x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Premier League best and worst: Crouch's hand some move

The Stoke City striker's digits angered Manchester City, while Arsenal are back to being title contenders, writes Thomas Woods.

West Bromwich Albions' Peter Odemwingie, centre right, was sent off during the Premier League match against Fulham at Craven Cottage.
West Bromwich Albions' Peter Odemwingie, centre right, was sent off during the Premier League match against Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Best LeBron James impression

At 6ft 7ins tall, Peter Crouch could probably have had turned to basketball had his career in football not worked out.

When Manchester City visited Stoke City on Saturday, Crouch got his chance to indulge any hoop dreams he may have had with a nifty bit of handiwork.

Unfortunately for the visitors, the referee missed his blatant handball and allowed his opening goal to stand, in the 1-1 draw.

And now the man who brought us the robot - his gangly-armed goal celebration - has introduced the slam dunk goal.

The premise is simple, try to control the ball in the area with your feet but if you can't, just use your hands to help you out, cushion the ball into your path and hope nobody notice. Everybody did notice though, except the referee and his assistants.

Worst temper

Football is an emotional game, players lose their temper all the time, but rarely quite like Peter Odemwingie.

The Nigerian forward lost the ball to Fulham's Sascha Reiter, chased him for a couple of yards and then kicked him halfway up the thigh.

A moment of madness and his excuse was: "I wanted to foul the player because I thought he was angry towards me. But I should cool my emotions. I felt a kick on my ankle and felt an injustice that the linesman was so close but nothing was given. But now I think it was my fault."

Correct Odemwingie, it was your fault and you do need to cool down. If every player lashed out whenever a free kick did not go their way, each match would be four on four by the end. West Brom were already 1-0 down at Fulham and the red card removed any chances they had of getting back into the game.

In that context Steve Clarke, his manager, did well to keep calm himself. "We're all human - we have emotions," he said.

Best debut

It was a red letter day for the new boys, with five players scoring on their debut (or full debut). Javi Garcia justified his hefty price tag with a header to earn Manchester City a point at Stoke City, the Belgian forward Christian Benteke finished off Aston Villa's win over Swansea City and Alex Buttner and Nick Powell netted in Manchester United's 4-0 thrashing of Wigan Athletic.But the best performance came from Dimitar Berbatov, making his full debut for Fulham after a substitute appearance in the previous game.

The Bulgarian showed why United once paid £30 million (Dh178m) for him and why he is going to prove such a transfer coup for Fulham's Martin Jol (Berbatov turned down Fiorentina and Juventus to move to London).

His second goal in the 3-0 win over West Bromwich Albion was a penalty but the first was vintage Berbatov. One-touch control just inside the box and an effortless curling shot into the top corner. You can see why Jol described him a the "biggest signing in Fulham's history".

Worst knee-jerking

It is becoming a seasonal story. Arsenal sell a big-name player who wouldn't sign new contract.

Arsenal have a couple of bad results. The British press say Arsenal are in crisis, Arsene Wenger must go. Then Arsenal play well again and suddenly they are title contenders.

It just shows the drastic need for a bit of perspective in the Premier League. The Gunners may have lost Robin van Persie and Alex Song but they are still a cracking team.

They drew their opening two games 0-0, everyone panicked, now they have won twice, scored eight goals and concede one in the process and the praise is gushing, they are in third in the table and everything looks rosy again.

The critics have been silenced, at least until their next 0-0 draw.

Worst resilience

Tottenham Hotspur have now conceded a goal in all four of their opening Premier League games, a worrying trend for Andre Villas-Boas.

The Portuguese manager has not exactly endeared himself to the White Heart Lane faithful, yet at 80 minutes into the match away to Reading and Tottenham enjoying a comfortable 3-0 lead, the fans were singing his name and asking for a wave, which he dully obliged.

But just before the final whistle the Spurs rearguard sprung an all too familiar leak as Hal Robson-Kanu pulled a goal back for the hosts.

Jermaine Defoe's two goals either side of a Gareth Bale scuffed shot that looped over the Reading keeper made the effort nothing more than a consolation, but Tottenham can ill afford to be so porous if they have designs on challenging the top four, and they will not always have such a cushion.

twoods@thenational.ae

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