Garth Crooks’ Team of the Week: Onana, Saliba, Gabriel, Palmer, Mac Allister, Son

Garth Crooks' team of the week

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.

Garth Crook's team of the week graphicGoalkeeper

Andre Onana (Manchester United): He’s not my favourite goalkeeper but his performances of late seem to have settled down considerably.

Some Manchester United supporters had the gall to complain about David de Gea before he left the club, but the way Onana started the campaign their fans must have been left wondering ‘what have we done?’

Onana has made my team selection once before this season and seems to have settled down into some sort of routine and ironed out the errors.

His save from Brentford’s Yehor Yarmoliuk at the foot of his right-hand post was top class and his recovery to stop Keane Lewis-Potter from putting the rebound away was just as impressive.


Ezri Konsa (Aston Villa): What a way to end your week. You score a goal in a 2-0 win against your Midlands rivals having just played 70 minutes for England against Brazil and 90 against Belgium at Wembley.

Konsa is back thriving in an Aston Villa shirt after a lengthy lay-off through injury. He also looked comfortable in the Three Lions defence and may be one of the surprise call-ups in May for the European Championship.

In the win over Wolves Konsa looked self-assured. To have him back in defence for Villa’s remaining eight games must be a big relief for Unai Emery.

To keep a clean sheet against Wolves and not concede on set plays having struggled in previous games is not a coincidence – Konsa will have had plenty to do with that.

William Saliba (Arsenal): I don’t think I’ve seen a more disciplined or professional defensive performance from an Arsenal team for years. No dramas from Granit Xhaka or incidents that were likely to enrage the home support.

The Gunners finished the 0-0 draw with Manchester City with 11 players on the pitch, having not lost their heads or forgotten the mission. Hey presto, they come away from Etihad Stadium with a point to keep the pressure right on Liverpool and remain serious title contenders.

Saliba goes through games almost unnoticed until you realise very little has actually got past him. This time last year he got injured and missed the most crucial part of the season and Arsenal paid the price. If the Gunners can keep their players fit they are in with a real chance. It is still all to play for.

Gabriel (Arsenal): I thought about selecting Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk but then Jarell Quansah equipped himself exceptionally well under the circumstances against Brighton and so did Joe Gomez.

However, I felt compelled to pick Gabriel, who handled Manchester City’s Erling Haaland brilliantly. They locked horns on a couple of occasions while there was a moment when the camera actually picked up the red-hot level of intensity between the two players.

Gabriel is a warrior, there is no doubt about that, and he completely outbattled Haaland. Over the years Arsenal have taken away the rough edges associated with Gabriel’s game without losing any of his competitive edge and he is now proving to be a real asset.

A clean sheet away at the Etihad is telling. If they do go on and lift the title their defensive displays will have an awful lot to do with it.


Cole Palmer (Chelsea): I’ve seen some poor decisions in my time but the penalty awarded to Chelsea for the apparent foul on Mykhailo Mudryk by Burnley’s Lorenz Assignon was about as farcical as it gets.

Darren England’s assessment of the situation was appalling. He awarded a penalty to a player whose first touch was so poor he sent the ball in the direction of the defender – who then inevitably made shoulder contact with the striker. Not every bit of contact in the box has to be a penalty. The issue is whether it is a foul or not.

For England to seriously consider the contact on Mudryk a penalty was laughable. However, having sent Assignon off for a second yellow he should have at least sought confirmation from the touchline monitor which is now available to referees – but he did not. It is hardly surprising Burnley boss Vincent Kompany completely lost it on the side of the pitch.

The way Palmer dispatched his penalty showed he has supreme confidence in his own ability. But his dinked finish was bordering on ‘taking the Michael’ and players have a way of dealing with that. If he’s not careful he may have his wings clipped.

Alexis Mac Allister (Liverpool): The ball by Mac Allister for Mohamed Salah to score Liverpool’s winner in the 2-1 victory against Brighton was nothing short of world class.

The Argentine midfielder did something similar for Darwin Nunez to snatch a last-gasp win against Nottingham Forest earlier in the season so there is no doubt about his quality. It is never easy playing against your old team-mates but Mac Allister did not let the occasion get to him and produced some sparkling football.

Brighton were outstanding in this match. Any team that receives warm applause from an Anfield crowd at various periods of the game says volumes about the quality of their away performance.

Much has been made about the decision of Xabi Alonso to remain at Bayer Leverkusen, but Liverpool could do much worse than offer Roberto de Zerbi the post. What he has done at Brighton is nothing short of miraculous.

Anthony Gordon (Newcastle): It’s been one hell of a week for Gordon. He played for England against Brazil in midweek only to return to the North East to preside over the thrilling 4-3 comeback win over West Ham at St James’ Park and get sent off in the process. His second yellow card was his only mistake throughout the entire match against the Hammers.

But why Vladimir Coufal felt the need to try to win a ball in his own box he didn’t need to and give away a penalty during the first three minutes of the game takes some explaining.

Gordon was smart enough to know that if he got to the ball first the defender would clatter into him and so he did. Newcastle lived dangerously but West Ham were reckless to lose a two-goal lead when looking so comfortable.

Harvey Barnes (Newcastle): West Ham haven’t kept a clean sheet in nine matches and it is hardly surprising the way they defended against Newcastle. Kalvin Phillips remains off the pace and needs a good pre-season and a series of top-class uninterrupted fixtures to get him back to where he once was.

Meanwhile, Harvey Barnes looks every bit rejuvenated and back in business having come on for the Magpies and scored two brilliantly taken goals – and he could have had a hat-trick within 30 minutes.

Both these players have suffered recently for various reasons but have the ability to get back playing international football. Phillips would do well to get signed and settled permanently at West Ham as soon as possible, while Barnes needs to remain fit for the rest of the season.


Luis Diaz (Liverpool): Colombia winger Diaz leaves every ounce of himself on the pitch. His work ethic is outstanding and it was his effort and determination that eventually wore Brighton’s defence down and got Liverpool back into the game with his equaliser.

He deserves the goals he gets due to the fact that he works so hard for them. Liverpool find themselves back at the top of the Premier League table with nine games left to play and with Arsenal and Manchester City breathing down their necks.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have a tricky run-in including a trip to Manchester United next weekend, who have already knocked them out of the FA Cup. Denying Liverpool three points at Old Trafford as they hunt a 20th title would have United fans licking their lips.

Ivan Toney (Brentford): He was desperately unlucky to have been ruled offside in the 1-1 draw with Manchester United, having taken the goal so brilliantly. However, to remain so calm when you are a goal down with seconds left on the clock to play says a lot about a player.

Toney controlled a hopeful ball that had come out of the sky with his foot like a ball sitting on a cushion. He then proceeded to dribble his way around a number of United players before laying the most exquisite pass on a plate for Kristoffer Ajer to finish what was a deserved equaliser.

Toney has been quite remarkable since his return from a suspension for gambling breaches that was in my view draconian and unsympathetic of a player who clearly had issues – and in a sport obsessed with gambling advertising.

Son Heung-min (Tottenham): After their diabolical performance against Fulham before the international break we saw Tottenham make very hard work of a game against Luton that should have been routine.

What happened to the team that blew Aston Villa away? And why Tottenham have to wait to go a goal behind before they realise the game has started is hard to fathom.

What is infuriating is Tottenham’s levels of inconsistency. One minute they look world beaters, the next perennial losers. Fortunately the only consistent player for Spurs these days is Son Heung-min. Without him they would be sunk.

All eyes start to shift to 28 April where Tottenham fans will be desperate to see their team stop Arsenal from winning the title. Something an inconsistent Tottenham are very capable of doing.

Short presentational grey line

The Crooks of the Matter

What a mess. The recent four-point deduction given to Nottingham Forest for breaching Premier League profit and sustainability rules seriously threatens their top-flight survival.

They now join Everton – who were docked 10 points earlier in the season for similar offences, prior to being given four points back on appeal – in a perilous situation at the bottom.

Meanwhile, it is more than a year since Manchester City were charged with more than 100 alleged breaches of financial rules – which they deny – but it’s business as usual for them. I think football fans deserve to know why.

What is even more interesting is if Nottingham Forest or Everton do go down why should the players of either club suffer the financial loss or status? They have done nothing wrong. I would be consulting my lawyers and considering leaving the club with my registration in hand.

The Premier League, in trying to ensure fair play, seem to have done the opposite. They have created a legal battlefield and left certain clubs completely exposed having opened a hornets’ nest. What’s more it is the players and their fans who are the ones getting stung.

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