Garth team of the week

Manchester City moved top of the Premier League table with wins over West Brom and Sheffield United this week, leapfrogging rivals Manchester United.

Liverpool reignited their title hopes with wins at Tottenham and West Ham, while Leeds United returned to winning ways with victories over Newcastle and Leicester.

Steve Bruce’s Newcastle did enjoy a surprise win over Everton, however, and Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea reign began with a goalless draw against Wolves before the Blues beat Burnley.

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

Team of the Week

Goalkeeper – Karl Darlow (Newcastle)

Karl Darlow

Karl Darlow: Boy, did Newcastle need this result. In fact I’m not sure who needed it more, the players or the manager. Steve Bruce has been under immense pressure these past few games but has kept his nerve. The same is true of his players – especially Karl Darlow, who made an excellent intervention when it looked like Yerry Mina was about to head home a wonderful cross from James Rodriguez followed by a cracking save from Richarlison. This was a much-improved performance from their defeat at home against Leeds and a very important three points. One hell of a lifeline for Steve Bruce as well, I should think.

Did you know? Darlow made three saves against Everton; only against Liverpool in December (four) has he made more in a league game in which he kept a clean sheet this season.

Defenders – Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Ruben Dias (Manchester City), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)

Alexander Arnold, Henderson, Dias, Azpilicueta

Trent Alexander-Arnold: This week saw Trent Alexander-Arnold back to his best. He hasn’t been there for a while but against Spurs he looked terrific. He wasn’t bad against West Ham either. I had to wait for 68 minutes to see Alexander-Arnold’s quality against the Hammers but when it came it was glorious. His cross-field pass to Xherdan Shaqiri was just sensational. What then took place was pure art. Shaqiri found Salah who produced the most fabulous two-touch finish you will ever see.

Did you know? Since the start of last season, Alexander-Arnold has been involved in more Premier League goals than any other defender in the competition (21 – five goals, 16 assists).

Jordan Henderson: Captain Marvel is back in the side, albeit at centre-back, and Liverpool looked far more comfortable with him against Spurs than they did without him against Burnley. That Henderson looks so comfortable at centre-back and the opposition unable to expose his limited experience in that position probably says more about the way the modern game has changed than the strikers he was up against. I can’t imagine Henderson looking so comfortable against the likes of Andy Carroll or Peter Crouch. Meanwhile, you write off Liverpool’s title chances off at your peril.

Did you know? Against West Ham, Henderson won 100% of his duels and won possession 11 times – the most of any player in the match.

Ruben Dias: Joao Cancelo was superb for City against West Brom in midweek, although his goal should have been ruled offside once the flag was raised, another reminder of just how ridiculous the game’s rules have become. He would have made my team of the week had he played against a stubborn Sheffield United. However, I felt compelled to pick Ruben Dias after two masterful displays against West Brom and the Blades, who proved to be a much more difficult opponent than the Baggies, and who appear to have found their cutting edge again. Dias has brought a sense of calm authority to the City defence that has stopped leaking goals since the Portugal international’s arrival.

Did you know? Manchester City have shipped just seven goals in their 18 Premier League games in which Ruben Dias has featured.

Cesar Azpilicueta: Thomas Tuchel’s first game in charge against Wolves after the departure of Frank Lampard was a rather cautious affair. Not so against Burnley. The Blues took the handbrake off against the Clarets, Cesar Azpilicueta in particular. The Chelsea captain played his part in both fixtures but his goal against Burnley was quite outstanding. Azpilicueta’s determination to cover the ground in order to receive the pass from Callum Hudson-Odoi was compelling. It also makes you question why Frank Lampard left the full-back out of the side for so long.

Did you know? Azpilicueta scored his first Premier League goal in 376 days since netting against Arsenal in January 2020. Chelsea have yet to lose a Premier League game in which the Spaniard has scored (won five, drawn four).

Midfielders – Jack Grealish (Aston Villa), Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City), Marcos Alonso (Chelsea)

Grealish, Gundogan, Alonso

Jack Grealish: I thought Aston Villa were very unlucky not to come away from Turf Moor with at least a point. Jack Grealish was outstanding on the night and put the finishing touches to a well-worked goal against an impressive Burnley, who are fighting for their lives. However, Villa got a little bit of luck against Southampton who themselves would have got something out of the game had VAR not interfered in matters when Danny Ings’ injury-time strike was ruled out because his arm was offside. When did anyone ever score a goal with their arm from 12 yards out? Grealish was once again the difference between the two teams but this time he took all the points home with him.

Did you know? Grealish has been directly involved in 15 league goals (six goals, nine assists) in a single season for the first time, eclipsing his tally of last season (14 – eight goals, six assists in 36 appearances) in just 19 games.

Ilkay Gundogan: In the absence of Kevin de Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan has taken over the mantle of running the show. Manchester City are starting to pile the pressure on to title rivals Manchester United and Liverpool. They blew West Brom off the park with two brilliantly taken goals by Gundogan. His first was the most exquisite side-foot you will ever see and the second the smash-and-grab of the century. Romaine Sawyer was still gathering his thoughts when Gundogan was putting the ball in the back of the net with West Brom 3-0 down at home and only 30 minutes gone. City were made to fight for every ball against Sheffield United but it didn’t stop them from stretching their lead at the top of the table.

Did you know? Gundogan has scored seven Premier League goals this season – his best ever scoring campaign in the top five European leagues.

Marcos Alonso: It never ceases to amaze me that when a new manager comes in players who were previously out of favour suddenly come into focus. Marcos Alonso has hardly featured for Chelsea this season but scored what can only be described as an Alonso classic. New manager Thomas Tuchel seems to have dispensed with any notion of Alonso defending and got the player concentrating on using his magical left foot to great effect. Whatever Tuchel’s reason for bringing players like Alonso back, it will certainly give the English players in the club a reality check.

Did you know? Alonso scored his first Premier League goal since February 2020 against Burnley.

Forwards – Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Patrick Bamford (Leeds), Callum Wilson (Newcastle)

Salah, Bamford, Wilson

Mohamed Salah: With Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino missing for the game at London Stadium, West Ham must have breathed a sigh of relief given that pair’s performance against Spurs in midweek. West Ham only had Mohamed Salah to contend with – but the Egypt international looked in the mood, and so his goals proved. What I couldn’t understand is why West Ham were so reluctant to put centre-back pairing Henderson and rookie Nathaniel Phillips under sustained pressure. It was as if the Hammers seemed to pay for too much respect to Liverpool’s reputation and were unable to take advantage of the champions’ makeshift injury-ravaged team.

Did you know? Mohamed Salah became the first player to score 20+ goals in all competitions in four consecutive seasons for Liverpool since Ian Rush did so six times running from 1981-82 to 1986-87.

Patrick Bamford: It’s only the second time Patrick Bamford has made my team of the week this season. The last time was his amazing hat-trick against Aston Villa. Well his performances since then have not been scintillating but he was pretty impressive away at Leicester. His goal and two assists against the Foxes sealed a fabulous few days for Leeds, having beaten Newcastle earlier in the week. A lot was made of Bamford’s unselfishness in front of goal for Jack Harrison to seal the points against Leicester. What nonsense – it was the right, and only, thing to do.

Did you know? Bamford has been directly involved in 15 goals in his 20 Premier League appearances for Leeds United (11 goals, four assists) – only Tony Yeboah (17) has had a hand in more goals in their first 20 Premier League appearances for the club.

Callum Wilson: When a striker scores two goals and his team win away from home there is not much to complain about. However, I will bet a pound to a penny Callum Wilson will be furious with himself that he did not complete his hat-trick. Newcastle paralysed Everton and looked like a side in the top half of the table instead of one hovering above the relegation zone. This victory would have been impressive without the added pressure on manager Steve Bruce but considering what another defeat for the Magpies might have meant this was one hell of a result.

Did you know? Wilson has been involved in 67% of Newcastle’s 21 Premier League goals this season, scoring 10 and assisting four.

The Crooks of the Matter

It would appear race hate on some social media platforms is now out of control. Once again, a number of Premier League players were on the receiving end of online racial abuse last week – and raising questions about what the social media giants are going to do about it.

Manchester United players Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial were racially abused on social media after Wednesday’s home defeat by Sheffield United, while West Brom say their midfielder Romaine Sawyers received an abhorrent message after their defeat against Manchester City. More recently it was Marcus Rashford who had to suffer at the hands of some moron who thinks they can get away with publishing such vile comments. That’s because they can.

I watched, jaw dropping in disbelief, Twitter’s latest attempt to reassure black players when their spokesperson said they would “continue to play their part in curbing this unacceptable behaviour”. Meanwhile Facebook, who own Instagram, said they “were committed to removing it”. Well, I’m sure black players will be on their knees with gratitude!

Is that really the best these billion-dollar companies can do? These racists who persist in peddling their hate on social media platforms should be mercilessly pursued by these companies, reported to the authorities and, where necessary, imprisonment enforced for such appalling harassment Until these companies are prepared to use some of their vast financial resource to bring such action about, sadly the most unpleasant element of society will continue to show its ugly face.

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