Heroes & Villains: Pickpockets, Greg Goodridge and soggy sandwiches

The goodies and the goofers from the weekend's Premier League action, as rated by James Maw


David Silva

As the half the civilised world fell over themselves desperately trying to squeeze Sergio Aguero into their Fantasy Football XI, the elegant Spaniard's brilliant start to the 2011/12 season in last Monday’s win over Swansea was relatively overlooked.

Not so this week, however. Silva was the undisputed star of the show as a pleasingly expansive City edged to a 3-2 victory over Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok. While there may have been an element of fortune about Silva's opener, it was deserved reward for another 90 minutes of probing passing and pocket-picking.

Roberto Mancini will rest easy in the knowledge that, while would be title-rivals Manchester United and Chelsea are still believed to be desperately seeking to add a splash of creative genius to their midfield, he’s got that area well covered – Nasri or no Nasri.

Alex McLeish
The new Villa boss will be delighted to have taken four points from his first two games since making the potentially sticky trip across town from Birmingham. Not least as it will allay the fears of Villa’s home crowd who, let’s face it, haven’t often held back when sticking it to unwanted occupants of the managerial hot seat.

Getting off to a good start will be crucial to avoid a repeat of last season's destructive terrace grumbling. And the locals will have been impressed by a generally less restrained performance than they’ve become accustomed to in the last 12 months, as Villa dispatched an admittedly sorry-looking Blackburn.

When you’ve been tonked 4-0 on your own patch in your opening fixture, you’ll probably be grateful to be away to a team with their own on- and off-pitch problems a week later. That’s not to say anybody expected QPR to return from their trip to Everton with anything more than a few match-day programmes and the Z Cars theme-tune stuck in their heads, not least because the Rs squad was hit by a virus in the 24 hours before the match.

But, against the odds, Rangers sealed their first Premier League away win since Greg Goodridge (yeah, exactly) netted in a 3-1 victory at Sheffield Wednesday (yeah, exactly) in February 1996. The victory, combined with the long-awaited buy-out of the club by lifelong West Ham fan Tony Fernandes, should have QPR fans looking ahead to the coming season with wide-eyed excitement rather than trepidation.

Ross Barkley

The tiniest slither of a silver lining for Everton came in the form of debutant Ross Barkley. The 17-year-old battled back from a broken leg last October to make his Premier League bow in the Toffees’ belated opener, and wowed the home faithful with a dynamic and energetic performance on a day when several of the club’s bigger stars went into hiding.

Sadly, he was denied a fairytale debut by his team-mates’ inability to find the net (or perhaps more accurately, his club’s inability to scrape together the pennies to buy a striker who can find the net…), but on a personal level he’ll still consider it a good first day at the office.

Roger Johnson
Mick McCarthy’s shrewd summer signing has made an instant and noticeable difference to Wolves' defence this term. The 28-year-old was outstanding again as Mick’s men beat Fulham 2-0, commanding, composed and comfortable at the heart of the back four.


Soluble Arsenal fans

Nobody likes getting wet, let’s get that straight for starters. But what is even less pleasant is seeing dozens, maybe even hundreds of empty seats in the front few rows of a stadium at a crucial stage of a big Premier League match because the precious little things who should be gracing them with their buttocks don’t want to get their replica shirts wet. What would Roy Keane say?

But as a downpour hit during the second half of Saturday’s match between Arsenal and Liverpool, that’s exactly what happened. The Emirates Stadium is an expensive place to watch a game; it's lunacy to forgo the full ‘matchday experience’ in favour of being marginally more warm and cosy for 20 minutes – especially when Arsene Wenger is insisting his team need all the help they can get from the fans.


“Turin seems like a nice city, I’d quite like to go and live there sometime soon, far less looting and John Terry than this here London. Oh drat, Shane Long is running at me. Oh drat, I’ve got the ball stuck under my feet and now I’m facing the wrong way. Oh drat, he’s gone and we’re 1-0 down…”
Disclaimer: Chelsea’s Brazilian defender probably didn’t really say or think this. Probably.

Seb Larsson

If there’s anything worse than a blatant bit of cheating, it’s a blatant bit of cheating following by a big dollop of fibbing. (Obviously there are other things that are genuinely much worse, like murder and Celebrity Big Brother, but you get the idea.)

The Swede impressed with his acrobatic debut leveller at Anfield on the opening day, but his biggest contribution to the Tyne/Wear derby was rather less pleasing. A handball as unignorable as Steve Bruce's head left Newcastle’s Joey Barton furious – for once with good cause. To make matters worse, Larsson then had the front to irately holler at officials that the ball hit his face.

The former Birmingham wide-man was lucky England’s brave World Cup hero Howard Webb – or perennially petrified-looking assistant Scott Ledger – didn’t see Larsson's save, or he’d have become the latest player to be sent off in this most fiery of derbies...

Phil Bardsley

Instead that ‘honour’ was saved for team-mate Phil Bardsley, who lurched towards the other end of the naughty spectrum by hurtling towards Fabricio Coloccini’s shin in a rather reckless fashion. The Argentine was hugely fortunate to avoid serious injury.

Neil Swarbrick

The following is from the FIFA rulebook: "A penalty kick is awarded against a team that commits one of the ten offences for which a direct free kick is awarded, inside its own penalty area and while the ball is in play."

So it was odd at Carrow Road yesterday to see Swarbrick award Stoke a penalty for what would generally be described as a non-foul about four yards outside the box.

Still, one out of three is… wait… actually it’s ruddy terrible.