x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Premier League Best & Worst: Wolves start to take bites at each other

Wayne Hennessey and Roger Johnson snap at each other on the pitch, but Villa and Chelsea show meaning of respect.

Wayne Hennessey, the Wolverhampton Wanderers goalkeeper, right, squares up to his captain Roger Johnson.
Wayne Hennessey, the Wolverhampton Wanderers goalkeeper, right, squares up to his captain Roger Johnson.

Worst question - Johnson

The poor form of Wolverhampton Wanderers got too much for Wayne Hennessey, their overworked goalkeeper, midway through the first half of their game against Bolton Wanderers.

Fed up with his invisible defence, he squared up to Roger Johnson, his centre-half and captain. He was met with a question.

"Who do you think you are talking to?" Johnson asked, albeit in rather more colloquial terms. He might not have wanted to hear the answer.

Some captains demand instant respect, other have to earn it. Following a big money move from Birmingham City, one of Wolves' Midlands rivals, Johnson has not done much to earn his share.

He is the figurehead of the leakiest defence in the league. He was dropped and disciplined for turning up to training in an unfit state. His wife has questioned the manager's wisdom on Twitter.

If Hennessey thinks his captain should pull his finger out, maybe he is not far off the truth.

Best support - Villa & Chelsea

Tragedy has brought out the best in the football public over recent weeks. The response to the collapse of Fabrice Muamba, the Bolton Wanderers midfielder, in the FA Cup fixture against Tottenham Hotspur prompted solidarity between rivals.

Similar sentiments poured forth from either end at Villa Park on Saturday, when those in attendance showed their appreciation and support for Stiliyan Petrov.

The Aston Villa captain, who begins treatment to combat leukaemia today, was taken aback by the minute's applause for him, which started when the match clock reached 19 - which is his Villa shirt number.

The Holte End, the Chelsea support, and even both benches, joined in. Petrov was so stunned by the moment, he had to hide his face under his jacket for a brief moment to compose himself.

Worst walkers - City early birds

You would have thought Manchester City supporters, of all people, would know not to leave matches early. Perhaps there is a grain of truth in the idea that the club's recent upwards mobility has brought with it a few Johnny Come Lately fans.

They were probably the ones who were drifting out when they were 3-1 down to Sunderland with the clock ticking away. The hard core, by contrast, have long enough memories to know City do a good line in late revivals.

The cast might have changed, but there was a whiff of the 1999 play-off final against Gillingham about the way City hit back to level at the Etihad Stadium.

Instead of Kevin Horlock and Paul Dickov, this time it was Mario Balotelli and Aleksandar Kolarov who shamed those punters who absented themselves before the end.

The stakes are different now, but it did all end well for City 13 years ago, and they have given themselves a chance of the same now.

Best header - Bendtner

Having a big head probably helps when it comes to aerial prowess. Which means Nicklas Bendtner should be the best header of a ball in the history of the world.

Heads do not come much bigger or self-regarding than that of Sunderland's Danish striker.

When he was with his previous employers, Arsenal, he sat a psychology test which measured "self-perceived confidence". He scored 10 on a scale which only measured up to nine.

The examiners had never seen self-belief like it before.

It is easy to wonder whether his ego has downsized commensurate with his change in circumstances since he joined a slightly less posh club.

Judging by his fine thumping header for Sunderland against Manchester City on Saturday not much has changed. That big head is working fine.

Worst Tom Daley - Carroll

A former teen prodigy upon whom many great expectations were once based is facing the biggest year of his young career to date.

The hopes of a massive supporter base are fixed firmly on his young shoulders, waiting for him to succeed. However, some are already questioning whether he is worth all the fuss and funding.

Tom Daley still has plenty of time to come good for Great Britain at this summer's Olympic Games in his homeland. And at least he can manage a passable dive. The same cannot be said for Andy Carroll, who endured a miserable homecoming to Newcastle.

Many Liverpool supporters are still trying to work out why their club sent such a substantial fee to Newcastle in exchange for the goal shy forward.

He cannot even tumble properly, judging by his shameful attempt to earn a penalty when the Leazes End evidently breathed hard enough to knock him over.

Said breeze was evidently still blowing when James Perch fell to ground late in the piece. Footballers, hey?


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