English Premier League: Heroes and Villains from the EPL Weekend

Michael Cummings@MikeCummings37World Football Lead WriterAugust 27, 2012

English Premier League: Heroes and Villains from the EPL Weekend

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    Eden Hazard and Chelsea plowed through the competition again. Michu scored, and Swansea won again. Robin van Persie found his lethal touch again, Manchester City played a thriller again and Arsenal failed to score.

    Again.

    The second weekend of the English Premier League season produced a host of familiar situations, but it also brought a touch of the new and unexpected.

    Read on to find out who we named the heroes and villains of the Premier League weekend.

Hero: Eden Hazard

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    Another assist—is he on pace for 800 of them, or what?—and this time a goal. And because of it all, another victory for Chelsea.

    So much for lacking the physical attributes necessary to succeed in the Premier League.

    Through three matches, Eden Hazard is the league's most outstanding player. Chelsea are its most outstanding team.

    Their fortunes this season—pun intended—seem connected at a fundamental level. Success for one means success for the other.

Villains: Back-Passers and Own-Goal Scorers

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    The Premier League weekend was packed with a slew of defensive miscues.

    West Ham keeper Jussi Jääskeläinen (pictured) elbowed a cross into his own net.

    His teammate, defender James Collins, played a poor back pass that led to another Michu goal (more on that momentarily).

    Villa keeper Shay Given dispensed with the touching and instead flapped at a Marouane Fellaini header before it nestled into his net.

    Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina pulled a flap of his own, letting a Manchester City cross fly directly to an unsuspecting Martin Kelly, whose understandably poor first touch allowed Yaya Toure to score the champions' first equalizer Sunday.

    And Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic added an acrobatic own-goal with a flying back-heel. But as the goal was clearly accidental and United won anyway, the Serb avoids total condemnation.

Hero and Villain: Martin Skrtel

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    Skeletor Skrtel scored a thunderous header to give Liverpool a deserved halftime lead over Manchester City on Sunday.

    Problem was, he also gifted City their late equalizer by passing directly to Carlos Tevez on the edge of Liverpool's box.

Hero: Michu

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    Michu, a 26-year-old Spanish attacking midfielder who signed from Rayo Vallecano for £2 million, has become the personification of Swansea City's thrilling start to the season.

    The Spaniard added another goal for the Swans, who routed West Ham 3-0 for their second blowout win in as many matches. Through two outings, Michael Laudrup's side have scored eight, conceded zero and turned countless heads.

    That's three goals already this season for Michu from a made-up-sounding five total attempts on goal.

    And all this after Swansea lost their manager (Brendan Rodgers, to Liverpool), best passing midfielder (Joe Allen, also to Liverpool) and most outstanding player during the second half of last season (Gylfi Sigurdsson, who was there on loan anyway).

Hero: Nikica Jelavic's First Touch

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    If we're speaking of strikers who need precious few touches to score, their king is called Nikica Jelavic, and he plays for Everton.

    Jelavic scored another goal for the Toffees over the weekend, and of course it was another first-touch strike.

    According to Football365.com, Jelavic has taken just 54 touches to score 48 goals since joining Rangers in August 2010 (he joined Everton in January).

Hero: Raheem Sterling

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    English winger Raheem Sterling made his first Premier League start for Liverpool on Sunday. At age 17.

    Apart from his impossibly young looks, nothing about his outing Sunday afternoon hinted at Sterling's age.

    Sterling didn't score, but he pressed Manchester City's defense impressively and harried Kolo Toure relentlessly while playing assured and composed football.

    Great things surely lie in wait.

Villain: Roberto Mancini

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    Why did he start Kolo Toure instead of Joleon Lescott?

    Why is he tinkering with Manchester City's formation?

    What advantage does a three-man defense offer City?

    Last season, City's breakthrough title triumph owed plenty to Roberto Mancini.

    On Sunday, however, the champs drew with Liverpool not so much because of him, but rather in spite of him and his head-scratching decisions.

Hero: Thomas Vermaelen

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    Arsenal famously have still yet to score a league goal since the departure of striker, captain and talisman Robin van Persie to Manchester United.

    On the other hand, the Gunners have allowed zero goals in 180 minutes of competition. And on Sunday, against the type of physical side that usually causes them so much trouble, Arsenal made Tony Pulis' Stoke City look positively harmless.

    Many deserve credit for such developments, but none more so than new captain and central defender Thomas Vermaelen.

    Now, if only they could find some goals. Cries of "boring, boring Arsenal" might make a welcome return to North London.

Hero: Robin van Persie

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    Of course, it's hardly all good news for Arsenal. They've still yet to score a goal, and Robin van Persie is already off the mark for Manchester United.

    RvP opened his United account with a typically expert finish Saturday against Fulham, on a chance that was much more difficult than he made it seem.

    And even worse for Gooners is the news that Wayne Rooney will miss significant time in coming weeks. That should mean more RvP up top for United.

    And more RvP almost always means more goals.

Hero: Steve Clarke

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    Steve Clarke entered the new season with no experience as a full-time club football manager. In fairness, he had plenty of experience as an assistant, but with West Brom facing Liverpool and Tottenham in their first two match, the early part of the season seemed most likely to serve as Clarke's trial by fire.

    Maybe it was, but his Baggies seem to have supplied the kindling themselves. A haul of four points from matches against Liverpool and Tottenham can only bode well for West Brom's chances this season.

    And it suggests the Baggies hired the right man for the job.

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