Granny huggers and leg breakers

We run through those who made the weekend's Premier League action great and who made the weekend's Premier League action grate...

HEROES:

Didier Drogba

Perhaps the least surprising element of the weekend’s Premier League action was Didier Drogba popping up to score his obligatory goal against Arsenal, taking his tally against the Gunners to 13 in 13 matches - unlucky for some (and by some, we mean Arsenal).

The Ivorian has had a incredible start to the season, leaving struggling rivals Fernando Torres and Wayne Rooney in his goalscoring wake, while also chipping in with a fair few assists too.

While the deft flick that beat Arsenal keeper Lukasz Fabianski at his near post before trickling across the goal line may have initially looked inadvertent, on closer inspection it appears more likely to have been intentional, and a reminder that he is as capable of moments of subtle brilliance as he is those of brute strength.

The best striker in the world right now? Perhaps. The best in the Premier League? Certainly.

"You see that, I did it on purpose..."

Rafael van der Vaart

Not for the first time at Spurs, Van der Vaart made all the headlines. Headlines including phrases like ‘Double Dutch’, ‘Dutch Courage’ and ‘Dutch Oven’ - wait, not the last one...

The former Ajax, Hamburg and Real Madrid playmaker has quickly become the darling of the White Hart Lane faithful, and already looks like becoming the North Londoners’ talisman having scored four goals in his first three appearances at White Hart Lane. Also, he hugged a granny after he scored his first goal on Saturday, which is always nice to see, isn’t it?

Roberto Martinez

Two weeks into the season, following comprehensive pastings at the hands of Blackpool and Chelsea, this blog reasoned that Wigan would be humiliatingly relegated should they fail to change their free-flowing ways and tighten up at the back. Sure enough, the very next week they went to White Hart Lane, parked the bus, and ground out three points.

Since those early hammerings, the Latics have accrued a not unreasonable eight points from five matches and now sit 14th in the Premier League, having combined defensive solidness with a smattering of flair to overcome Wolves at the DW stadium in Saturday’s early kick-off.Blackpool

The headlines following this match may have all revolved around Liverpool’s ‘crisis’ and Roy Hodgson’s future, but credit should really go to Blackpool for a competent yet dynamic performance which saw the away team more than deserve the three points.

Holloway points the way to success, or something...

Playing without fear on the road is clearly bearing fruit for the Tangerines at this relatively early stage of the season, and this haul of away points could keep Blackpool in the warmth of the top 17 places of the Premier League in those cold winter months.

(Footnote: The result was less of a shock to those who receive FourFourTwo's Friday "Weekender" newsletter, which pointed out that Blackpool should be favourites at Anfield. For more wisdom and nonsense, sign up; if you're already a member, click "Edit Profile", "Email" and "Receive Emails".)

Lee Mason

For having the balls to send a player off in the 11th minute – many would have, possibly subconsciously, ruled it ‘too early’. But more on that in a second…

VILLAINS

Karl Henry

Frankly, this has been coming for a couple of weeks. Karl Henry is a decent footballer and an important figure as Wolves defied expectations and avoided relegation from the Premier League last season. However this season he seems to be hell-bent on ruffling the feathers of his opponents, using brute force rather than the ball.

It’s highly improbable Henry is setting out to injure his opponents, but that’s the risk he’s running every time he throws himself into one of his ‘full-blooded challenges’.

Karl Henry, almost certainly 'that kind of player''

Saturday’s would-be bone-cruncher on Wigan’s Jordi Gomez was particularly stupid: rightly red-carded by referee Lee Mason, it left his team-mates facing 79 minutes a man down. “It’s a shame for Karl,” explained his manager Mick McCarthy, before reasoning that Henry "wasn’t that kind of player". Could’ve fooled us on the evidence of the last month…

Gomez was fortunate he was able to continue the match – had his leg been planted in the turf he almost certainly would’ve been seriously injured – and also to be able to avenge the foul in the best way possible, by curling in a brilliant free-kick to seal the points for the hosts.

Nigel De Jong

While Gomez was lucky to avoid injury, Newcastle’s Hatem Ben Arfa didn't share his good fortune. The Frenchman was left with a broken left tibia and fibula after another ‘full-blooded’ challenge (possibly literally in this case, we didn’t get a good enough look at Ben Arfa’s sock...)

Pundits quickly queued to defend De Jong, with Chris Waddle reasoning that the Dutchman had won the ball first, and Kevin Keegan explaining that De Jong had "just wanted to let [Ben Arfa] know he’s there". But Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk disagreed, lamenting the tackle as "wild and unnecessary" and stating he had no alternative but to drop the Man City midfielder from the latest Dutch squad.

Nige woz 'ere...

It's irrelevant that De Jong made contact with the ball before the man. The Dutchman, much like Henry the day before, had no control over his movement once he’d wildly thrown himself into the challenge and was unable to stop himself clattering the Newcastle winger.

Ignore, too, the claim he’s "not that kind of player" (itself rather debatable, as shown when he planted one on Xabi Alonso’s chest during the World Cup final) – this was a matter of recklessness rather than intent.

Martin Atkinson

Not sending off De Jong is an error we can perhaps let slide – after all, it happened very quickly - but when combined with getting the only other two big calls of Sunday’s match wrong, you have to say the Yorkshire official had a stinker.

Newcastle have every right to feel aggrieved after an impressive performance at Eastlands saw a return with a grand total of zilch given that a) Mike Williamson clearly won the ball from Carlos Tevez when Atkinson awarded City a first-half penalty, and b) Joleon Lescott’s clumsy clout on Shola Ameobi in the area went unpunished.

Glen Johnson

We all knew defending wasn’t his strongest suit, but the lack of defensive awareness displayed by the England international in all but handing Blackpool’s two goals to them on a plate was still baffling.

The former Chelsea and Portsmouth right-back was culpable for both goals, firstly clumsily hauling down Luke Varney to gift the Tangerines a penalty duly converted by Charlie Adam, before playing Varney onside for the striker to score the visitors’ second.

"Oops, my bad..."

Alex Song

Nobody wants to get belted in the face (or worse) by a 62mph piledriver of a freekick, but that’s really an occupational hazard of being a professional footballer.

It may sound harsh on Gunners midfielder Song, but had he stood firm when facing Chelsea defender Alex’s second half free-kick, he would’ve copped one in the mush but prevented the Blues from doubling their lead – during a period of the game in which it had largely been all Arsenal. Things could have ended quite differently.

Mike Phelan

“We’re not going to blame a burst pipe for us failing to win, but it may have had an effect on some of the players.” No idea where he could’ve picked that up from...

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