It was one of those rare and strange Premier League gameweeks where very little unexpected happened.
The top teams all won (apart from Tottenham, who were playing the ‘toppest’ of them all in Manchester City) and the bottom sides lost – it was a weekend of ‘how it should be’ style action.
But as ever, heroes were crowned and villains emerged; here’s who took top billing in Gameweek 18:
Winner: Raheem Sterling
It’s a curiously British trait to resent those who flaunt their wealth; as if we would all ourselves be shrinking violets and drive a clapped-out Talbot Samba if we were paid £100,000 a week.
Raheem Sterling doesn’t necessarily help himself with his social media postings showing off his considerable fortune, but at the end of the day he is a young man who has worked hard for his money, rather than inheriting it or living a lie as an E4 created reality TV ‘brand’.
The ‘hate’ for Sterling culminated this week with an allegation of racially-aggravated assault on the England winger at Manchester City’s training ground. Another shining example of the idiocy of a small minority of football ‘fans’ in this day and age.
At least Sterling can be content with how things are going out on the pitch. Kevin de Bruyne took the headlines for his virtuoso display, but it was the Englishman’s brace of goals that ultimately fired City’s 4-1 win over Tottenham on Saturday.
He may not get anywhere near the credit he should, but Sterling remains England’s brightest hope ahead of the World Cup next summer.
Loser: Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez showed a tremendous amount of loyalty in sticking with Newcastle United even after they were relegated to the Championship, but you sense that the Spaniard may soon be about to find out that in football at least loyalty isn’t a two-way street.
Eight defeats in nine starts has plunged the Magpies into the relegation picture, and while a couple of those losses were tinged with bad luck the history books rarely re-tell those moments of misfortune.
Newcastle are undergoing a takeover bid, it would seem, so upheaval on the pitch would ideally be kept to a minimum. However, if action isn’t taken soon then the Geordies may slip back to the second tier from whence they came.
Winner: Wilfried Zaha
If you have ambitions of making a big money move, December is the ideal time to start turning in some big performances.
In fairness, Wilfried Zaha has been excellent for a good few months, but the Ivorian has really kicked on since the appointment of Roy Hodgson as England boss.
He has been playing up front of late alongside Christian Benteke, and has proven to be a revelation in the Eagles’ flight up the Premier League table. He and Benteke both found the net in Saturday’s 3-0 crushing of Leicester.
And scouts from top clubs across the continent will have been put on red alert by the tricky forward’s efforts. With a World Cup year just around the corner, a move to a big club may be just what Zaha needs.
Loser: Glenn Murray
If Glenn Murray had scored the penalty he won for Brighton against Burnley on Saturday, there’s every chance his side would have gone five points clear of the dropzone heading into the festive period.
But he missed, or should we say ballooned his effort into row Z, and the contest ended goalless.
As such, the Seagulls are just three points above the relegation places heading into the busy Yuletide fixture list.
To be fair, most Brighton fans would probably have settled for that status at the start of the season, but if Murray could have hit the target with his spot kick then things could have been so much better for the South Coast side.
Winner: David Moyes
All hail Saint David! West Ham boasted the worst defensive record in the Premier League when the Scot took over, and look at them now: three clean sheets on the spin has lead to seven points taken from nine available, and the Hammers have climbed the table handsomely as a result.
It’s been good to see from one of British football’s most poorly-treated managers. After doing an outstanding job at Everton, he was always doomed to failure in his next three jobs – replacing Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, speaking no Spanish yet joining Real Sociedad, and taking over at a Sunderland outfit terminally damaged by the mis-management of the club’s owners.
It’s early days, but Moyes looks poised to mend his damaged reputation as a manager of some character.
Loser: Troy Deeney
When you’ve got eleven players missing through injury or suspension, the last thing you need is for your captain to be sidelined for three games after making the most stupid of decisions.
But Marco Silva’s headache this Christmas will be due to a lack of options on the pitch, rather than the result of too much port, after witnessing Troy Deeney sent off for a wild lunge on the half-hour mark of his side’s 1-4 defeat to Huddersfield.
The frontman now joins a list of absentees that includes Chalobah, Hughes, Kaboul, Zeegelaar, Doucoure, Success, Britos, Okaka, Femenia, Cathcart and Hoban
The Hornets are only seven points clear of the drop, and with fixtures upcoming against the likes of Brighton and Swansea they will be desperate not to get sucked into a relegation battle.