• February 9, 2023

Garth Crooks’ team of the week: Martinez, Diop, Gundogan, Neto

Manchester City increased their lead at the top of the table with a to seven points win tottenham.

Fighting Fulham beat Everton 2-0 while Arsenal beat Leeds with one hard-fought 4-2 victory and Chelsea ran out 2-0 winners against Newcastle.

There were victories for too Wolves and Burnley while Brighton versus Aston Villa finished goalless.

Check out my Team of the Week, then make your own choices at the end of the article.

Garth team of the week

Goalkeeper – Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa)

Emiliano Martinez

Emiliano Martinez: Leandro Trossard’s save in that game’s early exchange against Brighton gave an indication of the kind of form Martinez is currently in. My particular favorite was Dan Burn’s save, whose header was a specific target if Martinez hadn’t been athletic. Joel Veltman was the next to be rejected, followed by an extraordinary save in front of an exquisite Danny Welbeck streak on the near post that surprised everyone but Martinez. The Argentine looks like a top 4 goalkeeper in every way and if he can’t make it with Villa I suggest he do it with someone else.

Defenders – Matthew Lowton (Burnley), Joachim Andersen (Fulham), Issa Diop (West Ham)

Matt Lowton, Joachim Andersen and Issa Diop

Matthew Lowton: Burnley’s resurgence in the Premier League is not to be underestimated. The Lancashire team have won three times and drawn one of their last six league games. The last three are eight points ahead of them. They looked dead and buried two months ago. The man of the game against an uninspiring Crystal Palace was Burnley’s Matthew Lowton, who normally does goal-area clears but scored his goal superbly. I have a lot of respect for Roy Hodgson, but I hope he calls it an end-of-season day on his terms. Palace has to move on and Eddie Howe is a must see. Howe could be her next Steve Coppell.

Joachim Andersen: What a result for Fulham and Scotty Parker. Everton are another team chasing FA Cup glory and it can come at the expense of a top 4 finish in a season when anything seems possible. Fulham used a team from Everton, which looked lackluster after a thriller with nine goals against Spurs in the middle of the week. The star of that show, however, was Joachim Andersen, who won every header and appeared to intercept every ball that came into the Fulham penalty area. This was a win and, above all, a goal conceded that will warn Brighton, Burnley and especially Newcastle, who have slowly but surely been drawn into the relegation battle.

Issa Diop: I have to dream. West Ham in the top four? Well, they were for a brief moment after beating a Sheffield United side that for the first time looked like a team starting to accept their fate. The Hammers do exactly what Sheffield United is not, and that means scoring goals without conceding a clean sheet and winning football games. Issa Diop returns from an injury in his previous game and looked like he had never been away. An excellent defensive performance by the boy.

Midfielders – Jesse Lingard (West Ham), Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Harvey Barnes (Leicester City)

Jesse Lingard, Ilkay Gundogan, Bruno Fernandes and Harvey Barnes

Jesse Lingard: The way Jesse Lingard is currently playing for West Ham calls into question Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s wisdom in letting him go to east London on loan first. David Moyes will know all too well what the boy is capable of from his time at Old Trafford and plays him in a role that fits the England international perfectly. When he’s in shape and in the moment, his ability to take the game from defense to attack is as good as I’ve seen any player and he demonstrated it wonderfully against Sheffield United. Of course, Manchester United have Bruno Fernandes but should something happen to him they might regret letting Lingard go out.

Ilkay Gundogan: Well, I’ve been studying Ilkay Gundogan for a while. The German international has been outstanding since Kevin de Bruyne’s injury and has brought City to the top of the table on his shoulders. I know that anyone with the meanest intelligence could have seen his brilliance, but it was still wonderful to see him. The question now is whether the groin strain Gundogan suffered against Tottenham will keep him away for any length of time. Can Phil Foden take over the cloak and unlock the potential that everyone has drawn? As for Spurs, Jose Mourinho doesn’t convince anyone trying to tell Tottenham fans that his team is fighting for him or that they are banding together after conceding eight goals in two games.

Bruno Fernandes: Is Bruno Fernandes the only Manchester United player who thinks he can win the title? What a chance they had to stay five points behind arch-rivals Manchester City. Valuable points went against a perfectly normal West Brom. Where were Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford? They never showed up. If there was ever a day when Fernandes needed a little help from his friends, it was it. So United played an FA Cup midweek draw, but there couldn’t have been a better league game than against the Baggies. If United are going to work so hard to win these types of games, getting into the top four, regardless of the title, could be a challenge.

Harvey Barnes: Harvey Barnes caused all sorts of trouble to Liverpool on the right. The visitors clearly did not believe that this emerging talent was worth paying more attention than normal. Well they paid the price for it. Trent Alexander-Arnold couldn’t handle the lively Barnes for most of the afternoon. The winger was responsible for the free kick that gave Maddison the chance to score. He rescued the troubled Alisson (from the goalkeeper’s collision with his own defender) superbly and put the game beyond the champions with a brilliant goal. Former Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers must have been very pleased after beating the team that unceremoniously showed him the door.

Forwards – Timo Werner (Chelsea), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal), Pedro Neto (Wolves)

Timo Werner, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Pedro Neto

Timo Werner: Finally 14 games ended without a goal when Timo Werner finally hits the mark. In fact, it was Werner who changed the game for Chelsea with support for Olivier Giroud after the Blues lost Tammy Abraham to a dubious tackle from Jamaal Lascelles before converting himself. With the festivities that followed Werner’s goal, the player’s popularity with his teammates matches his quality.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: The old adage “a lucky player is a good player” seems to work very well with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Arsenal captain put the family before football by taking care of his sick mother. The problem got a little more complicated as he had to leave the Arsenal coronavirus bubble to do so. There is no doubt that Arsenal will suffer without him, but the Gunners got their reward on his return to the field with a wonderful hat-trick from the Gabonese star. However, if Leeds had started the game the way they ended it, it might have been a whole different story.

Pedro Neto: This was a game turned upside down by a shocking decision. Can someone tell me what handball is all about? Graham Scott’s penalty decision against Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand not only forced the game with the wolves to descend into the farce, but practically gave the visitors the points. Pedro Neto’s goal, however, was pure class. The Portuguese striker produced a moment of magic to seal the game. However, the Premier League needs to note that this new handball rule (like the offside rule) needs to be changed before fans return. A generation of gamers won’t be the only ones who don’t stand for it.

The crooks of matter

There can be no greater fear than hearing ice crack under your feet. However, it appears that the cracks in Liverpool’s title defense were already visible in the opening game of the season. Leeds United ran the champions ragged and had it not been for VAR and a bit of luck, Liverpool would have been embarrassed by the Premier League newcomers. Most of us heard the sound of a threatening crack that Saturday night, but ignored the signs. The 7-2 draw at Aston Villa shortly thereafter, a game in which the now injured Virgil van Dijk played, gave us all even more evidence that something was just wrong, but we decided to ignore the signs anyway . After all, this was Liverpool with a team full of world class players. But you don’t need a team of world-class gamers suffering from a crisis of confidence before the ship goes down – just one or two.

What we saw at Anfield when Alisson seemed to collapse against Manchester City under the pressure of trying to keep the title, was the point where suddenly everyone sat up and took notice. The reality was that we had just ignored the obvious. As if a draw with Fulham and West Brom at Anfield wasn’t bad enough, the loss at home to Brighton and Burnley should have told us that Liverpool’s ship was not only damaged but in danger of sinking. I’ve said repeatedly on my team of the week that the relationship between Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane was not ideal, while the team’s surrender at Leicester is another cause for concern. Of course, her fans may have made a difference, but what’s the point of speculating? They are not here.

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