Garth Crooks’ Team of the Week: Doku, Van Dijk, Gordon, Fernandes and more feature in Premier League’s best

6 November 2023 0 By Total Football News
Garth Crooks' team of the week

After each Premier League weekend, BBC football pundit Garth Crooks gathers his thoughts and gives you his Team of the Week.

Here are this week's choices. And as ever, Garth also discusses the game's big talking points in the Crooks of the Matter.

Garth Crooks' team of the weekGoalkeeper

Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace): This wasn't the best away performance I've seen from Crystal Palace this season but their goalkeeper Sam Johnstone was unbeatable.

He dealt with a very difficult strike from Luca Koleosho and another later in the game from Josh Brownhill, but his best save came from a Jay Rodriguez header from close range.

Burnley, meanwhile, have a problem in front of goal.

They are making chances but failing to convert them, which means one of two things - either they are still coming to terms with the enormity of the Premier League stage, or their players are simply not good enough.

Vincent Kompany is convinced it is the former. I'm not so sure.

Defenders

Harry Maguire (Manchester United): The one skill you need above all else to survive at Old Trafford is the ability to cope with the pressure. It doesn't matter who you are, you are always in the news for good reasons or bad.

Harry Maguire has had his fair share of both during his time at the club, but his ability to handle the level of criticism which has come his way during the past couple of seasons, and not crumble under the weight of it, is to his eternal credit.

Against a difficult and purposeful Fulham side, Maguire was brilliantly effective. No frills or skills, but you're not going to get that from the former United captain. What you are going to get is commitment and a sharp competitive edge, and that's precisely what Erik ten Hag's side need at the moment.

Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool): To see Luis Diaz raise his shirt, revealing a message requesting freedom for his abducted father after scoring a late equaliser as a second-half substitute, will be one this season's abiding memories.

To even see him on the pitch, in view of everything else that is going on with his life, says volumes about the player's strength of character. It was just as well, because the only Liverpool player who brought his A-game to Kenilworth Road was Virgil van Dijk. What a poor show this was by the six-time European champions.

Luton, on the other hand, showed a lot of guts with a spirited performance. They defended resolutely and manager Rob Edwards and his coaching staff had clearly spent some time preparing his team for this fixture. It nearly paid off.

Moussa Niakhate (Nottingham Forest): He got himself sent off against Brentford earlier in the season for two clumsy challenges, but since then Moussa Niakhate has learned important lessons, the first being to only go to ground when absolutely necessary.

Against a rather self-indulgent Aston Villa, Niakhate was outstanding, closely followed by his defensive accomplice Murillo.

Both were commanding on the day but it is Niakhate who makes my selection. If he wasn't heading the ball clear, he was making crucial interceptions and tackles. He's no Viv Anderson, but he will do.

Midfielders

Jeremy Doku (Manchester City): City manager Pep Guardiola has found a player who is doing the things that Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez were doing two seasons ago all rolled into one.

Jeremy Doku destroyed Bournemouth but we've also seen him do the same thing against better-quality sides without such sparkling results.

Here, though, the Belgian scored one goal, had three assists and a deflected shot which resulted in a goal that should have been credited to him anyway.

This lad is one of the most exciting talents I have seen in some time. What he might become in the hands of Guardiola is anyone's guess.

Bernardo Silva (Manchester City): This was always going to be a difficult fixture for the Cherries. Manchester City are purring at the moment and looking like they are the team to beat again.

Goals are flying in from every corner of the pitch at the Etihad right now and they've got Bernardo Silva playing the most beautiful football. You can forgive City playing from side to side and going backwards as often as they do when they have artists like Silva conducting the play.

This is a bad time for anyone to play City.

Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United): Love him or loathe him, you can't ignore him - Bruno Fernandes is too good a player.

The Portugal international pulled Manchester United out of the fire with a touch of class when it mattered at Craven Cottage. It would have taken a special save to have stopped Fernandes from scoring the winning goal but Bernd Leno couldn't live up to the billing, which was unfortunate because at this point Fulham were worthy of a point.

Fernandes didn't just provide the winning goal, he saved Erik ten Hag from having another week full of speculation about his job and his ability to manage United. A true captain's performance if ever I saw one.

Joelinton (Newcastle): If Arsenal's unbeaten run was going to come to an end, then I would have put my money on it happening at St James' Park.

There is a rivalry emerging between these two teams, not just based on a north-south divide, but two teams who are similar in so many ways. They have managers who are young, astute and ambitious, with players who are being groomed for success and know they are very close to it.

Arsenal are the football aristocrats while Newcastle represent a grit that is synonymous with the region. Joelinton's performance against the Gunners was magnificent and epitomised that resilience.

Forwards

Anthony Gordon (Newcastle): There are times when a player moves to a club, and you know within a couple of games whether he has made the right choice.

Willian's move from Chelsea to Arsenal, for example, simply didn't work. Neither has Jadon Sancho's transfer from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United.

Conversely, you get some players who join clubs and you would think they were made for that team. Anthony Gordon's move from Everton to Newcastle United appears to be one of them.

He was outstanding at Manchester United in the League Cup in midweek and equally impressive against Arsenal at St James' Park, regardless of what you thought of the decisions made by the officials. You cannot blame Gordon for that.

Nicolas Jackson (Chelsea): Cristian Romero had been sent off - again, Micky van de Ven pulled his hamstring and limped off, James Maddison was taken off, and all in the first half.

Then, just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for Tottenham, Destiny Udogie makes an unnecessary challenge and receives a second yellow card.

With nine men left on the pitch and Spurs the architect of their own downfall, due to a combination of stupidity and recklessness, the stage was set for Chelsea to take complete advantage and Nicolas Jackson did just that. He finished all of his three goals very calmly.

Cameron Archer (Sheffield United): There's no doubt about it, the finish by Cameron Archer was against Wolves brilliant.

His overall performance was also impressive, although I didn't think Sheffield United were quite so convincing - the penalty awarded to the Blades I thought was a dive and very fortuitous.

You can't doubt the team's effort and collectiveness, but if manager Paul Heckingbottom is going to have to rely on undiluted passion and determination every week in order to win the occasional game, then his players will be burnt out by January.

Will we ever see the likes of Tony Currie blowing kisses to the crowd again having set the match alight? Or players with the skills of Alejandro Sabella playing the most gorgeous football? Or are those days over at Bramall Lane? I sincerely hope not.

Short presentational grey line

The Crooks of the Matter

I have seen some extraordinary decisions made by referees on a football field over the years, but one thing has always remained the same, and that is that the referee's decision is always final.

The introduction of VAR has left that principle in pieces and thrown the game into total chaos, leaving Mikel Arteta and Arsenal in a state of hysteria this weekend.

If the challenge by Joelinton on Gabriel was seen as legitimate in the referee's opinion, then he must have the authority to give the goal, regardless of what anyone else thinks - including VAR. He must remain the final arbiter.

Arteta and Arsenal clearly think VAR should have intervened because it was clear and obvious to them that an infringement had been made, but not necessarily to Stuart Attwell, who was in charge of the game. Attwell is entitled to give the goal if he thinks the challenge is legitimate.

Personally, I thought it was a shocking decision - but I am not the referee.