Garth Crooks’ team of the week: Aubameyang, Martial, Alonso, Jota, Giroud

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February 24, 2020
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    Garth team of the week

    Manchester City improved their grip on second spot with a 1-0 win over rivals Leicester City in what was another fascinating weekend in the Premier League.

    The race for the other Champions League spots continued with Manchester United moving up to fifth with a 3-0 win over Watford, while Tottenham slipped down with a 2-1 defeat at fourth-placed Chelsea.

    Sheffield United also fell a place with their 1-1 draw against Brighton, but Arsenal made more ground with a 3-2 win against Everton. They are now four points shy of fifth spot.

    It was another bad day for bottom club Norwich, who lost 3-0 to Wolves.

    Here’s my team of the week – have a read and then select your own below.

    Garth Crooks' team of the week

    Goalkeeper – Ederson (Manchester City)

    Ederson

    Shock, horror for Manchester City. Striker Sergio Aguero has gone four games without scoring, so what shall they do? Rely on Ederson in goal, that’s what. The Brazil keeper made his mark in the opening exchanges when he faced Leicester forward Jamie Vardy in a one-on-one situation. The keeper stood his ground in the centre of his goal and said to Vardy ‘beat me if you can’. Ederson held his nerve, Vardy lost his – and hit the post. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen keepers race out to dive at a striker’s feet, only to give away a needless penalty. As for competing with Ederson in a 50/50 challenge – good luck with that. The way he left Kelechi Iheanacho in a heap, before half-time, suggests he isn’t joking.

    Did you know? Since the start of the 2017-18 season, Ederson has kept more clean sheets than any other Premier League goalkeeper (45).

    Defenders – Lewis Dunk (Brighton), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Marcos Alonso (Chelsea)

    (Left to right) Lewis Dunk, Harry Maguire and Marcos Alonso

    Lewis Dunk: This was a fabulous contest, played at times in shocking conditions. Brighton battled Sheffield United in the 1-1 draw almost as well as they coped with the inclement weather. At the heart of some stoic defending for the Seagulls was Dunk. The central defender was immense throughout, and at times the game was on the edge of boiling over. Dunk behaved most professionally when John Lundstram lunged at a ball he was never going to get – and didn’t. Dunk was gracious about the incident, which played some part in the Blades player staying on the pitch.

    Did you know? Among outfield players, only Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta (8,973) and Burnley’s Jack Cork (8,919) have played more minutes in the Premier League than Dunk (8,823) since the start of the 2017-18 season.

    Harry Maguire: Earlier in the week against Chelsea, Maguire was the villain after getting away with an unacceptable challenge on striker Michy Batshuayi. Against Watford he wasn’t exactly the hero, but he played a pivotal role in securing a clean sheet for the Reds. Two matches, two wins, two clean sheets and six points suggest United are building from the back. I still think they need another top-class defender to play alongside Maguire if they intend to be taken seriously as a top-four team. With an in-form Martial – and Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford waiting to return – United have the firepower. What they need is a Virgil van Dijk-type figure alongside Maguire in defence.

    Did you know? Maguire completed more passes than any other player during United’s 3-0 win over Watford (65).

    Marcos Alonso: The ball by Alonso for Mason Mount in the early exchanges of this London derby between Chelsea and Tottenham was an immediate reminder of how much I, and indeed the Blues, had missed the quality of his left foot. Only minutes later we saw a lovely volley flash over the bar with his weaker right foot. But what took place thereafter was a moment of sheer magic. Three minutes into the second half saw the most exquisite first-time ball from Ross Barkley set up a glorious strike by Alonso that put the game beyond Spurs. It momentarily took my mind off the awful decision to leave Tottenham’s Giovani lo Celso on the pitch for his shocking tackle on Azpilicueta.

    Did you know? Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Alonso has scored more goals than any other Premier League defender (17).

    Midfielders – Moussa Djenepo (Southampton), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Diogo Jota (Wolves), Dwight McNeil (Burnley)

    (left to right) Moussa Djenepo, Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Jota and Dwight McNeil

    Moussa Djenepo: The Southampton player laid on the goal for striker Shane Long amid appalling defending by Aston Villa. He then spins Frederic Guilbert on the halfway line, so the Frenchman is left embarrassingly trying to grab the Malian’s shirt. The only thing Djenepo didn’t do was score the goal his performance richly deserved during the 2-0 win. Meanwhile, Villa have been living off the Carabao Cup final and I think it will cost them a place in the Premier League in the end.

    Did you know? Only Stuart Armstrong (five) created more chances than Djenepo (four) in Southampton’s 2-0 win over Aston Villa.

    Bruno Fernandes: This lad looked good on his Premier League debut, but to be taking Manchester United’s penalties so early in his career at Old Trafford is a statement in itself. Since the injury to striker Rashford and the prolonged absence of midfielder Paul Pogba, United have had problems with penalty-takers, but Fernandes could be the answer. There is also a developing relationship between Fernandes and the fans, which is hardly surprising. They know a top-class player when they see one.

    Did you know? Fernandes became the first player to score their first Premier League goal for United with a penalty-kick.

    Diogo Jota: What a week it has been for the Wolves and especially Jota. A hat-trick for the Portugal player against Espanyol was followed by another two in what was, in the end, a routine win over the Canaries. This leaves Norwich seven points adrift at the bottom. The way they are playing at the moment suggests they have accepted their fate, which would be a shame. This is a fine club with a tremendous following, and survival is certainly not out of the question.

    Did you know? Jota has scored 10 goals in his past 12 appearances for Wolves in all competitions – he has only scored in four of those games, netting at least two goals in each (two braces and two hat-tricks).

    Dwight McNeil: He should have scored earlier in the match when he smashed a left-foot shot against the post. Undeterred, McNeil battled on regardless and got the goal that crowned an impressive performance against a harshly treated Bournemouth side desperate for points. The Cherries’ disallowed goal not only destroyed any attempt they may have had of salvaging something from this game, but was a travesty for football. To have a match continue for a few seconds, having the referee wave play-on, a perfectly good goal disallowed and a penalty awarded all in the same phase of play tells you which direction the game is going if VAR remains in control of football.

    Did you know? McNeil, 20, became the youngest player to reach 10 Premier League assists since Raheem Sterling in November 2014.

    Forwards – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Anthony Martial (Manchester United)

    (left to right) Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, Olivier Giroud and Anthony Martial

    Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang: This was a significant performance by Arsenal, but they would never have achieved the win against Everton without Aubameyang. It wasn’t just his ability to put the ball in the back of the net that was so impressive, but his work-rate is quite phenomenal. Everton, on the other hand, should have got something out of this game when you consider their chances. Most of them fell to striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who has been in blistering form recently. However, if Calvert-Lewin wants to be among the best strikers in the country, a return of one goal in five chances just won’t cut it.

    Did you know? Aubameyang has been directly involved in 38 goals in 38 Premier League appearances on Sundays (32 goals, six assists).

    Olivier Giroud: It may have been his first league start since the end of November, but Giroud doesn’t seem to have lost his desire to score goals or lead the Chelsea front-line. The France forward’s first league goal for 10 months was a fabulous strike. Giroud’s emergence from the shadows gives manager Frank Lampard options, especially as Batshuayi is in such poor form and Tammy Abraham is still coming to terms with his first full season in the Premier League. Giroud must have been relieved to get on the score-sheet against Spurs, and that infernal contraption they call VAR didn’t chalk off yet another perfectly worked goal as it did in midweek against Manchester United. Goals are far too difficult to come by as it is.

    Did you know? Giroud has had a hand in 26 goals in 35 starts for Chelsea in all competitions (16 goals, 10 assists).

    Anthony Martial: I was tempted to put Greenwood into my TOTW, but Martial scored a brilliant headed goal against Chelsea in midweek and produced a sensational chip to beat goalkeeper Ben Foster when the chance appeared to have gone against Watford. Make no mistake, Martial seems to have taken over from former striker Romelu Lukaku as United’s whipping boy. The France forward may be slightly temperamental, but he can play. If United fans want to get the best out of him, their boo-boys need to treat him with care.

    Did you know? Martial has scored 15 goals in all competitions for United this season – only netting more in 2015-16 (17).

    Now it’s your turn

    You’ve seen my selections this week. But who would you go for?

    Pick your Team of the Week

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

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    The Crooks of the Matter

    Raheem Sterling

    When I saw the picture of England forward Raheem Sterling with a Real Madrid shirt draped over one shoulder and a Manchester City shirt draped over the other on the front cover of a Spanish publication, I immediately thought ‘here is a genuine situation where there is no smoke without fire’.

    The interview inside didn’t disappoint eitherm with Sterling appearing coy when asked if he would one day like to play for Real Madrid; it was like asking a starry-eyed youngster if he would one day like to play for Manchester United. The difference is that the chances are highly likely that Sterling could do that, and are not merely a pipe dream. I interviewed him two years ago for Football Focus, and asked him what his ambitions were, bearing in mind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were about to vacate their positions as the best players in the world. Sterling understood perfectly the inference behind the question and responded by saying he wanted to be the best player he could at City – but the smile that followed revealed the unbridled truth.

    The biggest club in the world doesn’t come in for you when a club is ready to sell you. They come in for you when that club is desperate to keep you.

    Regular readers of TOTW will know what I think of Sterling. Indeed, with manager Pep Guardiola as his tutor, I’ve said he could replace Ronaldo as one of the best players in the world. What I will add now is that he could also achieve that same status under Real coach Zinedine Zidane. The question for Sterling is, who is it going to be? My advice is to do what Ronaldo did to Manchester United and Gareth Bale did to Spurs and move on. Do everything in your power to win the Carabao Cup, FA Cup and Champions League with City, but at the end of the season take a bow. Your time has come. Now seize it.

    Source

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    February 24, 2020
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