Who has forced his manager to play him? Garth Crooks’ Team of the Week

26 February 2024 0 By Total Football News

Garth Crooks' team of the week

After every 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 Crook's team of the week graphicGoalkeeper

Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool): The point-blank save from Cole Palmer in the first half of Liverpool’s Carabao Cup win over Chelsea by Kelleher was not just world class it was worthy of winning any cup final. So was his save from Conor Gallagher who was clean through at the time.

Liverpool’s number two goalkeeper doesn’t seem to care what the occasion is, it seems you can always depend on the Republic of Ireland international. Of all the injuries sustained by Liverpool the team have missed Alisson the least. Kelleher’s performance have been nothing short of outstanding as was his form in the EFL Cup final.

This is a man who remains incredibly calm often in extraordinary circumstances and tends to do all his talking between the sticks. Winning trophies with Liverpool as their number two is all very well but I can’t help feeling there comes a time when you performances deserve top billing – even if it means leaving Anfield.


Calvin Bassey (Fulham): Outfought, outmuscled and outplayed by Fulham in the 2-1 loss at Old Trafford. If Manchester United players lack inspiration why don’t they leave? Or better still Erik ten Hag gets rid of them. If not, as sure as night follows day, Manchester United will get rid of him.

With no Rasmus Hojlund in the mix due to injury it needed Marcus Rashford to step up to the challenge but he was nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, Fulham made six changes to the side that lost to Aston Villa and they still destroyed United, who only seem to turn up when they’re in a crisis or their manager’s position is under threat.

This was an impressive team performance by the Cottagers with Bassey and Tosin Adarabioyo back in the starting line-up and could have played this match in stocking feet. Nigeria international Bassey’s goal was a nice finish to an excellent personal performance.

Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool): The Dutch centre-back was quick to point out that it was his first trophy as a Liverpool captain and how much that meant to him – and boy did he play like it. Van Dijk turned the game in Liverpool’s favour against Luton in midweek and he performed in the EFL Cup final against Chelsea as if his life depended on it.

Surrounded by youngsters, and inexperience as the game wore on, Van Dijk not only held the team together but it was fitting that he scored the winning goal. He saved his greatest praise for the club and its culture which would have been instilled by the likes of Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley, but also for the young Liverpool youngsters that performed so admirably in the Wembley cauldron.

Chelsea had a billion-dollar side that in the end lacked the quality or the guts to beat a team ravaged by injury and stuffed with youngsters full of inexperience. It will be interesting to see how they recover from this.

Gabriel (Arsenal): If ever Newcastle boss Eddie Howe wants to know what effect the demands of the Champions League has had on his team he need look no further than this 4-1 defeat against Arsenal.

This time last year Newcastle went toe-to-toe with Arsenal at the Emirates and looked ready to join the game’s elite. However, their squad was never big or good enough to cope with the demands of hosting Borussia Dortmund, Paris St-Germain and others in pursuit of European success – and then be expected to return to their domestic league and perform.

Meanwhile, Arsenal are expected to do just that. They returned from a 1-0 loss at Porto in midweek and battered Newcastle, and Brazil centre-back Gabriel was a good as anyone in an Arsenal shirt. If the Newcastle hierarchy want what Arsenal have then they are going to have to pay for it. It’s no coincidence that the top three teams in the league have the best squads in the country.


Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace): He scored a fabulous goal in their 1-1 draw against Everton in last week’s Monday night game and came to Crystal Palace’s rescue in the 3-0 win against Burnley on Saturday.

In the absence of Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise, Ayew has taken charge of matters at Palace and is producing some tremendous football. He set up Chris Richards’ first goal for the club with a glorious cross and scored his second in consecutive matches, having covered the ground to convert a brilliant passage of play.

This was a wonderful start to Oliver Glasner’s tenure at Selhurst Park. Burnley, however, might have got something out of the game if they hadn’t had a man sent off so early in the game. When will Burnley learn their lesson? The reason they have spent the best part of the season in the bottom three is due to their insistence on putting their team-mates in situations they cannot handle.

John Stones (Manchester City): I knew something wasn’t right when I saw Stones move into an advanced position, play a ball into Bernardo Silva and have the nerve to run into the six-yard area and expect a return pass before playing a square ball across the face of the opposition’s goal line. It was a travesty there was no-one there to finish the move and put the ball into the back of the net.

Stones has always been comfortable on the ball but not always in advanced areas. What I am seeing now is a player who wants to play in the last third of the pitch. However, far more importantly, his team-mates are prepared to trust him with the ball in those positions which is a huge compliment and a massive indication of the player’s development.

This kind of progress with players only happens under certain coaches and Pep Guardiola is one of those coaches.

Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa): The ability of Luiz to get into the opposition’s penalty area, and time his runs well enough to get among the goals, is quite a talent. He’s scored nine Premier League goals at Villa Park this season.

Scoring goals from midfield is a valuable asset and one of the reasons Villa find themselves back in the top four. What is surprising however is that Villa have already let in nine goals from corners this season, including the one they conceded in the 4-2 win against Nottingham Forest. It will be interesting to see whether Unai Emery’s newly produced defensive duo of Clement Lenglet and Pau Torres can fill the void left by injuries to Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings.

What is clear is that their manager has focused his attention on Villa’s attacking prowess. However, finishing in the top four may finally depend on how well they can defend.

Martin Odegaard (Arsenal): This was Arsenal at their blistering best. If Mikel Arteta was in any doubt about getting a reaction from his players after their last-minute defeat against Porto in the Champions League then he was certainly left in no doubt after their 4-1 demolition of Newcastle on Saturday.

Martin Odegaard was the man, once again, at the heart of this victory for Arsenal and at no stage was he prepared to let Newcastle into the game once they had control of it. The Gunners have been scoring goals almost at will lately and continued in that vein against Newcastle, who, I must say, looked tired.

Eddie Howe cannot be blamed for Newcastle’s lack of staying power. A manager is only has good as his squad and the squad was never big or good enough to cope with those demands.


Leon Bailey (Aston Villa): It’s difficult to ignore Ollie Watkins when he’s scoring goals and I think Moussa Diaby is a really good player, especially when he’s on form. However, Leon Bailey is keeping Diaby out of the starting line-up and grabbing the spotlight – and has been for a while.

He traumatised Nottingham Forest in a 45-minute outburst of scintillating football. He put Watkins’ goal on a plate, was instrumental in Villa’s second goal scored by Douglas Luiz, and scored his team’s fourth goal himself. This was a sparkling performance by the Jamaica international who has clearly worked hard on his game to obtain the kind of consistency that has forced Unai Emery to play him. Now that’s how you force your way into a successful team .

Jarrod Bowen (West Ham): Two very well-taken goals by Bowen in the first 10 minutes of the 4-2 win against Brentford on Monday would have settled the nerves of the West Ham fans who have been very vocal recently about their team’s performances and the relevance of their manager David Moyes.

However, by the time Bowen got his first senior hat-trick, against a very slow starting Brentford, the Hammers were flying and their signature tune ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’ was ringing around London Stadium.

The question I want to know the answer to is ‘When are West Ham fans going to get off Moyes’ back and give him some support?’

They’ve made it clear that they don’t really want him there, and that’s fine. The least they can do is give him some support until the end of the season when he’s certain to take the bait and walk.

Phil Foden (Manchester City): Long gone are the days when Manchester City can roll up to the south coast and put three or four goals past Bournemouth. In fact, their encounter on Saturday, which they edged 1-0, suggests that with better finishing the Cherries could quite easily have come away with a point.

However, once the goal by Foden had happened, Bournemouth were always chasing the match. Not only did Foden have an excellent game he was the only City player expecting Neto not to hold on to Erling Haaland’s shot and gratefully put the Bournemouth goalkeeper’s parry into the back of the net.

In his post-match interview Pep Guardiola played down the fact that City got away with this result, keen to focus on the positives. They’ve closed the gap at the top of the league by one point and Liverpool can’t afford the slightest slip-up. If City beat Manchester United on Sunday, all eyes then turn to the encounter between City and Liverpool at Anfield. Whoever wins that is likely to win the title.

Short presentational grey line

The Crooks of the Matter

Who can forget the tear-up between Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer while playing for Newcastle United? The pair, team-mates at the time, went for each other in a fit of rage during a Premier League fixture. Team-mates confronting each other is nothing new in football. In fact I’d be more surprised if they didn’t. Football is an emotional game and it’s not only the fans that feel it.

The issue was raised again this week after Jack Robinson and Vinicius Souza confronted each other while playing for Sheffield United against Wolves. To their credit the incident was nothing like as volatile as the fracas involving Bowyer and Dyer but it was sufficiently embarrassing nevertheless, both players requiring their team-mates to intervene.

What is important to understand here is that players will fall out from time to time, especially when a team is struggling. The point is they settle their differences in the dressing room and don’t humiliate their team-mates and the club in public.

This wishy-washy nonsense from managers that it is passion and desire to win that causes these eruptions is an opinion from the Victorian age.

I’ve never seen a trophy-winning team behave in such a public manner. If I were chairman of that football club and witnessed such behaviour I would have fined both players and put them on notice that if there was ever a repeat of such conduct they would lose their jobs.

Sheffield United and football have a reputation to protect and when they wear that red-and-white shirt that is precisely what they are expected to do – protect it. Not to make it a laughing stock.

Everything you need to know about your Premier League team banner

  • Our coverage of your Premier League club is bigger and better than ever before – here’s everything you need to know to make sure you never miss a moment

BBC Sport banner footer