It’s almost Christmas and there’s plenty to cheer about in the Premier League. Some teams have been naughty some teams nice and the 16th round of matches threw up some crackers last weekend.
The last weekend before Christmas saw a temporary
change at the top of the table, 18
goals, a single goalless match, six clean sheets, seven wins (three home and
four away), three draws and while some streaks were extended, some broke.
Almost exactly as predicted, Liverpool continued to stake their claim to “Big Four” status with a one-sided
2-0 victory over Aston Villa. In fact it was only the woodwork that stopped the
predicted scoreline. Check out the soccer betting odds on a decent finish to the season for
Liverpool, they’re 15/8 to record a top four finish.
The Pool have now gone 11
matches without conceding more than one goal, the longest streak in the league.
It was bad news following bad as that defeat put Villa 10th in the league and a
mere six points above the relegation zone. Don’t back them to drop out of the
top flight at 12/1, as they are at least three teams in dire-er straights that
the Villains. Craig Bellamy was the man behind the win for Liverpool scoring
one goal and creating another in the space of four minutes that saw Villa two
down after just 15 minutes of play. Liverpool now have the best defensive
record in the top flight, conceding only 13 goals and keeping six clean sheets,
Plenty of Ho ho ho and Woe woe woe.
Blackburn continue to circle the drain as the shouts
for the head of Steve Kean get louder by the week. Their 2-1 defeat to WBA
after a last-gasp goal from Peter Odemwingie piled on the pressure and Kean’s
now 2/5 to be shown the door. The result may not have been a surprise but
remarkably it was West Brom's first ever Premier League away win in December
and their first win at Ewood Park in 20 years. The stats for Blackburn speak
for themselves as they have won just twice in the Premier League this season
and seven times in the past 12 months, they’ve dropped a league-high 12 points
from winning positions AND are yet to keep a clean sheet this season .
Taxi for Kean (and Coyle)?
The only manager who seems to be challenging Steve
Kean for the sack is Bolton’s Owen Coyle, who soccer odds now list at 7/4 after Fulham
turned the screws further on Bolton with a 2-0 victory. Bolton have now lost 18
of their last 20 Premier League games. Fulham heaped on more misery with goals
from Clint Dempsey and Bryan Ruiz, that made it five defeats on the bounce for
the Trotters and their seventh loss in eight games. The win propelled the
Cottagers, who had until recently been linked with a relegation scrap, to 11th
in the table, but it kept Bolton on the foot of the table.
One of the weekend’s three draws was a close run and
entertaining affair that saw Everton and Norwich record a goal and a point
apiece. The Toffees dominated overall and created a series of chances, but it
was the Canaries who took the lead thanks to Grant Holt’s shot into the corner.
Later it fell to Leon Osman to rescued a point for Everton and avoid a fifth
home defeat in eight league games this season. A draw from a losing position is
still a point earned, but worryingly Everton have not kept a clean sheet in 11
home games (in all competitions) this season.
Close but no cigar.
Once again Newcastle very nearly equalled the
predicted score but in their match against Swansea (who have now failed to score in eight
matches this term) the woodwork denied the Magpies and gave us the only goaless
game of the weekend. It meant Newcastle dropped points to a newly promoted team
for the second successive match and Swansea recorded just their third away
point of the 2011-12 campaign. While this result pushes Newcastle's run without
a win to five games. On a more positive note this was Newcastle’s first clean
sheet in seven Premier League matches.
QPR versus Manchester United was as one sided as
predicted, but not quite the winning margin I expected. The 2-0 win took the reigning
champions to the top of the table ahead of City’s kickoff against Arsenal.
Goals from Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick mean that United have now scored in
their last six away games. But their time at the top was to last just four
The big game of the weekend was Manchester City V
Arsenal, and as predicted City took the game, but only just.
Manchester City returned to the Premier League summit
after a (very) brief spell when David Silva pounced after Mario Balotelli's
shot was saved to score the only goal in a thrilling and hard fought match. It
was a very low scoring win (by City standards) but Sergio Aguero fired over
early on and Pablo Zabaleta hit the post to limit the score, as Fergie knows
all to well a 1-0 win is still three points, and City restored their two-point
lead at the top over their local rivals.
As well as topping the league the win
means that City remain unbeaten at the Etihad Stadium in 2011, having drawn
just two of 28 games in the last year and won all eight of their home league
games this season scoring 25 goals. Arsenal's loss was their first in nine
games and leaves them 12 points off the top of the table.
Struggling Wigan earned a massive home point from
their spirited 1-1 draw with Chelsea. It was a frustrating draw (that felt like
a defeat) for Chelsea who were looking to record their first four game winning
run in the league (under AV-B). The fact that it marked 18 meetings without a
clean sheet for Wigan will be scant consolation to Chelsea and an irrelevance
It wasn’t enough to drag them out of the relegation mire as, remember
Wigan have only won once at home (and have taken just 2 points from a possible
18 in their last six home games and 6 from a possible 24 all season). Chelsea
took the lead when Daniel Sturridge fired home from Ashley Cole's pass, but
Wigan refused to give up and when Rodallega's shot was spilt by Petr Cech
straight to Gomez, it required just a simple tap-in. That sort of performance
might well keep Wigan in the top flight next year.
Finally Wolves, who were on a two game winning run,
faced Stoke who were on a three game winning run. Wolves had never before won
three on the bounce in Premier League history, and they still haven’t. Stoke
can now count themselves as the Premier League’s inform side as they have won
Four games on the bounce.
It was an against the odds result as the visitors
were trailing the game after Stephen Hunt's penalty put the home side ahead
(and Stoke hadn’t won an away game where the opposition have scored since
September 2010) but Stoke showed the sort of resilience they will need ahead of
their Europa League Campaign with two goals in 12 second-half minutes. It was
the first time since 1981 that the Potters had managed a fourth successive
Another side on an impressive run is Spurs. They made
it nine wins form their last 11 meetings with Sunderland and insured that
Martin O’Neil’s return to Premier League management will be a challenge with
their 1-0 win over Sunderland. Martin O’Neil will hardly relish playing against
Harry Redknapp as he has now won just one (and lost ten) of his last 17 games
against ‘arry. Roman Pavlyuchenko's steady second-half strike was sufficient to
see off a Sunderland side who were hardworking, but lacking in creativity, and
send Spurs up to third spot in the table as they recorded their sixth
successive home victory in realative comfort.
Looking ahead to the pre-Xmas rush
Tuesday night sees two big games for the bottom of the
table as Wolves host Norwich and Blackburn host Bolton in a relegation / sack
race six pointer.
Wednesday night sees seven games ahead of Xams and
Santa’s arrival. Arsenal travel to Aston Villa looking to take advantage of a
stuttering side and get back to winning ways. Man City host Stoke and will
expect to spoil their run, but will likely find the Potters a tough nut to
crack. Newcastle have another home game to try and return to winning ways as
they welcome the ill-travelled West Brom. Swansea travel to Everton in a comfy
(as fireside slippers) mid-table clash. Fulham (who are one of just three sides
who have taken points off the league leaders, have a chance to do the same to
United at Craven Cottage. Martin O’Neil and Sunderland will fancy their chances
against QPR and Wigan have another easy (not) game to try and escape the drop
zone when they host Liverpool.
There’s just the one game on Thursday and that’s a
little matter of a London derby between previous champions Chelsea and
Merry Xmas to us all!