Heroes & Villains: Punches, crunches and dribbling morons

For this midweek only we’re flipping Heroes and Villains as, well, there weren’t really as many decent heroes as villains. Look, we don’t have to conform to your damn conventions...

RESULTS Tue 9 Nov Stoke City 3-2 Birmingham City, Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Sunderland Wed 10 Nov West Ham United 2-2 West Bromwich Albion, Wigan Athletic 1-1 Liverpool, Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Arsenal, Aston Villa 3-2 Blackpool, Chelsea 1-0 Fulham, Newcastle United 1-2 Blackburn Rovers, Everton 1-1 Bolton Wanderers, Manchester City 0-0 Manchester United

VILLAINS

Manchester City and Manchester UnitedThe boos you heard at the end of this match weren’t from the home fans, rather from us poor, put-upon neutrals who have had to endure weeks of tedious hyperbolic build-up to this match, without the pay-off of 90 minutes' entertainment. Booo. Obviously, we jest, and the boos really were from the City faithful, and although a point against Manchester United isn’t ever to be sniffed at, the home side’s approach to the game was over-cautious bordering on the flat-out negative. Boooo.

One salient fact: there was only one offside during the whole match. That’s how often the two teams looked to play their forwards in behind. Booooo. United will be the happier, and looked the more likely to win the match, but ultimately both sides will reflect on this match as an opportunity missed - City for adopting such a restrained approach and United for not taking advantage of City’s edginess. Boooooo.

Did we say booooooo?

Lee CattermoleYou’ve got to wonder what on earth is going through this chap’s head. Having been sent off twice already this season, the Sunderland midfielder hurtled into a challenge with Spurs midfielder Luka Modric with two feet off the ground, clipping the top of the ball before clattering the Croatian and sending him flying.

While "getting the ball first" may be enough for dribbling morons like Sky Sports' Tony Gale, it’s not enough for those who would rather not see more injuries of the nature we saw inflicted on Hatem Ben Arfa last month.

Ironically, of course, Cattermole wouldn’t have even played at White Hart Lane had he been sent off for what looked a suspiciously deliberate goal-line handball on Saturday. Ho-hum.

Michael EssienThey call this "doing a Balotelli" in the blue half of Manchester, that is when they’re not sleeping or booing. The Ghana midfielder may have scored what proved to be the only goal of Wednesday evening’s derby win over Fulham, but didn’t help Chelsea’s cause by later being sent off on his return from injury after going in two-footed with studs showing on Clint Dempsey. There may not have been much contact, but it was certainly a bit reckless, and a lot stupid. Another little break for you, Michael.

Marouane FellainiAnother idiot, the disco-loving Belgian thought the dying minutes of a home match in which his side were losing was the right time to try and stud the admittedly irritating Paul Robinson in the swingers. To be fair to Fellaini, his side levelled the match once he had been given his marching orders, so perhaps he was onto something.

Joey BartonWhy, Joey, why? You’ve had a very impressive start to the season, playing a key role in Newcastle’s surprise climb to fifth, then you go and thump the admittedly irritating Morten Gamst Pedersen in the stomach, almost certainly meaning you’ll be handed a ban by the FA. Why? Sorry, what’s that? It’s because you’re a hot-headed fool who’ll never learn? Oh, OK then.

Cesc FabregasHe may well have apologised as profusely as a morning-after wife-beater, but the contrition came too late - much like the Spaniard’s "meaty" tackle on Stephen Ward that lead to the Wolves man being stretchered off. It certainly would have had Arsene Wenger kicking Lucozade bottles over the stand had the boot been on the other foot (or embedded into the other calf).

Aston Villa fansIn the words of Delia Smith; “Where are yous? [hic] Letsh be havin yeeeeew!” Sure, a clash with Blackpool’s B-team on a chilly November evening might not set the pulses racing, much like the bulk of Villa’s football this season, but a Premier League crowd 8,000 below capacity is pretty poor for a club with top-four ambitions.

HEROES

Marouane ChamakhArsene Wenger’s big summer signing (in terms of expected impact, if not price, seeing as he was on a free) has had a steady if unspectacular start to life in English football, acting as a slightly more consistent ‘direct option’ than Nicklas Bendtner.

The Moroccan couldn’t have wished for a much better start to Wednesday evening's game at Wolves, heading home Alex Song’s right-wing cross after just 37 seconds to put Arsenal into an early lead. He ended it pretty well too, holding his run to stay onside before galloping onto the end of Cesc Fabregas’s chipped through ball and dinking the ball past Marcus Hahnemann.

Jason RobertsFrom not having a squad number at the start of the season, to being the man to score two successive winners. Not a bad week at all for Blackburn’s striker. The former Wigan and West Brom man didn’t play a second of football this term until coming on against Chelsea 10 days ago and while he may not have looked particularly sharp that day, you can’t question his impact since. Now he has good cause to expect to make his first start of the season at Tottenham on Saturday.

Nathan DelfounesoThe youngster looked lively throughout Aston Villa’s win over Blackpool, and was maybe unlucky to see a 56th-minute header ruled out for a fairly innocuous bit of climbing as he battled to outjump his marker. No bother, as it turned out: minutes later, the teenager beat the Blackpool offside trap to smash Villa into a 2-1 lead anyway.

Mike DeanWe always like to make a point of praising referees when they get things right, if only because it seems to have been a fairly rare occurrence in the Premier League this season, so step forward Mr Michael Leslie Dean, 42, of the Wirral.

The man in the middle at Upton Park awarded two penalties that, while entirely correct, would more often than not probably be waved away by the man in black. One for each team too, so it was all lovely and even. Beautiful.

Jermaine BeckfordIt’s been a long time coming, but the former Leeds striker will be massively boosted by scoring his first Premier League. And in some style too, curling home brilliantly in the dying seconds of the match at the home end to secure a hard-fought point for his team.

Asamoah GyanOne chance, one goal, one Bent-shaped hole in Sunderland’s attack firmly plugged. You can’t really ask for much more than that, can you?

StokeFinally, praise for a team bullied for most of the season by certain FFT bloggers. Having lost five successive matches, they could easily have crumbled after blowing a two-goal lead – but against Birmingham on Tuesday, the Potters dug deep and unearthed a brilliant 3-2 victory.

This was the kind of grit and determination we became accustomed to seeing from Tony Pulis’s side in their first two Premier League seasons, but that has been missing so far this term. You sense if there’s to be a turning point in their season, this may well be it.

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