At the end of every round of fixtures, BBC football pundit Garth Crooks is on hand to give you his Team of the Week.
Who has he picked for this weekend’s Premier League games?
Take a look below and, as ever, Garth also has his say on the game’s big talking points in the Crooks of the Matter.
Jordan Pickford (Everton): I think the embrace between Everton keeper Pickford and Sheffield United striker Oli McBurnie at the end of this extraordinary match said it all. This game was full on from start to finish, but it was the double stop by Pickford to deny McBurnie at the end which gave the Toffees a much-needed point.
If Everton are going to survive this season then they can’t afford to concede two goals, especially when they score two away from home. Their problem hasn’t been so much their poor finishing but their diabolical defending. They haven’t been capable of keeping one clean sheet in four Premier League outings and it was Pickford’s exploits that saved them on this occasion.
Cristian Romero (Tottenham): Burnley manager Vincent Kompany says he wakes up every day knowing his team is getting better and will come to terms with the biggest jump in world football. The question I would like to put to him is when?
A 5-2 home defeat to Spurs meant they have lost their first three games in the Premier league already, having only lost three all season in the Championship. Kompany clearly believes in his players but he’s only got until Christmas, if that, to get his team established.
Spurs, meanwhile, looked reasonably comfortable in a back four. Although I don’t usually pick defenders from a team that concedes two goals away from home, I’m prepared to make an exception on this occasion. Romero’s finish for his goal was exceptional for a central defender and that’s why he’s in my team.
Kurt Zouma (West Ham): He’s played in all of West Ham’s games this season and been quietly effective in every single one.
Zouma was the outstanding defender for the Hammers in their 2-1 win against a Luton Town side that is, so far, just making up the Premier League numbers. It’s good to see the tangerine colours of Luton back in the big league once more, but I can’t take them seriously and see them down by Christmas. They might take a few scalps along the way but don’t let the scoreline fool you, this victory was as comfortable for West Ham as it gets.
Joe Worrall (Nottingham Forest): How can a club spend over £1bn and their team still look so bad? At some point Chelsea must stop throwing cash at every player they clasp their eyes on and start working on the players they have in their midst to hit the target from reasonable distances. This is the sort of stuff you fix on the training pitch and will not find a remedy in Todd Boehly’s safe.
Nottingham Forest, meanwhile, needed to look no further than the leadership of their captain Worrall, who was superb in every department. If he wasn’t blocking a shot, he was heading the ball clear. It’s difficult enough playing Premier League football against one of the most fashionable sides in the country, but doing so after suffering a family bereavement was a big ask and Worrall managed the occasion brilliantly.
Dominik Szoboszlai (Liverpool): The technique that enabled his strike against Aston Villa was nothing short of fantastic and matched only by his ability to close the opposition down and deny them space when the ball wasn’t at his feet. His willingness to cover the ground is impressive and very much required in light of Jordan Henderson’s departure to the Saudi Pro League.
It’s the second time this season Szoboszlai has made my team selection. When the Hungary international arrived at Anfield I said he had big shoes to fill. Well, he looks like a player who is enjoying the challenge. He was equally impressive in that epic battle at Newcastle last week and stayed the course – and it looks like Liverpool have bought wisely here.
This was a poor day for Villa and the presence of Mohamed Salah didn’t help. And all credit to the Egyptian superstar. Regardless of the speculation surrounding his future I couldn’t fault his attitude or performance.
Declan Rice (Arsenal): I hated the social media post of Rice in an Arsenal shirt just days after lifting the Europa Conference League trophy with West Ham and telling everyone he was now north London. I suppose it was a message of intent and that he had no further allegiance with the Hammers. His performances so far this season for Arsenal would confirm that position.
Rice has been outstanding for the Gunners since his arrival and provides everything Granit Xhaka could do, without the Swiss international’s recklessness or combustible nature. His goal against Manchester United in the final seconds of the match doesn’t just win you games, they are the goals that, in the final analysis, win you titles. The control of the ball from the corner on his chest was special and so was the finish under the circumstances.
Martin Odegaard (Arsenal): His equaliser 35 seconds after Manchester United had taken the lead was a lifesaver for Arsenal. The longer the game continued without that reply the more desperate they would have become. Odegaard’s finish was first class. The ball came from a difficult angle so his technique had to be spot-on – and it was. He struck the ball so sweetly it flew past Andre Onana in the Manchester United goal.
However, for a team that saw as much of the ball away from home as United did, they should have come away from the Emirates with at least a point. The fact they didn’t should be cause for concern.
James Maddison (Tottenham): At last, Spurs look like they have found a player who can handle the ball in midfield again.
Under Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte they struggled to find someone who could make others around him play and unlock defences. Not since Christian Eriksen have Spurs had a player of that calibre. The introduction of Maddison seems to have Tottenham playing in a way their two previous managers could not.
To hear their fans chanting last week against Bournemouth, ‘we’ve got out Tottenham back’, indicates the team’s style of play is as important to the fans as it ever was. If Tottenham are not going to win trophies then they had better play a brand of football that is synonymous with their history. I still think they are short in a couple of areas to be a title-winning side, but they are certainly moving in the right direction.
Evan Ferguson (Brighton): If Newcastle boss Eddie Howe looked shell-shocked after the defeat to Liverpool last week he seemed totally dismayed due to his team’s performance against Brighton as Ferguson made them pay for such abject defending.
The Brighton teenager has always been a talent and the Geordies just didn’t give him the respect his finishing prowess deserved as he claimed a hat-trick. Brighton were given a lesson in counter-attacking football against West Ham last week but recovered well enough from that loss to dish out a formidable display of their own against Newcastle.
Regardless, both Newcastle and Brighton have come a long way since former manager Chris Hughton took them both into the Premier League in 2010 and 2017 respectively. In those days they were fighting to stay in the top flight, now they are playing European football.
Erling Haaland (Manchester City): You can’t score a hat-trick and not be in my team, especially when every goal is dispatched with such extreme confidence.
Last week Haaland was criticised for missing a penalty against Sheffield United, but made no mistake against an outclassed Fulham. I’m yet to meet a regular penalty taker who hasn’t missed a spot-kick during their professional career. The best players don’t allow such matters to affect them and Haaland is among the very best.
Fulham, who wore black armbands in respect of Mohamed Al Fayed after he sadly passed away in midweek, had every right to feel aggrieved due to the appalling decision to allow Manchester City’s second goal – scored by Nathan Ake – to stand. The Cottagers made considerable progress under the Egyptian billionaire’s 16 years at the club and the former chairman and owner deserves a fitting tribute at the club’s next home game against Luton.
Son Heung-min (Tottenham): Having to put Richarlison on the bench after the Brazilian suffered a knock in midweek turned out rather well for Tottenham. Son replaced him as the lone striker up front and destroyed Burnley in one of the best individual displays I’ve seen from the South Korean for some time as he scored a hat-trick.
If Burnley are going to hold a high line against someone like Son then they must have defenders who are lightning-quick in recovery and don’t ball watch.
The departure of Harry Kane to Bayern Munich and the removal of his spectre seems to have set the Spurs players free. It has also given manager Ange Postecoglou the opportunity to pass the captain’s armband to Son and it seems to be doing him the world of good.
The Crooks of the Matter
Players used to say that once you got in Sir Alf Ramsey’s England team it was harder to get out than it was to get in! It would appear Gareth Southgate suffers from the same affliction. I was taken aback when I saw Harry Maguire and Kalvin Phillips had retained their positions in the squad to face Ukraine in the Euro 2024 qualifier in Poland next week and the friendly against Scotland in Glasgow three days later.
Neither Maguire nor Phillips have started a single match for Manchester United and Manchester City, respectively, this season. I know the game has moved on, but if the England international set-up is not about the assembly of the most talented players in the country – and reward for playing the best football of your career – then what is it about?
I totally understand a manager wanting to try new players or even phase out older ones who have served their country well and are coming to the end of their international careers. But Maguire and Phillips are not even playing regular first-team football for their clubs. So how can they be in the same mental or physical condition as those that are?
Southgate has kept Harry Kane in the squad, and no-one of a sound football mind would argue with that. Raheem Sterling, meanwhile, has been playing out of his skin recently but was omitted, while Callum Wilson, who can’t hold down a regular first-team place at Newcastle, makes the cut.
However, the most controversial selection surrounds Jordan Henderson, the former Liverpool captain now playing in Saudi Arabia for Al-Ettifaq. Henderson can play for whoever he likes, but the point is that the Saudi Pro League must be the equivalent of the Championship at best and I can’t imagine Southgate selecting anyone from that league, can you?