Who is playing with a smile on his face and who made me think I was seeing things? – Garth Crooks’ team of the week

Who is playing with a smile on his face and who made me think I was seeing things? - Garth Crooks' team of the week thumbnail

Garth team of the week

Manchester City moved to within four wins of the Premier League title by beating Leicester City 2-0.

Last season’s champions Liverpool closed to within two points of the top four with a comfortable 3-0 win at Arsenal.

Struggling West Bromwich Albion produced a shock by winning 5-2 at Chelsea while Newcastle boosted their survival hopes with a 2-2 draw against Tottenham.

Elsewhere, Manchester United came from behind to beat Brighton 2-1 while Leeds edged Sheffield United by the same scoreline, Everton drew 1-1 with Crystal Palace and West Ham survived a Wolves comeback to win 3-2.

Check out my team of the week and then make your own selections towards the bottom of the article.

Team of the week

Goalkeeper – Alisson (Liverpool)


Alisson: The Brazilian keeper has looked decidedly uncomfortable on occasions this season. No more so than in Liverpool’s league fixture at home to Manchester City when Alisson’s confidence looked shattered. Well, what a difference a few weeks and an international break makes.

Alisson appeared as relaxed as I’ve seen him for some time and at one stage even looked like he was playing with a smile on his face against Arsenal.

This was a very different performance from the Liverpool we saw lose to Fulham and Chelsea and an Alisson brimming with confidence.

Did you know? Since his Premier League debut in August 2018, Alisson has kept 41 clean sheets in the competition, a haul only Manchester City’s Ederson can better (53).

Defenders – Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Cheikhou Kouyate (Crystal Palace), Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City)

Trent Alexander-Arnold, Cheikhou Kouyate, Benjamin Mendy

Trent Alexander-Arnold: When Trent Alexander-Arnold is in this mood it is difficult to see why Gareth Southgate left him out of the England squad recently. The ball for Diogo Jota’s first goal against a poor Arsenal was wonderful and the free-kick he delivered to Sadio Mane, which should have been converted, was even better.

Alexander-Arnold, like his team, has had a difficult season but I would have thought the young man would have done enough to warrant a place in the England squad if not in the team. I really hope it’s nothing to do with petty club rivalries within the England camp. International teams win nothing with that nonsense going on.

Did you know? Since the start of 2018-19, Alexander-Arnold has provided more Premier League assists than any other defender (29).

Cheikhou Kouyate: The way this lad has adjusted from midfield to centre-back for Crystal Palace has been incredibly impressive.

The Senegal international has been performing in this position for some time now and I have been reluctant to select the player in my team of the week because of the outstanding performances of others.

However, against Everton Cheikhou Kouyate was quite brilliant and played a major part in Crystal Palace achieving a well-earned point.

Did you know? Kouyate won possession six times and made one key block against Everton.

Benjamin Mendy: I was so taken aback by this finish I had to watch it again. Benjamin Mendy controls the ball with his favoured left foot, feints to strike which Marc Albrighton attempts to block, meanwhile Mendy pulls the ball on to his right foot, refuses to panic, sees the gap in the defence and a route to goal and puts the ball into the back of the net as if he were Sergio Aguero. I thought I was seeing things.

We’ve stopped talking about Manchester City winning the league title. It’s all about can they do the Treble or even the quadruple? Playing like this City are capable of both.

Did you know? Against Leicester, Mendy netted just his second Premier League goal for Manchester City, with those two coming in his past six appearances in the competition, after failing to find the back of the net in his first 39.

Midfielders – Matheus Pereira (West Brom), Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City), Jesse Lingard (West Ham), Callum Robinson (West Brom)

Matheus Pereira, Kevin de Bruyne, Jesse Lingard, Callum Robinson

Matheus Pereira: Scotty Parker’s heart must have sank when he saw this result. The Fulham manager was entitled to think that Chelsea would have taken all three points from a team second from bottom in order to strengthen their top-four position. If only life in the Premier League were that simple. West Brom not only took Chelsea apart but looked good doing it.

Man of the Match was undoubtedly Matheus Pereira, who scored two outstanding goals and would have completed his performance with a deserved hat-trick had it not been for the feet of Edouard Mendy. In fact it was the only thing the Chelsea goalkeeper got anywhere near all afternoon.

Did you know? Pereira’s two goals for West Brom against Chelsea came just two minutes 46 seconds apart, with these the Brazilian’s first goals in nine league games.

Kevin de Bruyne: I have to put Kevin de Bruyne in my team, if only for the through ball that sliced Leicester’s defence in two for Manchester City’s second goal. I have seen balls expose a defence, even threaten their incompetence but never a ball that was so inviting and appear so gettable, yet so painfully unreachable. This ball was so brilliantly executed by De Bruyne it left Jonny Evans and Wesley Fofana grovelling on the floor and the rest of Leicester’s defenders chasing shadows.

Did you know? Since his Premier League debut for Manchester City in September 2015, De Bruyne has created 530 goalscoring chances for team-mates, more than 100 ahead of any other player in that time.

Jesse Lingard: What a first-half performance by Jesse Lingard. The Manchester United player on loan at West Ham had a barnstorming 45 minutes against Wolves at Molineux.

Back in the England squad Lingard looks on top of his game again having scored the Hammers’ opening goal, set up their second and also the third.

Manchester United must be watching and wondering what to do about Lingard’s long-term future at Old Trafford. If I were Lingard I would tell them that his future was at United. West Ham United.

Did you know? Lingard has been involved in nine goals in his eight Premier League appearances for West Ham – six goals and three assists. Since his debut for the Hammers in February, no player has been involved in more Premier League goals.

Callum Robinson: What a way for Thomas Tuchel’s 14-game unbeaten run come to an end, and what a time for the Baggies to get their second away win of the season. West Brom were 4-1 up before Chelsea’s players had tied their boots up properly for the second half.

The game really turned in West Brom’s favour the moment substitute Callum Robinson came on to the pitch. Which really begs the question why the player had been dropped in the first place? Robinson buzzed around Stamford Bridge wreaking havoc. Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t have scored two better goals. Unfortunately I fear the Baggies have left their run for the finish line a little too late.

Did you know? Robinson is the first player in Premier League history to score at least twice in home and away games against Chelsea in a single season.

Forwards – Danny Ings (Southampton), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Diogo Jota (Liverpool)

Danny Ings, Harry Kane and Diogo Jota

Danny Ings: There is never any room for sentiment in this game and Danny Ings gave his former team-mates none. The ex-Burnley striker provided an assist for Stuart Armstrong and made Ben Mee pay for dillydallying on the ball with a brilliantly taken goal.

Ings, back in the side after a lay-off through injury, looked as sharp as a razor. This has been a strange season for most teams but none more so than Southampton. They have even taken one or two batterings along the way but they have never lost faith in their manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.

Did you know? Ings became only the fourth player in Premier League history to score in four consecutive appearances against sides he previously played for in the competition, after Robbie Keane in 2004, Jermain Defoe in 2009 and Wilfried Bony in 2017.

Harry Kane: I couldn’t possibly have left Harry Kane out of my team the week after the week he’s had. An important goal for England in midweek and another two for Tottenham away at Newcastle has given the club an enormous lift since their disastrous performance and exit from the Europa League in Zagreb. If Jose Mourinho cannot ensure a top-four finish for Tottenham then what is the point of him? He should be shown the door. Champions League football is nothing less than a player of Kane’s class deserves. Read more about what I have to say about Kane’s future at Tottenham in the Crooks of the Matter below.

Did you know? Kane has scored 84 goals in 120 away games in the Premier League for Spurs, the most goals any player has scored away from home for a single club in the competition, overtaking Wayne Rooney’s 82 for Manchester United.

Diogo Jota: This player has made one hell of an impact for Liverpool since he arrived at Anfield from Molineux.

Two goals against Arsenal, having come on for Andy Robertson in a tactical switch by Jurgen Klopp, paid massive dividends.

Mikel Arteta insists he takes the blame for a woeful Arsenal performance. Well he certainly got that right. How Arsenal can persist in trying to play out from the back like Manchester City when they simply don’t have the quality players to do it smacks of a manager who has a good idea but players who can’t execute the plan.

Did you know? Jota has now scored four Premier League goals against Arsenal, the most he has bagged against any one side in the competition.

The Crooks of the Matter

I’m not normally in the habit of getting involved in family squabbles but having seen the reaction to the comments made by former Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe about Harry Kane’s futureexternal-link I felt somewhat compelled.

Defoe’s suggestion that Kane may have to sacrifice his desire to break Jimmy Greaves’ all-time goalscoring record, and leave Spurs if he wants to win trophies, went down rather badly with the Tottenham faithful.

Defoe, a crowd favourite himself at White Hart Lane, knows only too well that at 28 time is running out for the England captain and to finish such a sparkling career having not won a morsel is no way for a world-class player to end a career.

That’s why I have always maintained that it is the club’s responsibility to provide Kane with the support he needs in order to win trophies his talent deserves. Bayern Munich have done it with Robert Lewandowski and so have Barcelona with Messi. As for Real Madrid, they practically broke the bank for Ronaldo but Tottenham have so far failed to provide Kane with a defence, or midfield for that matter, worthy of the striker.

Whether Kane should leave his beloved club is a matter for him but it will come at a price. Teddy Sheringham and Sol Campbell both left Spurs in search of medals and found them with rival teams but the recrimination that followed was almost unbearable and produced the sort of resentment that only comes when fans feel betrayed.

If Kane were to leave – and let me stress I am not saying he should – he would have to go abroad. Playing for Manchester United, Liverpool or Manchester City would be more than Tottenham fans could bear. In fact, as far as Spurs fans are concerned, Kane’s very presence in a Tottenham shirt almost compensates for any lack of silverware.

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