Garth Crooks Team of the Week: Pickford, Kante, Salah, Wood, Werner


Garth Crooks Team of the Week

Manchester City have won the first of three potential trophies this season beating Tottenham 1-0 in the Carabao Cup final and Manchester United dropped two points in the Premier League as they were held until a goalless draw – Leeds United.

Chelsea beat a Champions League counterpart West Ham candidates 1-0, Liverpool have conceded an equalizer in overtime 1-1 draw with Newcastle, while Aston Villa also scored late in a draw 2-2 with West Brom before Leicester struck back Crystal Palace 2-1 on Monday.

Take a look at my team of the week, then make your own selections at the bottom of the article.

Team of the Week - Pickford, Chilwell, Laporte, Tarkowski, Azpilicueta, Kante, Phillips, Werner, Iheanacho, Salah, Wood

Goalkeeper: Jordan Pickford (Everton)

Jordan Pickford

He is not my favorite goalkeeper in any way, except for the merits for which he is credited – he saved Everton against Arsenal. Two important Pickford defenses, the first by Dani Ceballos and the second by Gabriel Martinelli, keep Everton in the hunt for a place in the Europa League. Meanwhile, Pickford’s colleague Bernd Leno had a shock. It doesn’t matter how much defense you made in the match if you can’t save what matters.

Did you know? Pickford became the first Everton keeper to keep a clean sheet at Arsenal from Tim Howard in April 2013.

Defenders: Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), James Tarkowski (Burnley), Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)

Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), James Tarkowski (Burnley), Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)

I’m Chilwell: It was his rides down the left side of Chelsea that caused so much trouble for West Ham, and in fact led to the winner. Chilwell has a cultivated left foot and is capable of throwing dangerous balls into the penalty area for attackers. The hammers did not come to terms with Chilwell’s threat and it cost them dearly. As for the incident with Chilwell that led to the expulsion of Fabian Balbuena, although the action may have been clumsy, the referees don’t realize that football is a contact sport?

Did you know? No Chelsea player has created more chances against West Ham than Ben Chilwell (three), and Chilwell has provided an assist for Time Werner’s winning goal.

James Tarkowski: This was an outstanding team performance. Burnley is credited with the Premier League and their manager. They may not be the most talented team I have ever seen, but they are the most honest. They don’t dive and they don’t scream when they are tackled and given a 100% win or lose. Ben Mee and Tarkowski were once again outstanding for Burnley and represent what their team is all about.

The way Daniel Podence stayed on the ground looking for a penalty that was challenged in the Burnley area was nothing short of a disgrace. I’m not sure that the reaction of his teammates was much better. If the referees don’t tackle this incessant diving every time the players touch the field, we won’t have a game at all soon.

Did you know? Tarkowski blocked two shots and won all four air duels in Burnley’s 4-0 win over the Wolves.

Aymeric Laporte: I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I was to hear the voices of football fans in the stadium again. The Spurs may have lost this cup in the final with 1: 0, but it could have been much worse – they could have been destroyed. The Spurs had a chance, but Manchester City was in second class. Laporte scored the winning goal, but I’m not entirely sure the French international should have been on the field. He got away with one reservation and received another. This has proven to be a very difficult week for the Spurs and the sooner I can get a permanent manager, the better. Their rehabilitation must begin immediately. Harry Kane is at stake.

Did you know? Laporte had two shots in the Carabao Cup final, and his goal in the goal was the only goal of the match. His two shots and one in the target was exactly the same number that Tottenham managed as a team.

César Azpilicueta: This is the new sneaky Chelsea we see these days, and he seems to have emptied his mistakes from behind without suffocating their full back and freedom of attack. Azpilicueta has found his mojo again and is toying with the authority he had when Chelsea lifted the title under Antonio Conte. The Chelsea captain showed great experience when the ball bounced from his chest to his hand, but the defensive player kept his hand close to him so as not to award a penalty. The Spaniard was an outstanding servant of Chelsea and in my opinion the perfect player to have led Chelsea through this transition period under the leadership of Thomas Tuchel.

Did you know? Chelsea have conceded just 15 goals in the 1,846 minutes Azpilicueta has played for them this season, conceding once on average every 123 minutes.

Midfielder – Calvin Phillips (Leeds), N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)

Calvin Phillips and N'Golo Kante

Calvin Philips: This was another attractive schedule that suffered due to the absence of fans. A lot of good players at the show, but without an audience that could perform at the game, failed. My interest has mainly focused on the midfield competition between Bruno Fernandez of Manchester United and Philips of Leeds United. I have already mentioned Philips in my team of the week and I rated it very high. His performance against Fernandez was impressive. The England midfielder not only enjoyed the fight with the Portuguese star, but also frustrated United’s life. Luckily for Leeds, Manchester United didn’t start with Fernandes and Paul Pogba, if they did, so Philips might have a deal.

Did you know? Phillips created the most chances (three), made the most fights (eight) and joint recoveries (12) of any Leeds player against Manchester United.

N’Golo Kante: This was Chelsea’s massive win over West Ham and provides daylight between the two teams in the race for a place in the Champions League. I have often thought that Chelsea have never treated their managers well, as evidenced by their layoff data over the last 10 years. However, their appointments largely yield results and Tuchel seems to be in that mold. The Chelsea manager has not been able to call Kante as often as he would like due to injury, but when he does, the French dynamo raises his side to another level. Kante knows how to win trophies and Tuchel football matches. This combination has huge potential if both can stay on course.

Did you know? In a joint fight (four) and the most interceptions (three), Kante was made by any Chelsea player in their 1-0 victory at West Ham.

Forwards: Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Chris Wood (Burnley), Timo Werner (Chelsea)

Kelechi Iheanacho, Mohamed Salah, Chris Wood and Timo Werner

Kelechi Iheanacho: What a goal. He had already set up an equalizer for Timothy Castagne before shooting an unstoppable shot past stranded Vicente Guaita in the Crystal Palace net. Kelechi Iheanacho is in hot form. Fourteen goals in 14 games for the Nigerian Super Eagle really says it all. This was a massive win for Leicester and cements their challenge for a place in the Champions League. I might make Chelsea a slight favorite for the FA Cup final, but I just have a funny feeling it could be the year of Leicester and Brendan Rodgers. However, none of this should deter Tottenham Hotspur from trying to fill Rodgers ’vacant leadership position. He is currently the only man for the job.

Did you know? Kelechi Iheanacho has scored (12) or assisted (two) in eight of his last nine appearances for Leicester in all competitions.

Mohamed Salah: Twenty league goals in three of the last four seasons says it all really. Ever since Ian Rush, the Liverpool player has not been so prolific. Mohamed Salah’s turnaround and goal against Newcastle, who at times seemed committed to self-destruction, was the best I’ve seen from the Egyptian national team lately. For me, the mystery is exactly what happened to Liverpool’s ability to finish. I’ve never seen as many chances for begging as against Newcastle. However, it would have been a terrible injustice if Newcastle had not scored a point after Callum Wilson’s goal was annulled. The only thing VAR has emphasized since its inclusion in the game is the complete incompetence of those who use it.

Did you know? Salah became the first Liverpool player to score 20 goals in as many as three different seasons in the Premier League.

Chris Wood: This match was over in 45 minutes – Wood scored the first half hat-trick. The Wolves sit nicely at 41 points and so they played. Burnley, meanwhile, looked like a team on a mission and none more than Wood. The Burnley striker was electric and accepted his goals brilliantly. It was a tough year for Clarets, and Sean Dyche did a wonderful job keeping his players concentrated and his team in the Premier League.

Did you know? Wood became the first New Zealand player to score a Premier League hat-trick, while it was the first away hat-trick scored in the first half of a Premier League game from Michael Owen to Newcastle in August 1998.

Timo Werner: If ever a player deserved a goal then it was Werner. The Chelsea striker ran Manchester City torn in the FA Cup semi-finals and missed my team’s selection just because of his inability to finish what he often started. However, that was not the case against West Ham. The ball from Kante to Werner was wonderfully direct and Werner spun Angela Ogbonna as if spinning plates. Mason Mount scored in Chilwell, and the ball over the penalty to Werner to finish was all it took. It was the German’s first goal since mid-February, but the chance he missed in the second half is exactly why he didn’t provide more in my previous selections.

Did you know? Werner has had a hand in 20 goals in all competitions this season, more than any other Chelsea player (11 goals, nine assists).

Crooks of Matter

Now the dust has settled and the failed European Super League is quickly becoming a distant memory, what have we learned from the events of probably the most unusual week in the history of the professional game?

First, that the owners of football clubs, no matter how rich they are, are guardians and the club does not belong to them. Second, the 14 Premier League clubs that have not been invited to join the breakaway owe a great deal of gratitude to the fans and it will be extremely interesting to me to see how they and the Premier League intend to repay that debt.

However, I have a few modest suggestions.

Freezing season ticket prices and allowing official fan groups to buy stocks at clubs. They do that with the biggest clubs in Germany and Spain, so why not in England as well? In this way, the game can be convinced that the future of football clubs is no longer determined by rich football barons but by true fans. If not, it is only a matter of time before history repeats itself.

Fourteen Premier League clubs owe their current status to those who protested so fiercely, and the chairmen of the other six are lucky to still be in office. Fans deserve a return to the faith they have given in their clubs. The Premier League must now do the honorable thing, the right thing, and allow its fans to become shareholders.

The proposed review by the British government must make this proposal a key recommendation and make if necessary. After all, this idea is not new and has been invited by fans across the country for years. If the richest football owners cannot be trusted to act in the best interest of the game, then the government must do it for them.

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