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Heroes and Villains: Harry the Hero, but what's wrong with Man City?

Matchday 24 of the Premier League is in the bag, so it's time to run the rule over the Heroes and Villains of the weekend ...


He is unstoppable. He's untouchable. He is a one-man wrecking ball. He is Harry Kane and we are all just living in his world. Tottenham were excellent across the board against Arsenal this weekend, but Kane was head and shoulders above his teammates and, in the 86th minute, head and shoulders above the Arsenal defence too. That's 22 goals for a man damned with faint praise as a "bustling centre-forward" in these parts and in so many others. It is swiftly becoming apparent that he is far more than that.

In the space of one weekend, Jose Mourinho extended his team's lead at the top of the Premier League to seven points, ended a barren run of results at Villa Park, safely blooded his new signing and put the idea of deducting points from Manchester City in everybody's head. Nailed it. After a week away from the TV cameras, this was quite a way to return to the spotlight. Later this week: three points from Everton, a 10-point lead in the league and the sly suggestion that City should be booted out of the Champions League too.

Denied three points by a late Daley Blind equaliser, Sam Allardyce cut a rueful figure after full-time. Had it not been for David de Gea, perhaps his team could have secured the victory they deserved, but it was not to be. But Allardyce is not a man to slink quietly into the night. If he couldn't have three points, he was going to make another one of his own. "In the end," he said, "we couldn't cope with 'long-ball United.' It was thump it forward and see what happens." Ah, how the world has changed.

The hero of White Hart Lane: Harry Kane acknowledges the crowd after his fine brace vs. Arsenal.

Manchester City drew, Manchester United drew, Liverpool drew, Arsenal lost. Southampton won. It looks like the battle for the automatic Champions League places will be far more fascinating than the battle for the title, and the Saints are in the thick of it. Their late victory over Queen Park Rangers was their 14th of a campaign that has been dedicated to making all of their critics look ridiculous. Had they beaten Swansea last week, as they doubtless should have, they would now be one point off second. This has been an extraordinary season.

Well done, Aston Villa. In the time it would take to fly from Birmingham to Brazil, they finally went and did a goal, thus bringing to an end one of the most barren streaks in Premier League history. And they scored it against Chelsea as well. Some Chelsea supporters reported a strange feeling of nostalgia afterwards, an echo of their distant pre-Abramovich past when they were exactly the sort of team that would help doomed rivals to overcome mental blocks in front of goal. Not that they helped Villa that much. It was a goal. It wasn't a point. And their struggles continue.


Sunday night reports of Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson's sacking proved premature. It appears that Pearson cannot be sacked by conventional methods. He can be bottom of the table and not get sacked. He can go 13 games without a win and not get sacked. He can grab an opposition player by the windpipe and hold him down for just the amount of time to make it look really, really creepy, and still, despite some excitable media reports, he cannot be sacked. But then again, after what we've seen this weekend, would you want to be the one who told him?

Maybe Manuel Pellegrini was right about that late flight from the Middle East having no effect on Manchester City two weeks ago. There was no late flight this week and City still managed to put in a performance against Hull that was every bit as appalling as the one that brought FA Cup humiliation against Middlesbrough. Steve Bruce's side were in dreadful form, they'd won just two of their last 18 games yet they came within a whisker of beating the champions in their own back yard. It's five games without a win for Pellegrini now. Something has to change.

Manchester City have let Chelsea slip out to a seven-point lead atop the Premier League table.

Oh, Arsenal. What is it with you? You beat Manchester City at the Etihad -- an achievement the value of which is admittedly diminishing all the time -- and make us think you're contenders and then you play like this. The Gunners didn't lose because Tottenham are better than them, and they certainly didn't lose because of the referee. They lost because Tottenham wanted it more. This wasn't good enough. They can't allow themselves to be dominated in the midfield like this. It's two steps forward and three steps back for the Gunners at the moment.

This column has been very patient with Radamel Falcao. People have said, "Why isn't Radamel Falcao a villain this week?" and we've said, "Come on, give him a break. Radamel Falcao is settling into a new team, a new country, a new language and you don't just bounce back from serious injury." But it's getting weird now. He isn't getting any better. His miss against West Ham was extraordinary. Physically, it should be impossible to put the ball that far wide from a position so close to the goal. He gets paid 300,000 pounds every week. Nothing in this world makes sense.

Cruel circumstances, hard luck, bad timing. Call it what you will, but if Queens Park Rangers can't get any points away, they certainly can't afford to squander them at home. Whoever takes over this week, and it's probably going to be Tim Sherwood, will have to hit the ground running. It's not necessarily true that 40 points is the safety line, 34 would have done the trick last year, but if QPR are going to get even that many, they need five wins from 14 games. So far, they have five from 24. Good luck, Tim!

Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.


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