Heroes & Villains: Three sixes and two threes

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We run through some of those who made headlines for the right and the wrong reasons on a weekend where two of England’s young forwards grabbed their first Premier League trebles, and three teams shipped six goals…


Andy Carroll, Newcastle United

Carroll has taken to the Newcastle No.9 shirt like a fish to…well, fish don’t wear clothes, do they?

It was an even better Premier League homecoming for both player and club than even the most partisan
Toon fan could have hoped or dreamed.

Having spurned a golden chance to head the Magpies into the lead at Old Trafford last week, Carroll bounced back to prove he has the talent and presence of mind to score goals at the highest level, albeit against a Villa defence that hasn’t looked quite so porous since the second coming of Graham Taylor.

Carroll lead the line superbly, winning practically every aerial dual and causing havoc with his knock-downs and flick-ons. Whether Carroll can maintain this level of performance could ultimately prove key to Newcastle’s survival chances.

Chris Hughton, Newcastle United

Credit must also be heaped upon the Magpies’ coach, who has previously stated his hardest task this season may be managing the usually lofty expectations of the Geordie public, a task surely made more difficult by Sunday’s win.

Speaking on his side‘s empathetic victory, the former Irish international again emphasised the need to remain calm; “it’s a wonderful achievement, but my responsibility is to bring everyone's feet back down onto the ground."

Theo Walcott, Arsenal

“Mr Capello, Mr Capello - look what I can do!”

The 21-year-old looks so much more comfortable on the right of a forward three - where he has the freedom to get into the box and exploit the gap between the centre back and fullback - than he does on the right of a midfield four - where he’s often forced out to the byline and struggles to find the right delivery.

Indeed, Arsene Wenger has since revealed that he believes Walcott will ultimately wind up as a striker, citing his pace, movement and finishing as cause enough for the boy wonder to cease winging it and start taking centre stage.

Didier Drogba, Chelsea

It’s fair to say Didier Drogba has had a fairly strong start to the 2010/11 season. A hat trick in week one, and a trio of assists in week two, winning a second straight man-of-the-match award, despite not gracing the score sheet himself.

In doing so he has lead the Blues to the top of the Premier League table at this early stage. While the two point advantage they hold over all their title rivals probably won’t get Carlo Ancelotti too excited, he will probably be confident that should the title race go down to the wire again, the West Londoners will have a good chance of having the advantage in the goal difference stakes.

Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur

Don’t those talks of curses and tabloid rumours of cut-price moves to Nottingham Forest just seem an age ago?

Another week, another moment of magic from a player who has undergone a change in fortune the like not seen since Bill Gates abandoned his childhood dreams of becoming an Olympic weightlifter and started pissing around with computers.

Sure, his first goal may have come fortuitously via his face, but his second was one of pure quality.

If Spurs can find a penalty box poacher quick-witted and fleet of foot enough to make the most of the Welshman’s near constant stream of crosses from the left, Harry Redknapp will be laughing - possibly all the way to another top four finish.

Johan Elmander, Bolton Wanderers

He may not have exactly flourished in his first two years in English football, in fact in scoring twice at Upton Park he increased his Premier League goal tally by 20%, but the Swede repaid the faith of his manager Owen Coyle by securing a first win of the season for the Trotters, heaping more anguish on West Ham in the process.

With service coming from the industrious and nimble Chung-Yong Lee and a determined and rejuvenated Martin Petrov, Elmander may have a chance to find the net on a more regular basis this season.

David Stockdale, Fulham

Two outstanding stand-in performances from the former York and Darlington stopper in as many matches will have helped Mark Hughes get over what looks like an inevitable departure from the Cottage for Mark Schwarzer.

An acrobatic save from Dimitar Berbatov’s early bicycle kick will have calmed any nerves, and while there was little he could have done to stop the 25-yard Paul Scholes’ drive that opened the scoring, or the unfortunate own goal scored by Brede Hangeland in the last ten minutes, Stockdale excelled when faced with a Nani penalty.


Aston Villa

Yes, the Villans are villains - guffaw guffaw. For half an hour Kevin MacDonald’s temporary charges looked well on top, but by the time they’d fallen two goals behind they collapsed like a Icelandic bank. Without wanting to take anything away from Newcastle and their performance, Villa were frankly feeble and showed a complete lack of bottle and effort once the going got tough.

While Ashley Young was a willing runner throughout and continually looked to expose the habitual lapses in Newcastle’s back four, there was little if anything positive to be said of any of his team mates.

Richard Dunne seemed to have reverted to his hapless worst, inexplicably failing to clear before Andy Carroll swept home Newcastle’s third goal. Worryingly for Villa, the defence seemed to struggle to cope with high balls into the box, be they from open play or set-pieces, previously one of their strengths.

Villa debutant Stephen Ireland isn’t often considered a shrinking violet, but the Irishman scarcely had space to breathe having been smothered by Newcastle’s lovable midfield trio of Nolan, Smith and Barton.

How’s that greener grass looking for you now, Stevie?

Roberto Martinez

While Wigan’s determination to continually get the ball down and attempt to attack their opponents is commendable, if Martinez doesn’t add the phrase ’damage limitation’ to his lexicon, then this certainly won’t be the last heavy defeat the Latics suffer this season.

Almost countless times in the last 12 months have the Latics been gubbed because they were unwilling and/or unable to get their hands dirty rather than continually play nice football. There’s no doubt Wigan’s players are at least as technically proficient as Stoke or Blackburn’s - but you can bet your bottom dollar both will finish above the men from the DW, should Martinez’s side not learn to adopt a more defensive approach.

And Martinez’s plan of action? To go out and sign more forward players, with Chelsea youngster Franco di Santo said to be a loan target. Defenders, Roberto, you need some defenders.

Still, at least the club’s official website could see a silver lining, stating that the Latics were: “unlucky not to come away with result after brave performance.”

No. Just no.

Tony Pulis

Having had a grand old whinge about injury time following his side’s defeat to Wolves last weekend, the Stoke boss was furious again following the Potters’ defeat to Spurs, the climax of which saw a Jonathan Walters header appear to cross the goal-line before being cleared by Peter Crouch, only for referee Chris Foy to wave play on.

Having initially acknowledged that there had been a foul by Robert Huth on Heurelho Gomes just seconds before, Pulis later went on to criticise Foy and call for the introduction of video technology, ignoring the fact that any replay would have highlighted Huth’s shove and most likely seen Spurs awarded a free-kick.

When probed on the issue on Sky Sports this morning, Pulis tentatively claimed that “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Yes, Anthony - but neither does one.

Peter Walton

Yes, it’s a bit clichéd to criticise a referee for giving decisions in favour of one of the ‘Big Four’ against one of the Premier League’s lesser lights, but at the end of the day it’s a funny old game and Peter Walton will be sick as a parrot when he’s sees this again this morning…

Brede Hangeland’s dramatic late equaliser probably got him off the hook to a degree, but the Northamptonshire official will have really irked Fulham and their fans with some of his decisions in what was a compelling match at Craven Cottage.

Having ignored Moussa Dembele’s cries for a penalty after the Belgian was hauled to the ground by Nemanja Vidic in typically lumbering fashion, Walton then bafflingly pointed to the spot in United’s favour (having had his ear briefly bent by Paul Scholes), after Damien Duff inadvertently kneed the ball onto his own hand. Fortunately, Stockdale ensured justice was served with his fine save.

Arsenal’s stadium announcer

For no lesser crime than only reading out the first name of the Gunners’ goalscorers to prompt the reluctant crowd to chant the surname like a compere at Butlin’s.

Yes, it’s nothing new, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still cringe-worthy. More to read...
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