Harry Kane a hero again, but for once, Chelsea keeper Courtois is a villain
Iain Macintosh looks back at the Premier League weekend -- who starred, and who should hang their heads in shame? It's heroes and villains, starting with the good guys:
John Carver has watched Newcastle United as a fan, he's played for them and coached them -- and now, at age 50, he is their manager. Or head coach, at the very least. You can despair of Mike Ashley, you can point to his lack of ambition, but unless you have a heart of stone, you can't fail to take a little pleasure at the sight of a local boy being granted the chance of a lifetime and then walloping another team 3-0 in their own backyard. Carver and Newcastle may not be destined to last, but he'll enjoy every second of it.
PREMIER LEAGUE LATEST
- Macintosh: Kane is able but Courtois flops
- Brewin: High-fives all around for Arsenal
- Chelsea ratings: Matic excels, offense missing
- Miller: Sturridge return spells end for Balotelli
- Macintosh: Work-in-progress Man Utd sit third
- Cox: Mourinho's tactics spot on vs. Man City
- Prem Table: Chelsea still tops, United third
Another positive story unfolded at the Britannia Stadium, where big Jon Walters hulk-smashed Queens Park Rangers. As a youngster, Walters came close to squandering his potential and drifted down the divisions, just another big lad who might have been. But instead of giving up, he refocused and rebuilt his career the hard way. He's a better player than some would let on, and his hat-trick this weekend was yet another example for any young player rejected and released by his club.
If Harry Kane isn't in the next England squad, Roy Hodgson must be immediately overthrown. It's not simply that he's the nation's hottest goal scorer, though that certainly helps, but it's also his attitude. Opposing manager Tony Pulis raved about Kane before the game, and with good reason. Utterly determined and driven, he's a manager's dream, so you can guess how the Tottenham supporters feel about him. They sing "he's one of our own," and they're right. English supporters, disillusioned and disgusted with generations of players who seem happy to go through the motions, would like him to be one of their own, too.
It's still hard to tell exactly what's going on at Manchester United, but they do keep picking up the points. In this, they were greatly aided by Daley Blind on Saturday. The Dutch utility man gave an odd-looking midfield a little stability and capitalised on complacency in the Leicester ranks to set up the first goal in a 3-1 win. They like their midfielders at Old Trafford, and they've been starved of them of late. Blind has everything he needs to prove very popular in the red part of the city.
Usually it takes a while for the victim of a long-term injury to rediscover his touch. It took Daniel Sturridge 12 minutes. The Liverpool striker, so sorely missed this season, is clearly making up for lost time. If he can maintain his fitness, he may yet prove crucial. His team have endured a miserable few months, but they're slowly rediscovering their form and they're only four points from fourth place and another swing at the Champions League. With Sterling rested and Sturridge hungry, there's no reason this season can't be salvaged.
There's no point in making a pithy list of things you could have done in the time since Aston Villa last scored a league goal. It would be quicker to catalogue the things you couldn't do. The Villains are in desperate form up front, and now it's not much better at the back. In 90 minutes at Arsenal, they shipped more goals (five) than they've scored away from home all season. "I am looking for anybody who can improve the side," manager Paul Lambert said afterward. He may want to narrow down those search parameters a little.
Thibaut Courtois has enjoyed an outstanding debut season in the Premier League, but he picked a heck of a time to drop his first major clanger. Hurling himself at Jesus Navas, arm outstretched like a tipsy Superman, was most out of character from the big Belgian. It is, however, unlikely to affect his place in Jose Mourinho's thinking, not that we'd know if it did, given the Chelsea manager's enormous three-day sulk. Courtois is the main reason that Chelsea made the League Cup final in midweek. And there are far worse people at Stamford Bridge than him.
Frank Lampard probably shouldn't have joined Manchester City. Legacies should be protected at all costs, and he may come to wonder in the future why he didn't just take a short loan somewhere in Europe and then skip off to New York. Nevertheless, he deserves better than to be told that he has "betrayed" his former club by an angry bloke with a felt-tip pen and some sticky tape. Lampard hasn't betrayed anyone. Chelsea didn't want him. Fortunately, given the broadly positive reception at Stamford Bridge, most fans realise this.
Cringe. pic.twitter.com/Pf83yGf0I9- Alex Shaw (@AlexShawESPN) January 31, 2015
Eleven times this season, Queens Park Rangers' travelling support have followed their team away from home. Eleven times, they have returned empty-handed. It must be increasingly difficult, not to mention expensive, for them to haul themselves out of bed every other Saturday. In fairness to manager Harry Redknapp, they were a little unfortunate on this occasion, but time is running out. With just 15 games left to play, they need to find some form, or this expensively assembled team will be heading straight back down to the Championship for the second time in two years.
Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.