Garth Crooks’ Team of the Week: Kane, Rashford, Joelinton, Haaland, Van Dijk, Ream, Sa

28 December 2022 0 By Total Football News

Garth Crooks

At the end of every Premier League round of fixtures, BBC football pundit Garth Crooks will be on hand to give you his Team of the Week.

But who has he picked this time? Take a look and then pick your own team below. And, as ever, Garth will have his say on the game’s big talking points in the Crooks of the Matter.

Garth Crooks' Team of the WeekGoalkeeper

Jose Sa (Wolves)

If Wolves ever needed a star performance from their goalkeeper, then it was when they went to Everton on Monday.

Two saves from Jose Sa were vital – the first from Anthony Gordon kept the visitors in the game while the second from Amadou Onana changed it entirely.

Wolves have been sitting at the foot of the Premier League table and leaking goals for far too long but what was impressive about this victory against Everton was their overall team performance. I haven’t seen anything quite like this from Wolves for some time.

Clearly the arrival of Julen Lopetegui has already steadied the ship but stabilisers alone will not stop Wolves from sinking. Only points can do that.

Defenders

Tim Ream (Fulham)

Any player who scores his first Premier League goal at the age of 35 deserves a mention; any defender who finishes the way Tim Ream did against Crystal Palace deserves to be in my Team of the Week.

The USA international defender has had an exceptional season so far. Having been ever-present for Fulham in the league, he went to the World Cup and on his return seems to be playing better than ever.

Meanwhile, Crystal Palace look like they have seriously suffered from the World Cup interruption. Two players sent off over lack of discipline and recklessness is the stuff of schoolboys. The quicker Patrick Vieira takes matters in hand, the better.

Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

There was a time when Virgil Van Dijk was making my team selection on a weekly basis. The Netherlands captain’s loss in form affected Liverpool so badly, they dropped out of the top four.

However their impressive victory at Tottenham before the international break sent a sharp signal to the rest of the league that they might be over their difficulties – and are making a bid to regain their place among the elite.

Van Dijk took his Liverpool form with him to the World Cup and brought it back to Villa Park too. He is, in my view, the most important player in the Liverpool team – and that includes Mohamed Salah and Alisson.

Andy Robertson (Liverpool)

The ball for Darwin Nunez from Andy Robertson in the early exchanges of the game against Aston Villa was a scorcher. That the Uruguay striker didn’t add the finishing touch to what was a glorious pass suggests he is more unsure of himself if front of goal than he should be.

However none of that stopped Robertson from continuing to pour more crosses and assists into the opposition’s penalty area to cement what was a very professional away performance.

The Scotland captain also handles himself extremely well in post-match interviews, which rather suggests he is not afraid to speak his mind.

Midfielders

Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)

It was hardly a surprise to see Mikel Arteta hugging Bukayo Saka after Arsenal beat West Ham on Monday, given the lad’s performance. Saka had already given West Ham an early warning about the sort of form he was in when he had a superb strike ruled offside.

This is a player who seems to grow with every international tournament. He may have been slightly off the pace when it mattered for England at the World Cup but the confidence he has acquired from being on the biggest stage is clear to see.

I thought the World Cup might have disrupted Arsenal’s focus on the Premier League title but I was wrong. What’s more, they now have momentum and points to spare. This is getting serious.

Ruben Neves (Wolves)

Readers may remember me having a pop at Ruben Neves earlier in the season for digging out Newcastle United defender Fabian Schar in a post-match interview for a tackle he thought worthy of a red card. I’m delighted to see that he was full of praise for his team’s performance against Everton and less scathing about the opposition.

Neves is a top-class player and played like it at Goodison Park. It was he who kicked the ball off his own goalline prior to his team’s superb counter-attack that won the game.

Wolves look a different side under Lopetegui, which is just as well. Three months ago, they were flying by the seat of their pants – now they look like a team again.

Martin Odegaard (Arsenal)

I’m starting to see similar traits in this Arsenal team to those Leicester City had when they lifted the title. Foxes captain Wes Morgan never made a fuss about their lofty position at the time – and neither is Martin Odegaard doing so about the Gunners now.

Arsenal’s confidence is growing with every game, and like Leicester in 2015-16, winning is starting to become a habit.

They sit on top of the table with a good lead, having taken West Ham apart on Monday. Should they then win on Saturday at Brighton – themselves are in good form – Arsenal will go into the New Year leading the pack and with their future in their own hands.

Meanwhile, Odegaard is not just playing well: his cool-headed leadership is exactly what Arsenal need and precisely what Morgan gave Leicester City in the second half of that title-winning campaign.

Joelinton (Newcastle)

The more I watched Leicester’s home defeat by Newcastle, the worse it seemed to get.

Daniel Amartey started the rot, giving away a penalty with an awful attempt to win the ball from Joelinton, when staying on his feet was all that was required. Joelinton then helped himself to Newcastle’s third, a goal his performance richly deserved.

Leicester’s defending can only be described as abject, with not one Leicester defender prepared to challenge Joelinton in the air from the set-piece.

Newcastle finished Monday sitting second in the Premier League, before Manchester City reclaimed that position on Wednesday. Should they beat Leeds on Saturday, Newcastle could go into the New Year well set for a serious attempt to establish themselves as a top-four side.

Forwards

Harry Kane (Tottenham)

Tottenham started Monday’s match at Brentford like England started against the USA in their second World Cup game: no conviction, no passion and no goals.

Son Heung-min was wearing a face mask which made me question, if he was so concerned about an injury, whether he should have been on the pitch in the first place. Meanwhile, Eric Dier was slashing at balls as if it was his first training session after a pre-season break.

Thank goodness Harry Kane came back to work looking like something that resembled a top-class player after a challenging World Cup.

The England striker’s superbly headed goal was only matched by his ability to put his missed penalty against France in Qatar well and truly behind him.

Erling Haaland (Man City)

Twenty Premier League goals for Erling Haaland and we’re not even halfway through the season. The Norwegian superstar scored twice against a totally outclassed Leeds United, should really have had a hat-trick and could have scored four or five.

Once Haaland arrived at Etihad Stadium, his Manchester City team-mates took a nanosecond to work out how to get the best out of him – and are now carving out chances for the striker almost at will.

It’s quite conceivable he could score as many as 40 goals this season, which is the worst possible news for Arsenal and music to the ears if you’re a Tottenham fan.

Marcus Rashford (Man Utd)

The movement for Marcus Rashford’s goal against Nottingham Forest on Tuesday was only equalled by the quality of the finish. The Forest defence stood and watched the forward move towards the ball with such intent, yet did nothing to prevent it.

The England international used the pace of the ball and the soaking wet conditions to send his strike spinning past a totally helpless Wayne Hennessey.

Let me be clear here, this was a Manchester United side with eight World Cup stars in their starting line-up against a Forest side next to bottom of the table.

I was a little reluctant to select Rashford because of this mismatch but the striker’s overall display was so compelling I thought better of it.

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The Crooks of the Matter

It was shrouded in controversy and ended being one of the most successful World Cup finals of all time. The quality of the football was, on occasions, quite extraordinary.

To witness fans watching games without hurling abuse at each other was a breath of fresh air. There was not a whiff of racism or violence as fans from all parts of the world sat side by side in one of the most eclectic and diverse finals ever witnessed.

The reduced amounts of alcohol in Qatar didn’t just seem to fuel a carnival atmosphere throughout the tournament but sent a stark message to the rest of the football world of what might be achieved if copious amounts of booze weren’t so readily available.

The festive period will have fans across the country returning to their tribal rituals as though it were a crucial element to the culture of the game. However, what Qatar demonstrated is that football is much more enjoyable without copious amounts of liquor, abuse or threatening behaviour.

Pick your XI from our list and share with your friends.