Garth Crooks’ team of the week: Fernandes, Alonso, Foden, Maguire, Deeney


Liverpool’s stunning defeat by Watford was the major talking point of the Premier League weekend, while Manchester City won the Carabao Cup by beating Aston Villa at Wembley.

The victory at Vicarage Road helped the Hornets move out of the relegation zone following Bournemouth’s home draw against Chelsea, while fellow strugglers West Ham also earned a precious win over Southampton.

Wolves earned an important win in the battle for European qualification, coming back to beat hosts Tottenham and move level on points with fifth-placed Manchester United.

United drew at Everton, who had a late goal disallowed by VAR, while there were wins for Norwich against Leicester and Crystal Palace at Brighton. Elsewhere, there was a goalless stalemate between Newcastle and Burnley.

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

Goalkeeper – Claudio Bravo (Manchester City)

It is often the strikers who get mobbed for scoring goals and winning cup finals. However, in a fabulously contested Carabao Cup final it was Bravo who got the plaudits and was mobbed for his match-winning save. It’s not easy when you’re the understudy and not considered the best goalkeeper at the club. Nevertheless, Bravo proved his worth against Villa. I’m not entirely sure how Bravo got both hands to Bjorn Engels’ header but he managed to push the Villa defender’s effort against the post. The reaction from his Manchester City team-mates was emphatic and immediate as they knew the significance and importance of the save. The Chile international keeper had just won them the Carabao Cup.

Did you know? Bravo made two saves in City’s 2-1 victory, including that crucial save from Engels in the 88th minute.

Defenders – Christian Kabasele (Watford), Harry Maguire (Man Utd), Gary Cahill (Crystal Palace)

Christian Kabasele: Being given the task of marking Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk on corners and set-pieces is enough to make a player have sleepless nights. It was a bit of a mismatch, Van Dijk towering over Kabasele, but the Watford defender dealt with the challenge admirably. If there was a header or an important interception to be made, Kabasele was there to make it. More to the point, I could not have my TOTW without a Watford defender in it, having kept a clean sheet against the best team in the country. As for Liverpool, if ever there was a game that needed the inspiration of Jordan Henderson and the professionalism of James Milner then this was it.

Did you know? Kabasele made 13 clearances and eight headed clearances as well as helping Watford keep a clean sheet.

Harry Maguire: The development in Maguire’s career has been quite phenomenal. The player I saw playing for Hull City against Chelsea, which is when I first clapped eyes on him, has grown from a promising defender into an international player. Now, he’s not just playing for Manchester United but he is their captain and a leading figure in their defensive unit. Against Everton he was the player who immediately brought Gylfi Sigurdsson’s offside position to the referee’s attention, leading to Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s injury-time ‘goal’ being disallowed – and Maguire was right, of course. But it was also the way the England international practically lifted Fred off his feet and threw the player out of what had the potential to be an ugly confrontation with the referee that really impressed me. Now, that’s authority.

Did you know? Maguire made 15 clearances against Everton, two more than any other player this weekend.

Gary Cahill: This is probably the best free transfer I’ve seen for time. Cahill was as solid as a rock again for Crystal Palace. What an inspired selection by Roy Hodgson to take his former England international to Selhurst Park and make him captain. Brighton, on the other hand, should have got something out of this game based on their chances. The Seagulls are now entering the danger zone once more. I reckon they need at least another 10 points from 10 matches to ensure safety. I will be very interested to see how they cope without Chris Hughton’s tactical qualities now.

Did you know? Cahill made two blocks and four clearances in helping Crystal Palace keep their first Premier League away clean sheet in six games.

Midfielders – Phil Foden (Man City), Bruno Fernandes (Man Utd), Diogo Jota (Wolves), Marcos Alonso (Chelsea)

Phil Foden: I’ve had my eye on this young lad for some time and heard an awful lot about him. However, against Aston Villa – and games don’t get much bigger than Wembley cup finals – I thought Foden played brilliantly. The discipline he showed throughout the match and the way he constantly held his position, and the team their shape, indicated that here is a real team player. It was Foden’s ball back across the box that provided the opening for Sergio Aguero to score. For Foden to start and finish such a high-profile game suggests he is growing fast and winning Pep Guardiola’s trust.

Did you know? No player had more shots than Foden – five – in City’s League Cup final victory. Foden also provided the assist for Aguero’s opener in the 20th minute.

Bruno Fernandes: United’s draw at Everton was a fixture littered with errors. In fact, it would have been fitting for the hit single Things Can Only Get Better by D:Ream to have accompanied the players off the pitch. United’s David de Gea and Everton’s Jordan Pickford both had nightmares, while the normally mild-mannered Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti totally lost his cool and was sent off after the final whistle. Fortunately, United had Bruno Fernandes. His goal embarrassed Pickford, although to be fair to the England goalkeeper, he did recover somewhat. Fernandes is fast becoming the new golden boy at Old Trafford. I wonder how that is being greeted by Paul Pogba.

Did you know? Fernandes had more shots (six), more shots on target (three), made more passes (58) and had more touches (93) than any of his United team-mates at Goodison Park.

Diogo Joto: The Wolves forward is scoring goals for fun. I must admit I thought Wolves’ Europa League commitments would find them out. On the contrary, they have developed them into a team who now must be taken seriously as Champions League contenders. I never thought I would be saying that but I certainly am now having seen them put Spurs away and dispatched Espanyol in midweek to the European scrapheap. Jota, however, is not just scoring some fabulous goals, he is also playing some wonderful football. His assist for Raul Jimenez to score Wolves’ winner – against a Tottenham side who thought they had won the fixture – epitomised the form the Portugal international is in. Beware Wolves, this is a Manchester United player if ever I saw one.

Did you know? Jota has scored six goals in his last three games in all competitions, in the space of 10 days. His previous six goals were spread across 25 matches between August and February.

Marcos Alonso: The Chelsea left wing-back scores against Spurs, gets sent off against Bayern Munich and nets another two against Bournemouth – all in a week’s work. Alonso is back to his goalscoring best as Chelsea’s three at the back suits the Spain international. The Cherries should really count themselves very lucky because Alonso should have had a hat-trick and missed arguably his easiest chance of the game. Chelsea are fourth in the table and staring at the trap door in the Champions League. Nevertheless, the Blues are still punching above their weight and that is down to Frank Lampard.

Did you know? Alonso has scored 19 goals in the Premier League for Chelsea, more than any other defender in the competition since the start of the 2016-17 season.

Forwards – Michail Antonio (West Ham), Troy Deeney (Watford), Ismaila Sarr (Watford)

Michail Antonio: It might be only his second goal of the season but Antonio’s work rate and general contributions to West Ham’s victory over Southampton was vital. What this lad lacks in finesse, he more than makes up for in sheer determination. Hammers fans might be disgruntled with the owners but protesting on a matchday before a relegation battle is about to take place… is that really the time?

Did you know? Antonio both scored and assisted in a league game for the first time since April 2015.

Troy Deeney: It wasn’t Watford who stood between Liverpool and their 19th consecutive victory – it was Troy Deeney. Mr Watford was absolutely magnificent throughout this match. The striker occupied Dejan Lovren so completely from making his customary interventions that he reduced the Liverpool defender to no more than a mere bystander on so many occasions and the reason they conceded the first goal. Deeney then set up Ismaila Sarr’s second goal with the most incredible awareness before putting the finishing touches to a glorious performance by scoring the third. I don’t think it gets better than that.

Did you know? Deeney both scored and assisted in a Premier League game for the first time since March 2019.

Ismaila Sarr: When Watford manager Nigel Pearson decided to replace Roberto Pereyra with Sarr he couldn’t possibly have thought that the Senegal international could take the ‘soon-to-be-installed’ Premier League champions apart. The warning sign came in the first minute of the second half when Alisson had to pull off a sharp save to keep the striker at bay. What then took place was quite sensational. Sarr’s first goal, while important, was opportunistic. However, his second was of the highest quality. To leave Lovren and Van Dijk struggling to catch him before dispatching the most glorious finish was a sight to see. And, boy, did I enjoy it.

Did you know? It was the first time Sarr has been involved in three goals in a single game in 108 appearances in the top five European leagues.

Now it’s your turn

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

The Crooks of the Matter

When is a law a bad law? When it’s unfair.

No-one from Norwich’s win over Leicester on Friday made my team of the week, although Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis, two young Canaries, both did well. However, one player who might have featured had his goal been allowed to stand was Kelechi Iheanacho, who thought he had scored a stunner for Leicester.

There could not have been one impartial football fan who would have disallowed the goal.

Sadly, under the new rule if the ball hits any part of the arm and a player gains an advantage it will be deemed an infringement. What the law doesn’t seem to cater for is when the ball hits a defender’s arm beforehand. Who benefits in this instance?

The incident only becomes an issue because VAR’s ‘seek and destroy’ policy on these matters exists in the first place. Why people have felt the necessity to meddle with the greatest game in the world I don’t know but they are in danger of doing the game irreparable damage.

The implementation of the new law has been a disaster and so has VAR. Why the best league in the world has been subjected to such drastic changes is a complete and utter mystery to me.

So, in the interest of fair play, can we have our game back please? Anything else just isn’t fair.

Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho thought he scored the opener at Norwich – but it was ruled out for handball



BBC News

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