Garth Crooks’ Team of the Week: Whose sheer presence causes pandemonium?

Garth Crooks

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

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 Team of the WeekGoalkeeper

Dean Henderson (Nottingham Forest)

He’s had good games before but nothing quite as important or as impressive as his performance against the former European champions. Liverpool should have won this fixture and would have done if it hadn’t been for Dean Henderson.

While the Manchester United loanee has been at Nottingham Forest he’s saved a penalty, clawed balls off the line and against Liverpool saved Forest from certain defeat.

The difficulty for Henderson is there is no way he is going to replace David de Gea at United but I can see him becoming an exceptional goalkeeper at Forest. After all it didn’t do Peter Shilton any harm.


Dan Burn (Newcastle)

I have become a big fan of Dan Burn since his arrival at St James’ Park. The development in this defender since he left Brighton has been quite astonishing. He can play as a full-back, which is quite impressive for such a tall individual, or a centre-half. He was brought to Newcastle by Eddie Howe and has been ever present since his arrival. Against Spurs he was dependable as ever alongside Fabian Schar and Sven Botman in a Newcastle defence that is looking meaner with every game.

Having played in Europe in midweek a point would have would have been a good result for Spurs. They also need a top class goalkeeper not a top class shot stopper. Spurs will win nothing with Hugo Lloris in goal.

Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa)

This was a very different Aston Villa than the one that played at Craven Cottage in midweek. That team conceded three goals against Fulham and they looked leaderless. Thirty minutes after the game they were. Their manager was sacked and the club looked in disarray. Four days later they score four goals and keep a clean sheet against a Brentford side full of goals.

Tyrone Mings wreaked havoc in Brentford’s box while looking commanding in defence. He may not score many goals but his sheer presence is enough to cause pandemonium in the opposition penalty area.

Vitalii Mykolenko (Everton)

I thought the block by Mykolenko, on Crystal Palace’s Odsonne Edouard in the second half was superb, while his shot that set up Anthony Gordon’s goal was typical of the defender’s keenness to join the attack and make the extra man.

Why the referee’s assistant felt the need to raise his flag when it was clear Gordon was onside was puzzling. I hope we haven’t got to a situation where Stockley Park is telling the officials to raise their flag, just in case, merely so they can utilise their equipment regardless whether the move is offside or not. If so it’s nothing more than jobs for the boys. VAR involvement needs to be reviewed so the fans know precisely what its role is.


Granit Xhaka (Arsenal)

This can’t be happening. Granit Xhaka, once the most unpopular player ever in an Arsenal shirt, is scoring goals, Gabriel Martinez and Bukayo Saka are playing out of their skins, the Gunners are still top of the table and I can’t see anyone stopping them at the moment. It’s like a nightmare unfolding in front of your very eyes.

Thank goodness Arsenal are having to play three games a week including European football matches. Fortunately the Saints played the Gunners at the right time. A fresh Arsenal would have destroyed Southampton.

Casemiro (Manchester United)

There’s no doubt Casemiro is a top class player. You don’t play for Real Madrid without being the finished article. The question is, can he impose those talents on Manchester United? Against Chelsea he certainly dug them out of a hole. If you’re going to score your first goal for Manchester United it might as well be against one of your top four rivals.

In the meantime, what is wrong with Raphael Varane? He’s a good defender but he’s made of biscuits – he keeps breaking. Strikers used to get carried off after a tackle by a defender. Now centre-backs get carried off after they tackled a striker.

What’s it coming to?

Youri Tielemans (Leicester)

Back-to-back wins for Leicester City may ease their pain but at no stage did Brendan Rodgers seem the slightest bit concerned. I’m not sure if that’s because he knows he’s a good coach or that he has good players. Probably a bit of both.

Youri Tielemans is certainly one of the more talented players in his ranks and his goal against a desperate Wolves demonstrated it. The Black Country side, however, are in big trouble and dropping like a stone. The club had no business sacking Bruno Lage unless they could replace him. The departure of Steven Gerrard galvanised an important victory for Aston Villa, the departure of Lage instigated a collapse.

Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)

Manchester City were sent packing from Anfield last week having been battered and bruised and with their ego severely dented. You can’t expect to compete for a Premier League title and not expect Liverpool not to have a say in the proceedings.

However, the way in which Manchester City recovered from that mauling on Merseyside and bounced back to destroy Brighton should provide Liverpool, and the rest of the league, with some cause for concern. Erling Haaland looked like he wasn’t the slightest bit concerned about what happened at Anfield while Kevin de Bruyne never does.

This was some recovery by City and they look back on track. As for Brighton, they look like they are missing Graham Potter.


Danny Ings (Aston Villa)

Well if anyone wasn’t sure why Steven Gerrard was sacked as Aston Villa manager, then the team’s performance against Brentford 15 minutes into the match should have told you something.

Gerrard’s departure seems to have revitalised the entire team. They ran harder, played better and scored goals. Gerrard has every right to be furious by this sort of reaction. He was considered to be the person likely to take Villa places when he arrived at Villa Park.

Danny Ings, who was out of favour under Gerrard, was brought back the moment Gerrard was gone and immediately started scoring goals. It was as if the players were trying to make a statement.

Erling Haaland (Manchester City)

Having seen the challenge on Manchester City’s Erling Haaland, by Robert Sanchez in the Brighton goal, I’m starting to think there is nothing wrong with VAR technology but everything wrong with the people who interpret what’s taken place.

It looks like VAR is starting to ignore the clear and obvious and concentrate on the difficult and complicated. Both of City’s penalty appeals should have been given. As for Haaland’s challenge on Adam Webster that led to the strikers opening goal, if that challenge had taken place at Anfield is anyone seriously telling me that Lee Mason wouldn’t have given a free-kick against Haaland?

VAR is all over the place but fortunately not so obvious to affect Haaland, who was clearly the best striker on the pitch.

Taiwo Awoniyi (Nottingham Forest)

Being employed by a top professional club without ever making the grade can take some getting over. Taiwo Awoniyi must have dreamt about scoring for Liverpool as a youngster but left without playing a single game. He could never have imagined that one day he would inflict one of the club’s most embarrassing defeats. Only football can throw up these strange events.

Nottingham Forest have shown grit and determination the moment they stepped in to the Premier League. What they didn’t possess was belief and ingenuity. With more of the same it might be a very interesting second half to the season for Forest.

Short presentational grey line

The Crooks of the Matter

A leading referees’ charity has called for an inquiry into the touchline behaviour of managers after ugly scenes at several Premier League matches and I can’t say I’m the slightest bit surprised.

Jurgen Klopp was sent off by Anthony Taylor amidst the red hot atmosphere of Anfield last Saturday for an extraordinary verbal assault towards the referee’s assistant. Klopp later apologised but the damage had been done. Millions of TV viewers had seen the incident and Taylor used the only means at his disposal and made his position clear by sending the Liverpool manager off. The referee handled the match brilliantly but why are managers increasingly allowing themselves to lose self-control but insist referees retain control of the fixture at all times?

Mikel Arteta, Thomas Tuchel, Antonio Conte and Jesse Marsch have all been cautioned by officials already this season in scenes that can only be described as thoroughly unpleasant. These men must be made to respect the traditions of the game, and not allowed to hide behind the idea that they are the only ones who suffer frustrations, and that passions and emotions are not excuses to behave abominably on the touchline.

The game is no more intense or passionate than it was in years gone by. The only significant change in the modern era is the amount of money attached to it. In order for the game to survive its integrity must be protected and that means the officials not being coerced or bullied by managers.

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