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 Posted by Iain Macintosh
Aug 24, 2014

Heroes and Villains: Premier League week 2

Manchester United are still without a win while Tottenham look likely to beat the world. ESPN FC takes a look at some of the biggest protagonists and antagonists from the second Premier League weekend.

First-team football appears to agree with Jack Rodwell, who dominated for Sunderland the way he never did at Man City.

HEROES

Jack Rodwell has played only slightly more Premier League football than you or I in recent years, but unlike us, someone still believes in him. His slow recovery continued against Manchester United where he helped Lee Cattermole dominate the midfield. Not only did he score Sunderland's equaliser, but he hustled, bustled and clattered Darren Fletcher and Tom Cleverley with little regard for his own fragility. He needs games, and he'll get them at Sunderland. But can he ever fulfill the promise he showed at Everton?

Kasper Schmeichel's first spell in the Premier League was mixed. An early-season-injury crisis at Manchester City forced him into the limelight too young and, while there were notable high points, his understandably tender displays did not auger well for the future. Fast forward seven years, and Schmeichel is back: bigger, stronger and more confident than before. As Chelsea discovered, almost to their cost. For more than an hour, he was a one-man goal embargo. As Leicester's resistance began to fade, he remained undaunted. A few more performances like that and this won't be the only article that sees no need to mention you-know-who.

Branislav Ivanovic is not, it must be said, the most glamorous member of Chelsea's pantheon of stars, but he is certainly the most underrated. The big Serbian defender made Chelsea's breakthrough goal with a turn so deft and calm that it would be altogether more appropriate to start calling him "Ivanovicinho." He is so solid in the tackle that his resilience can be taken for granted. He is so powerful in the air that he is a danger to passing wildlife. And while he may not be thought of as a flying fullback, you really don't want this man running at you as the clock ticks down.

Olivier Giroud has none of Ivanovic's consistency. In fact, if you discovered tomorrow that there were in fact two Girouds, identical in looks if not in ability, you would not be in the least bit surprised. Fortunately for Arsenal, the good Giroud was on display at Goodison Park. Unlike his performance in Instanbul last week, the French striker was a constant problem for his markers, moving them, stretching them, occasionally sticking his bottom into them. He missed chances, but he kept pursuing them and, inevitably, he saved the day. This Giroud needs to play more often. The other one is not required.

Alan Pardew was sending a message. A very special message. A message from the heart. Alan wants us, all of us, to retain our funkiness at all times. Yeah. To remember that this life is just a party with a vibe that will peak and trough and that will somehow end up in the kitchen at 3 a.m. with a very long, very muddled conversation about existence and stuff. But Alan believes that if you arrive at the party with a smile on your face, the beat in your feet and a bottle of half-decent Rioja in your coat, then you won't go far wrong. Alan expressed this message through the medium of dance. Shine on -- and watch here

Overheard in Manchester: 'No worries, stay calm, one question. 
Do you happen to know how to fly this thing?'

VILLAINS

Ed Woodward is reaching the end of his third transfer window as vice chairman of Manchester United and he is running out of excuses. A child could have told you what that team lacked in 2013. In 2014, their deficiencies are so obvious, you could now ask a cat. You would have to speak cat, of course, a difficult language for the beginner, but doubtless the cat's insight would be sound: Where are the midfielders? Why have they known for almost a year that the heart of their defence was going to leave and still failed to replaced Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand? What on earth is going on?

Eden Hazard scored a wonderful goal at Stamford Bridge, a strike splendid enough, even with the deflection from Wes Morgan, to put him in the "Hero" column. But while Jose Mourinho's lazy blast was indiscriminate enough not to damage locker-room morale, anyone who was at the game would have known exactly who he was talking about. Hazard's complete lack of enthusiasm for mundane tasks like tracking back left Cesar Azpilicueta hopelessly exposed. And this really isn't the first time he has been guilty of negligence. He is a wonderful player, but he must work harder.

Mesut Ozil is not a left winger and, for that reason at least, he should perhaps be cut a little slack. But this was another substandard performance from the German and the pressure on him will intensify. His failure to cover Seamus Coleman made him the chief culprit for Everton's first goal and he didn't create enough at the other end to even the balance. Ozil will always be judged harshly, but so will all players who cost 40 million pounds and earn six figures every week. With great wages comes great accountability. At the moment, Ozil isn't delivering.

Ashley Young is becoming wearying, even for Manchester United supporters. It's not so much the wayward passing or even the struggles with a new position. Generally, they're a patient lot, United fans, especially away from home. But the diving is too much. There has to be dignity, even in the dark times. There has to be a recognition that this club has a reputation, that there are expectations. Manchester United players should not have to resort to diving in an effort to steal points against Sunderland. They should be better than that. Patience with Young's antics is wearing thin.

Queens Park Rangers have a serious question to answer: Are Tottenham really that good? If the answer is yes, then perhaps they'll be OK, and Spurs are going to challenge for the top four. But if the answer is no, then this is going to be a long season for the Hoops. They've just been torn asunder by Erik Lamela and Nacer Chadli. That's the sort of thing that has only ever happened before on outdated and optimistic versions of Football Manager. If Tottenham aren't that good, however, then all the former England managers still living won't be able to save Harry Redknapp from the sack.

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