh air and I would go along with that. It's been a fantastic style of football and obviously terrific to watch."
Blackpool are in the Premier League's top 10 for average shots per game this season (10.9), and as if to underline their entertainers status, of the 14 matches with the most shots this term, the Seasiders have been involved in eight of them.
Also showing positive signs are the other promoted teams. West Brom have taken more shots per game on average than Manchester United (11.7 compared to 11.4), and Newcastle are second only to Wolves in the average number of attempted crosses per game. Bolton are also in the top 10 for average number of shots per game (10.9).
Elsewhere, Sunderland are 10 points better off than they were at the same stage last season, which has coincided with their decision to play with two strikers more often.
Steve Bruce's side face Blackpool at Bloomfield Road this Saturday attempting to banish the memory of the reverse fixture in December where despite 32 goal attempts to Blackpool's nine, Holloway's team ran out 2-0 winners.
Even though they will do so without last season's top scorer Darren Bent, who joined Aston Villa for £24m earlier this week, there are signs that the Black Cats might be able to cope without him in the longer term.
Bruce was indebted to Bent for his 24 league goals last season which went a long way to keeping Sunderland in the Premier League, but when he was out injured in November, Bruce scrapped his lone forward system and called on strikers Danny Welbeck and Asamoah Gyan to lead the line in tandem.
The effect was devastating as Sunderland produced a memorable performance to beat Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge, with Welbeck and Gyan both on target.
The shackles actually came off prior to that game when, fed up with his team's first-half display at Spurs when they were goalless at half-time, Bruce made the switch, resulting in a 1-1 draw.
The difference was clear, though, with Sunderland having 18 shots in the Chelsea match compared to seven against Spurs.
Bruce told BBC Sport after the Chelsea win: "Everybody who comes here plays just one striker and Chelsea are so used to it, and so patient, eventually they will break you down.
"So we just thought why not have a go? We were better against Tottenham in midweek so we thought we'll not change it."
Bruce has stuck with this policy since, at one point using Bent, Welbeck and Gyan in the same side, but with Bent gone and Welbeck now injured, he will hope that new £3m target Ricardo Fuller can step into the breach.
Thankfully, the more positive approach the Black Cats have shown has also come at a time when their defence has improved.
Sunderland are only matched by Manchester City in keeping 11 clean sheets this term, four more than they managed for the whole of last season.
That might be a more telling statistic than the decision to play two forwards, but there is an argument to say that by being more positive in attack, the defence will have less sustained pressure on them. Attack is the best form of defence, so the saying goes.
This theory could also be backed up by Blackpool's record which shows they have kept the highest number of clean sheets away from home this season (five).
Hansen says that although teams like Blackpool and Sunderland have added to the drama of the Premier League, it is their balance which have ensured profitable seasons so far.
"If you are the manager and you play openly against the bigger teams you are ultimately taking a chance, but sometimes these chances pay off," he said.
"And because it has paid off for Blackpool or Sunderland it might pay off for a lot of other teams that traditionally might go and play tight.
"You wouldn't expect the bottom sides to go to Arsenal and play wide open because they would get trounced. We saw that at the start of the season with Blackpool where they lost 6-0 at the Emirates and I think Ian Holloway learned from that.
"He is still going away from home and playing open but you've got to get the balance right between attack and defence.
"Some people might say I'm cynical, but I think this is the first season since the Premier League began where the lesser teams have played openly and have got away with it, and it might be because the top four aren't as good as they used to be.
"For example if you played against Manchester United a few years ago when they had Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney playing, you would get absolutely annihilated. I think the only team that is capable of doing that now against the lesser sides is Arsenal."
Hansen points to West Brom as an example of a promoted team who have been playing openly and have suffered five straight league defeats around the turn of the year to leave Roberto di Matteo's team close to the relegation zone. But before that run they memorably beat Arsenal 3-2 at the Emirates in September.
So with promoted teams Blackpool and Newcastle in the Premier League's top 10, Sunderland sixth and Bolton showing a resurgence under manager Owen Coyle, has positive play been rewarded?
Is this why the Premier League is so open and exciting this season?You can also send your ideas for future analysis to me on Twitter