Garth Crooks provides his thoughts on the week’s top performers in world football.
Garth Crooks’ “football” is a weekly column that discusses the best players in the Premier League. This week, he has put together a team of the week with Sa, Hanley, Coutinho, Fernandes, Harrison and Sterling.
After the current round of games, Manchester City leads the Premier League standings by 11 points.
City won 1-0 over title contenders Chelsea, while Liverpool won 3-0 against Brentford to go into second position.
Meanwhile, Aston Villa rallied from behind to draw 2-2 with Manchester United, Wolves defeated Southampton 3-1, and Rafael Benitez was fired after Everton’s 2-1 loss against Norwich.
Newcastle and Watford split the points in their relegation struggle with a 1-1 draw, while Leeds avenged their FA Cup humiliation with a 3-2 win against West Ham and Brighton and Crystal Palace fought to a 1-1 draw on Friday.
Check out my team of the week before making your own choices at the bottom of the page.
Jose Sa is the goalkeeper (Wolves)
Jose Sa: Here we go again, the Portuguese. Another outstanding performance, this time against Southampton. The save from Romain Perraud, as well as the dive at Jan Bednarek’s feet, were crucial. However, it was Mohammed Salisu’s point-blank save that changed the game in Wolves’ favor. Sa has the best overall command of his penalty area of any Premier League goalkeeper I’ve seen. He rushed out 12 yards to punch a James Ward-Prowse cross and smashed everything in his way. What a difference to his Saints rival Fraser Forster, who found himself in limbo at a critical juncture in the game and paid the price.
What if I told you that This season, Sa has the highest save percentage of any Premier League goalkeeper who has made at least 10 saves (82 percent ).
Grant Hanley (Norwich), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), and Conor Coady (Liverpool) are the defenders (Wolves)
Grant Hanley: His header saved Everton’s blushes as they were frantically attempting to get back into the game. My attention was drawn to Hanley’s tackle on Richarlison, which left the Brazilian in a heap. Hanley and a Norwich side that refuses to accept their relegation destiny put up a fighting, no-nonsense display. Everton is in disarray. They hired a manager who was never well-liked by the fans and was on the verge of being fired.
What if I told you that Hanley made at least twice as many clearances as any other player in Norwich’s 2-1 victory against Everton.
Virgil van Dijk: Liverpool were unfortunate not to go ahead when van Dijk, a constant threat in the opposition’s penalty area, pulled the ball down beautifully and struck at goal, only for Alvaro Fernandez to save his attempt excellently. On another set-piece, it was Van Dijk’s presence in the Brentford area that allowed Fabinho to score. It’s evident that the Netherlands international poses a problem for opposing defenders, which is fortunate since they look pretty average against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup on Thursday, with their players away at the Africa Cup of Nations.
What if I told you that Van Dijk has never lost a Premier League match at Anfield (56 games), with only Lee Sharpe at Manchester United (59 games) having played in most home games for a team without losing in Premier League history.
Conor Coady: Wolves are playing some fantastic football, but unlike earlier in the season, they are converting their efforts into victories. Coady is on my team for the second week in a row. His performance against Manchester United at Old Trafford was outstanding, and he is displaying the leadership skills that won him an England call-up. However, Southampton’s James Ward-free-kick Prowse’s against Wolves was exceptional. How long will Liverpool wait to sign Ward-Prowse? They let Georginio Wijnaldum go on a free transfer and are now battling in midfield. Ward-Prowse would be a perfect match.
What if I told you that In the Premier League this season, Coady has scored with both of his shots on target.
Jack Harrison (Leeds), Philippe Coutinho (Aston Villa), Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City), and Bruno Fernandes (Manchester City) are among the midfielders in contention (Manchester United)
Harrison, Jack: What a game between West Ham United and Leeds United. It may have been riddled with errors, but it was an incredible show in terms of enjoyment. With a hat-trick and a performance that was without a doubt their finest of the season, Harrison gave the final touches to a Leeds victory. This is a Leeds team that has been plagued by injury, and they lost two more players against West Ham. They’ve experienced Covid-19 troubles and been down to the basic essentials on times, but they’ve persevered. Leeds should be proud of themselves; they are a credit to the Premier League.
What if I told you that Since Russell Wainscoat in April 1927, Harrison became the first Leeds United player to score a league hat-trick against West Ham.
Philippe Coutinho: Isn’t it great to see this youngster back in English football? Coutinho came in as a second-half replacement for Aston Villa against Manchester United and completely changed the game. Despite the fact that he did not supply the last pass for Villa’s first goal, his daring and goalscoring sixth sense were spectacular. Steven Gerrard has made it obvious that he wants to move Villa into the top four with players like Coutinho, and I wouldn’t bet against him doing so with a few more high-quality additions.
What if I told you that Coutinho equalized for Villa against United only 14 minutes after failing to score or assist in any of his seven Premier League matches against them for Liverpool.
Kevin de Bruyne: Thiago Silva should have closed De Bruyne down and not allowed him a free chance at goal after four goals in his past five matches against Chelsea. There was really little difference between the sides at this stage in the game, and a draw would have been a fairly fair outcome in my opinion. City dominated possession, as one would anticipate, but Chelsea matched them in terms of dedication in every aspect. If you offer exceptional players the freedom to create something unique, they will almost always do so. It never fails to surprise me why, at crucial times in a game, defenders fail to make the tackle that has kept them in the game.
What if I told you that De Bruyne has scored five Premier League goals against former club Chelsea, the most by a player who has previously played for the Blues in the tournament.
Bruno Fernandes: His first goal was a fluke, but his second goal was stunning. Fernandes’ move and finish were both outstanding. This was Manchester United’s greatest hour of football in a long time, and it was a performance made all the more notable by Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence. Up attack, Edinson Cavani seems to be a lot better fit, while Fernandes seemed to be back to his best. Ralf Rangnick may have stumbled onto a winning recipe, but whether he has the will to do it without Ronaldo remains to be seen. In The crooks in charge of the situation, I discuss my thoughts on Ronaldo’s position at United.
What if I told you that Only Mo Salah (45) and Harry Kane (34) have scored more goals in the Premier League since Fernandes’ debut in February 2020. (33).
Raphinha (Leeds), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), and Adam Idah (Manchester United) are among the forwards (Norwich)
Raphinha: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a footballer as much as Raphinha. He’s reminiscent of the Rivaldos and Ronaldinhos of the past. The Brazilian game is incredibly graceful and enjoyable to watch. He handles the ball with the greatest regard, almost as if it were a buddy, as do many Brazilian players. Leeds would not have won at West Ham without Raphinha. Jack Harrison will be the center of attention, but there is only one star in the Leeds United show, and that star is Raphinha.
What if I told you that Raphinha’s seven opportunities in Leeds’ 3-2 victory against West Ham were his most in a Premier League encounter.
Sterling, Raheem: I have no objections to Manchester City winning the Premier League, but the fact that they are 11 points ahead at the top and we aren’t even halfway through January irritates me. What irritates me the most is that they’re doing it without a proven center forward. Regular readers will know how much I despise a fake number nine, yet City excel at it. Sterling looked great in that capacity against Chelsea and seems to be regaining his form.
What if I told you that Sterling (2) generated more opportunities for Man City vs Chelsea than any other player, and he also had the most touches in the opposing area (6).
Norwich City’s first victory since November had to come against Everton and Benitez, according to Adam Idah. Idah wore Everton down, especially Michael Keane. Although Keane’s own goal was unlucky, he was all over the place for Norwich’s second goal, which was Idah’s maiden Premier League goal. Idah’s initial touch was weak, but his determination to score matched his bravery to get to the ball before Jordan Pickford, and the Canaries were rewarded with a win.
What if I told you that In his 27th appearance, he scored his first Premier League goal, joining Andrew Omobamidele as Norwich’s second under-21 player to score in the league this season.
Choose your XI from our list and tell your friends about it.
Choose a formation. Team members should be confirmed.
The crooks in charge of the situation
After Cristiano Ronaldo questioned Manchester United’s mindset, interim manager Ralf Rangnick wants his players to hold each other accountable. Ronaldo has voiced worry about the mentality of some of his teammates and stated that for United to be successful this season, they must improve.
I completely agree, and it should begin with him. The Portuguese international has been acting like a prima donna since his return to Old Trafford. He may be the star of the show, but his incessant flailing of his hands in the air when things don’t go his way irritates me. It’s an indication that the crowd’s moans and groans over United’s failings have nothing to do with him.
I had hoped for more from a player of his caliber. The game isn’t only about scoring goals and looking nice. If the game isn’t about the team, it’s meaningless. On the field, Ronaldo usually seems pristine, but occasionally, particularly when things aren’t going well, he has to crawl down in the mud and nettles to help his team get through tough moments.
Ronaldo no longer plays for Real Madrid or Juventus, two clubs who were used to winning championships and awards with ease. He’s a member of Manchester United, a squad with a storied history but a shaky current season. His teammates turn to him for more than simply goals; they look to him for leadership.
He would have been far better off playing for Manchester City over the road. They are, without a doubt, a fantastic team, but for better or worse, he has decided to return to the club that gave him his start and give something back as he nears the conclusion of his career. However, if the five-time Ballon d’Or winner wants to end his career at Old Trafford on a good note, he must take Rangnick’s advice and launch a tough, but honest, heart-to-heart with his teammates in order to galvanise a team spirit. But, before he accomplishes that, he should begin with himself.