Heroes & Villains: Featuring, for some reason, Abel Xavier

Rounding up the weekend's Premier League victors and varmints...


Sergio AgueroWhile the Argentina forward’s speedy assimilation into Premier League life surprised few pundits outside Isleworth, this shouldn’t stop us revelling in what has been one of the most eye-catching arrivals in English football since Abel Xavier’s hair/beard combo.

Six goals and one assist in four matches that have seen his new team net 15 times represents as good a start as any made by a Premier League ‘noob’ in recent times, and the 23-year-old’s hat-trick against Wigan demonstrated the quick feet and quicker mind that have see him so instantly click with his new teammates.

Wayne RooneyIn continuation of the theme of this fledgling Premier League season, the Mancunians playing second more than matched their rivals’ earlier efforts. At Bolton, a second successive league hat-trick took Wayne Rooney to eight goals already as United waltzed with growlingly familiar ease to a rampant win.

It’s curious to think that at the turn of the year, United were struggling for points away from home and Wayne Rooney was looking a shadow of his former self. United’s second league victory away from home last term came on New Year's Day, while Rooney didn’t hit the eight-goal mark in the league until the day after April Fool's Day.

Emmanuel AdebayorSpurs are likely to be heavily dependent on Adebayor over the course of the season, and Harry Redknapp will no doubt take great encouragement from a debut performance that saw Spurs move off the bottom of the Premier League after successive shoeings from the Manchesters.

The Togo striker didn’t hang about in making an impact for his new club Tottenham, leading the line in a way Peter Crouch could only dream of and scoring a calmly-taken goal that sees him move within three of the Stokeward-bound forward’s league tally of last term.

Rubén RochinaMore than seven months after moving to Ewood Park, and two days after Jon Champion told FFT that the Spaniard needed to "come through and show what [he's] made of", the former Barcelona B-teamer finally got his Blackburn career up and running with an impressive performance with helped Rovers to their first point of the campaign with a 1-1 draw at Fulham.

Although some of his longer-range passing was a bit wide of the mark, Rochina was more than willing to get his hands dirty, making seven successful tackles and two defensive clearances. But his most notable contribution, of course, was the spectacular 32nd-minute drive from the edge of the Fulham box that left Mark Schwarzer helpless and gave Steve Kean’s side the lead.

Daniel Sturridge
The Chelsea starlet could quite easily have upped sticks for any one of the host of clubs interested in his services this summer, having proven himself a Premier League quality striker during his six-month loan spell at Bolton. But instead he knuckled down, impressed the Blues' new manager Andre Villas-Boas and is now keeping ‘Fifty Million Pound Misfit’ Fernando Torres kicking his expensive heels on the sideline.

Meanwhile Sturridge used his own heels to devastating effect, deftly flicking past a bamboozled Simon Mignolet to seal three points for the West Londoners at the Stadium of Light. Cue England speculation, what with Mr Capello apparently now very much down with the kidz.


Kevin DaviesIt’s not too hard to imagine Davies as a ranch worker during the American Depression, unaware of his own strength and accidentally crushing a mouse. Not if you’re familiar with the work of John Steinbeck, anyway. As has been noted, the Bolton battering-ram is one of the Premier League’s most fouled players as well as one of its most persistent foulers, but he was definitely the sinner on Saturday evening – clattering Tom Cleverley in the third minute, then clobbering Patrice Evra in the 12th. While the French full-back was fortunate enough to avoid injury, the young midfielder was left with ligament damage and four weeks out of action. We’re sure the big lummox didn’t mean any harm…

Gabriel TamasThe West Brom defender caught Norwich’s James Vaughan with an injury-time elbow which was at best clumsy and at worst massively thuggish. The Romanian appeared to have a quick glance over his shoulder before swinging an arm in the direction of the former Everton striker, who was left both furious and in need of surgery. "James has gone to see the plastic surgeon, and it's a bad one," said Canaries boss Paul Lambert. "It has gone straight through the lip and they can't just stitch it up, the specialist has got to look at it.”

Michel Vorm
Football is a fickle game. Last month’s be-gloved superhero can be this month’s bumbling clown – just ask Heurelho Gomes. Swansea’s Dutch keeper became an instant hit after an impressive debut performance against Manchester City and back-to-back clean sheets against Wigan and Sunderland, but the blame for Saturday’s narrow defeat at the Emirates will lay solely at his door.

His overly ambitious quick throw toward a congested area of the pitch saw the ball rebound off his own player and fall kindly for Andrei Arshavin, who was left with an opportunity even he couldn’t botch.

Sunderland’s defenceImagine for a moment you are a Premier League defender, and your club has sold its two star strikers over the previous two transfer windows. You can't help that, but you know it’s time to step up to the plate and show a desire to dig deep, battle and throw your body on the line (in the most literal sense) for the cause.

Sadly for Sunderland, their back four adopted a rather more lackadaisical approach to keeping Chelsea at bay during the first half of their meeting with the Londoners on Saturday, instead opting to let John Terry and co do pretty much as they pleased in the penalty area. Between them they spurned three chances to properly clear the ball after Juan Mata’s freekick had come back off the post, with John Terry – criminally unmarked at the far post – able to slot home from a tight angle at the second time of asking.

Jamie CarragherYou can always count on ‘Carra’ for an honest assessment of a controversial incident, but his frankness when asked about the penalty he conceded at Stoke was perhaps telling. The Liverpool defender said that he didn’t get a clear view of a coming-together that saw Mark Clattenburg award a penalty for a foul on Jonathan Walters as he was “too close to see." Perhaps, Jamie, that’s because you had your arm wrapped around him as he looked to ghost past you...