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Garth Crooks’ Team of the Week: Martinez, White, Shaw, Moreno, Odegaard, Saka, Rashford

Garth Crooks

At the end of every Premier League round of fixtures, BBC football pundit Garth Crooks is 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. As ever, Garth also has his say on the game’s big talking points in the Crooks of the Matter.

Garth's team of the weekGoalkeeper

Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa)

The save by Martinez from Jack Harrison at point-blank range was stunning. The World Cup winner with Argentina must be on an amazing high and full of confidence since his enormous success in Qatar. Martinez has been in sparkling form since his return to Aston Villa and was crucial in his side’s 2-1 win over Leeds United.

The 30-year-old doesn’t seem to have been affected by the criticism that has been levelled at him since his Qatar antics, which included throwing the ball away and attempting to unnerve Aurelien Tchouameni during that epic penalty shootout in the final. Martinez was also pictured holding a toy baby with a mask of Kylian Mbappe during celebrations in Buenos Aries. Boys will be boys.

Defenders

Ben White (Arsenal)

Both Gabriel and William Saliba have featured in my teams this season but less so Ben White. I thought the defender was outstanding against Spurs. He did his job quietly and effectively and dealt with the threat of Son Heung-min brilliantly. In fact there was a moment in the first half when he had Son in his pocket.

This Arsenal side is unrecognisable from the team I saw start the season. The back four now play as a unit and have stopped giving away stupid free-kicks in dangerous areas. This looks like a team that has found itself and means business. We all thought it might be Tottenham’s year but that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Luke Shaw (Manchester United)

I said when Luke Shaw played in the centre-back role against Bournemouth recently that he was inspirational. Well, against Manchester City’s goalscoring phenomenon Erling Haaland, he was even better.

I once heard Liverpool’s late, great Emlyn Hughes – himself a ferocious competitor – suggest that “a good big ‘un will always beat a good little ‘un”. At the time I bridled at the comment and refused to accept it, and the passing of time has not changed my mind. For far too long English football has suffered from such antiquated notions. However, Shaw’s recent displays for United must be an inspiration to youngsters all over the country who are desperate to play at centre-back but have been told they are not big enough.

Alex Moreno (Aston Villa)

It’s not very often you see a defender come on as a substitute and have the sort of impact Alex Moreno had on his debut for his new club. The quality of his defending was at times quite outstanding against Leeds. The way he responded to Rodrigo as the Leeds attacker rounded Martinez in the Villa goal and then blocked what was a certain goal from crossing the line was superb.

Good defenders can tackle and the really good ones can see the danger and actually do something about it. Unai Emery has got everyone fired up and football at Villa Park is interesting again.

Midfielders

Solly March (Brighton)

He was unlucky not to make my team of the week when Brighton obliterated Southampton at St Mary’s. Solly March scored a cracker that day and has been playing brilliantly throughout this season.

However, if you’re a Liverpool fan you must be concerned. It wasn’t losing to Brighton that stopped me in my tracks but the manner in which they lost. I said after their defeat against Brentford that their midfield looked old and unable to compete in the way they were two seasons ago. Jurgen Klopp has failed to address this problem and Liverpool will continue to struggle until he does.

Martin Odegaard (Arsenal)

I have been singing the praises of Martin Odegaard for quite some time this season. I have also watched him grow into a first-class player and lead Arsenal to the top of the Premier League. His performance against Spurs was another display of the highest quality. His goal was well struck and put the game well beyond Tottenham’s capabilities. That said, you would expect a decent goalkeeper to save a shot hit from that distance but Hugo Lloris has not been decent for some considerable time.

What has captured my attention is Arsenal’s new-found professionalism. Mikel Arteta is far more controlled in the technical area and there are clear signs that the league leaders refuse to be rattled by minor incidents and distractions. It’s enough to make you start taking Arsenal very seriously.

Mathias Jensen (Brentford)

There can be no denying the work Thomas Frank has done at Brentford. His side is unrecognisable from the team he brought into the Premier League two seasons ago. However, I have a problem with managers who see only what they want to see and argue what is simply in their best interest. Frank calls Ivan Toney’s foul on Bournemouth’s Marcos Senesi clever play. It certainly was because it fooled the referee but not those of us who have played the game.

However, there was nothing remotely underhand about Mathias Jensen’s goal or his performance. A fabulous strike by a player who is having an outstanding first half to the season.

James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)

It’s been sometime since James Ward-Prowse made one of my teams and that has been largely due to Southampton’s poor performances this season. However, it was nice to see the golf swing back in action every time he hits the back of the net.

His first goal was brilliantly taken and showed all the poise of a captain in a team at the top of the table, not at the bottom, which is where they currently sit.

Everton, meanwhile, are in desperate trouble both on and off the pitch. Whatever issues the fans may have with the running of their magnificent club, their cause cannot be best served by hurling abuse and threatening those who are trying their best to help matters.

Forwards

Brennan Johnson (Nottingham Forest)

This kid is a really willing player full of endeavour and effort. Brennan Johnson has caught my eye before but struggled in front of goal. Not so against a Leicester City side who have completely lost their confidence.

I can’t help feeling that the World Cup interruption has given Nottingham Forest invaluable time for Steve Cooper to knit together a team. Prior to the international tournament his chairman was buying anyone with a name, leaving the manager with an enormous task to carve out a side that could pick up points and eventually survive in the Premier League. Well, Cooper has done precisely that. Whether Forest will survive in this division is another matter entirely but with Brennan, Morgan Gibbs-White and Taiwo Awoniyi firing on all cylinders they may have a chance.

Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)

There was no doubt about it, Marcus Rashford was offside and the linesman confirmed it. The question is whether the Manchester United striker was considered to have interfered with play. Manchester City are convinced he was and so am I. To add insult to injury Rashford not only re-joined the phase of play but actively stopped Manuel Akanji from playing the ball. Rashford’s presence of mind and quick wittedness, while brilliant, has driven a coach and horses through the laws of the game by making the offside law far too open to interpretation by the referee, and that’s why the offside law as it stands is no longer fit for purpose.

Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)

If this fixture had been a boxing contest the referee would have stopped it. Talk about men versus boys. Arsenal absolutely destroyed Spurs in the first half. At one stage Bukayo Saka looked like he was capable of taking on the entire Tottenham team. The Arsenal winger gave Ryan Sessegnon such a torrid time I couldn’t believe Antonio Conte left the defender on the pitch to receive further punishment.

Arsenal’s second-half performance, however, was very different from the first. The Gunners managed the game brilliantly and never lost control. At this rate I can see no reason why Arteta and his men shouldn’t start talking about winning the title. We all know they are thinking about it.

Short presentational grey line

The Crooks of the Matter

A question was posed this week asking if football violence is on the increase. I was puzzled because the article was asking fans the questions, which is rather like asking a student to mark their own homework. The consensus seemed to be that trouble inside and outside football grounds was on the rise but no-one seems to know what to do about it.

Last season we saw the occasional pitch invasion and managers exposed to threatening behaviour from fans. Such actions were condemned by the game’s authorities, while the reaction by the police and the courts was swift. It seems the only way to deal with football hooligans is to give them a custodial sentence.

There was a time during the 70s and 80s, and to some extent the 90s, when violence at football grounds was out of control and even celebrated by the morons that perpetrated it. The game cannot afford the thugs to take us back to those dark days. The price was too great. We were banned from playing European football for five years, TV revenue was minuscule, football clubs were falling into bankruptcy and players weren’t being paid in some instances – and all because English football was toxic.

The advent of the Premier League didn’t just clean up the English game, its success has saved it – and we must do everything in our power to protect it.

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

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