Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Garth Crooks' Team of the Week: Saliba, Foden, Palmer, Olise, Eze – BBC


After every Premier League weekend, BBC football pundit Garth Crooks gathers his thoughts and gives you his Team of the Week.
Here are this week's choices and, as ever, Garth also discusses the game's big talking points in the Crooks of the Matter.
Ederson (Manchester City): This has not been Ederson’s greatest season. The three-time Golden Glove winner has suffered a spate of injuries that have interrupted the flow of games that provide keepers with continuity and rhythm. However against Fulham the Brazilian looked as confident and as assured as he has been for some time and kept a very valuable clean sheet.
Manchester City play Spurs on Tuesday night and West Ham on the last day of the season on Sunday. Both games will require Ederson to be at his most composed. Of course he has been in these situations before and coped admirably but when titles are not decided until the last kick of the last game of the season, nothing is certain.
Josko Gvardiol (Manchester City): The lad can't stop scoring. Ever since he hit that scorcher against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu, Gvardiol hasn't stopped hitting the back of the net. His first of two goals against Fulham was not just beautifully finished by the Croatia international but the entire move for the goal was Manchester City at their finest.
Many of us thought that when Joao Cancelo walked out of Etihad stadium, having appeared to have fallen out with Pep Guardiola, that the manager had made a terrible mistake. Cancelo had played a significant part in winning back-to-back Premier League titles and was in sparkling form.
Guardiola didn't lose a wink of sleep over Cancelo's departure, he just replaced the full-back with someone better.
William Saliba (Arsenal): Whatever Manchester City may think of Arsenal they are not going quietly. Their performance against an injury-ravaged Manchester United wasn’t pretty but it did the job. With only one goal separating the two teams the Gunners' victory depended on another exceptional defensive performance.
I must say, and for the first time for quite a while, I saw a little edginess in Gabriel’s game and that was understandable given a Premier League title is at stake, but I didn't see so much as a flicker of tension from Saliba. The Frenchman was yet again as solid as a rock and portrayed increasing nerves of steel the longer the game went on.
Arsenal however have one game left to play before the season comes to an end and they will be hoping City slip up in either of their final two matches, one of which is against their arch rivals away at Tottenham. You couldn’t make this up.
Micky van de Ven (Tottenham): Apart from the horror show at St James' Park where Spurs were trounced by Newcastle and Micky van de Ven looked like he had skis on his feet instead of football boots, he's had a flawless season.
Van de Ven is to Spurs what Saliba is to Arsenal, and that is irreplaceable at the moment. Quite apart from his pace and composure he takes his goals like an experienced striker. His finish against a Burnley side, who have spent far too much time this season indulging themselves in pretty football as opposed to being practical, was breathtakingly brilliant.
The problem both Van de Ven and Saliba have is they are outstanding young defenders who are not currently winning any trophies and should that continue they won't be at either club for very much longer.
Tomas Soucek (West Ham): It was a desperately sluggish start by West Ham on Saturday and I suspect David Moyes might have had a few choice words to say to his players in the dressing room at half-time. Whatever he did say clearly worked as the Hammers looked a different team after the break.
It's the second time that Soucek has made my team selection this season and it's because the Czech Republic international has this ability to score important goals that invariably win matches. Luton's players and their coaching staff have given their fans their very best but in a league as unforgiving and ruthless as the Premier League they were never going to survive.
As for Moyes, well, he has departed on good terms and left the club in a far better state than when he arrived. The West Ham fans have driven him out and wait to see what Julen Lopetegui can do. Be careful what you wish for.
Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace): If I was a Crystal Palace fan I wouldn't want the season to end. The team are having a fabulous run of unbeaten games and playing the best football I've seen from a Palace side since the days of Vince Hilaire, Gerry Murphy, Kenny Sansom and Billy Gilbert under the guidance of Terry Venables. Eze would have fitted into that side perfectly.
In fact I think he would have fitted in any Palace side of any generation. He's a beautiful footballer and plays the game, in the same way as Kevin de Bruyne, with a certain elegance. Eze and Michael Olise have a tremendous chemistry and when they are on the park together they make Crystal Palace play. If the club can keep this team together then Palace fans are in for a treat.
Cole Palmer (Chelsea): What a pass by Cole Palmer for Mykhailo Mudryk to score. It literally split Nottingham Forest's defence in two. This was an extraordinary match with so much riding on the outcome for both clubs.
Chelsea needed three points to keep their interests in a top-seven finish alive while for Forest it was all about survival. The home side had no business losing this match once Callum Hudson-Odoi put them 2-1 up, but being good enough to close out a game is something Forest have struggled with all season.
Meanwhile Chelsea go from strength to strength. With Reece James fit again, and producing quality balls for strikers like Nicolas Jackson to finish, anything is now possible for this young aspiring team. Whatever else happens they must keep Palmer at Stamford Bridge.
Michael Olise (Crystal Palace): Crystal Palace have gone six games unbeaten and that includes wins at Liverpool away and Manchester United at home. It was Olise who destroyed United at Selhurst Park a week ago and he did exactly the same against Wolves in a matter of minutes.
This prodigious talent has replaced Wilfried Zaha as the Palace golden boy and is half the fuss. His goal against Wolves was so beautifully executed it was worthy of goal of the month.
When a player turns away having scored and without the slightest celebration, it suggests he has supreme confidence in his own ability. This was a superb performance by Olise and Palace will have their work cut out to hang on to him.
Jhon Duran (Aston Villa): Well it couldn't have been a worst start for Aston Villa as Emiliano Martinez, who's had an excellent season between the sticks, drops a clanger with the game barely a minute old. From then on it was all Liverpool.
It's not often I've seen a Jurgen Klopp team relinquish a two-goal lead away from home but Villa have their sights clearly set on a Champions League spot and they clearly have no intentions on giving up that dream without a fight.
On comes Colombia international Jhon Duran and as quick as a flash Villa are level. Both his goals are as instinctive as they are clinical. It's not often I select substitutes but when a player has such an impact on a fixture as Duran did it's impossible not to.
Phil Foden (Manchester City): This was a masterclass by Manchester City. They demolished Fulham at Craven Cottage and it only took 59 minutes. By the time Phil Foden had scored City's second goal it wasn't just one-way traffic, players were queuing up to score.
Meanwhile Foden's appetite for goals is becoming insatiable. You couldn't fail to have been impressed about the professional way the visitors went about their work either.
At 3-0 up they were awarded a penalty but after a brief discussion and a shrug of the shoulders Gvardiol seemed to refuse the opportunity to take the spot-kick, and a possible hat-trick, and insist the regular penalty taker take it. Which is a far cry from the debacle that took place among Chelsea players recently where people were fighting for the ball.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton): His goal in the 2-2 draw against Sheffield United back in December at Bramhall Lane was probably more important. However by the time Calvert-Lewin had provided a starring role in the corresponding fixture at Goodison Park the panic was over and Everton were safe.
When you consider the Toffees have reached the 40-point mark having been deducted eight, and the anxiety that has come as a consequence, Sean Dyche and his men deserve congratulations for coming through the ordeal. However the club's woes are far from over. We are told players need to be sold to balance the books and Calvert-Lewin will certainly be one of their players who will fetch a pretty penny.
Outstanding refereeing by Darren England who gave two yellow cards to players who dived in order to gain an advantage during Newcastle's draw with Brighton.
Brighton's Julio Enciso and Newcastle's Miguel Almiron ought to be ashamed of themselves.
So the three teams that came up are on their way down. I would like to think they had fun while it lasted but my guess is much of it would have been agonising for the players and their fans. In the final analysis no-one would argue with the outcome. Sheffield United were the first to go and probably the most disappointing of the group. Their brand of football was tough and uncompromising but they struggled to put the ball in the back of the net.
Burnley meanwhile looked pleasing on the eye but when you have a professional conductor asking a school orchestra to play Beethoven’s fifth you’d expect them to find it rather challenging. One has to consider the wisdom of Vincent Kompany insisting on his players playing such an intricate brand of football on their return to the Premier League, especially in and around their own penalty area, that it left their abilities completely exposed.
As for Luton, I expected them to go down as I stated earlier in the season, but what courage. They gave Spurs and Chelsea a game at Kenilworth Road and put the wind up Liverpool. The turning points in their season came away at Bournemouth and Newcastle. Games where they had significant leads but could not put them to bed, which is a crucial ingredient if you plan to survive in the Premier League. Getting relegated is no fun but great clubs eventually bounce back and I’ve no doubt all three will.
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