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, thus far. 

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 hours… 

The big game of the weekend was Manchester City V Arsenal, and as predicted City took the game, but only just.

Manchester CityManchester 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 to Wigan.

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 top-flight win. 

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 win-happy Spurs!

Merry Xmas to us all!