Heroes & Villains: Wily Wenger and unfortunate Vertonghen
Wenger has certainly suffered through his fair share of criticism for Arsenal’s lack of bottle in big games, so equally deserves the praise when the Gunners are at full steam.
The Frenchman steered his side to a controlled 2-0 sinking of champions Manchester City, with the kind of resilient rearguard performance and ruthless finishing away fans have been waiting for all season.
After being berated by the Emirates faithful before Christmas, Wenger is once again man of the moment and lord of north London. Until next week anyway.
Yet another new super Southampton hero emerged against Newcastle United, straight off Ronald Koeman’s conveyor belt of sensational signings.
Electric Elia bagged a fine brace to ensure his side took all three points, leaving Magpies defenders in the dust with his pace and movement, and could be the man to accelerate the Saints’ top four challenge.
After being out-of-favour at Werder Bremen, the borrowed Bundesliga star now has a fantastic chance to turn his career around and earn a Netherlands recall.
Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea 2.0
Ever since Roman Abramovich’s takeover, Chelsea seem to have been constantly striving to earn the admiration of neutrals as well as strike a balance with success.
It often seemed the Stamford Bridge side’s Russian Oligarch owner had unreasonable expectations, but he finally seems to have found the perfect balance second time out with Mourinho.
The Blues’ 5-0 demolition job on Swansea City, and Arsenal’s triumph at the Etihad could be the crowning moment when the title race turned.
Either way, Chelsea were a finely tuned team against the Swans, with free flowing football instigated by leading Premier League assistant Cesc Fabregas and top scorer Diego Costa.
Hero, victim or villain?
Tottenham defender Vertonghen certainly had a mixed game against Sunderland and was at the heart of the drama at both ends of the pitch, going from goal hero to villain in the space of a half.
A sweet, if fortunately deflected, strike saw the centre half star send Spurs into the lead, before carelessly conceding a free-kick that allowed Seb Larsson to equalise.
The script was set for Vertonghen to seal his side’s win and make amends in the closing stages though, after sprinting the length of the pitch to slot home as Costel Pantilimon was caught in no-man land.
But it wasn’t to be, as the Belgian was left scratching his head after being ruled offside in what has to be one of the Premier League’ strangest ever decisions.
Bristol City striker Smith seems to be kryptonite to Scunthorpe United stoppers, as Sam Slocombe and Jamie Severn both broke their arms in challenges with the frontman within half an hour of each other.
Enter defender and emergency keeper Andy Boyce. The centre back bravely donned the gloves but was unable emerge a hero, finally conceding in the 85th minute, but thankfully avoiding the Scunthorpe custodian curse.
Swansea and their strikers
Garry Monk apologised to Portuguese Coach of the Century Mourinho after Swansea’s embarrassing capitulation to Chelsea at the Britannia Stadium.
“I said sorry to Jose we couldn’t give him a game and I can only apologise to the fans because it’s my responsibility,” stated Monk, whose men let him down with a dismal performance.
At the heart of the Swans’ struggles is their current striker conundrum. Wilfried Bony is Manchester City-bound and after being abandoned by the Ivory Coast attacker, the goals have dried up.
The Welsh outfit managed not one shot on target against the brilliant Blues, and frontman Bafetimbi Gomis has now added to Monk’s woes, claiming: “I have been approached by clubs. For the moment I am concentrating on Swansea. Me leaving? It is possible.”