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Garth Crooks’ team of the week: Kyle Walker, Jordan Henderson, Jamie Vardy

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Garth team of the week

Defending champions Liverpool returned to the top of the table with a 2-1 win at home to West Ham, while Gareth Bale scored his first goal since his return to Tottenham as they beat Brighton.

Southampton held off a late comeback to win 4-3 at Aston Villa, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s penalty gave Arsenal a 1-0 win at Manchester United and Fulham gained their first win of the season by beating West Brom.

There were also wins for Newcastle against Everton, Manchester City at Sheffield United, Chelsea on the road over Burnley, Wolves at home to Crystal Palace and Leicester at Leeds.

But who impressed me in the Premier League this week? Here’s my team. Have a read on why I selected them below and choose your best XI at the bottom.

Garth's team of the week

Goalkeeper – Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester)

Kasper Schmeichel

It was a very impressive victory on Monday by Leicester City in the sort of conditions that are a complete nightmare for goalkeepers. Howling wind and moments of torrential rain at Elland Road didn’t seem to bother Kasper Schmeichel in the slightest. The Leicester keeper made two first-class saves from Patrick Bamford and then proceeded to marshal his defence through a difficult second-half period.

The Foxes now find themselves second in the table and a point behind Liverpool in a title race that is as open as I can remember. Can I see Leicester winning the Premier League title? No, I can’t, but I said that the last time they did it.

Did you know? Schmeichel has conceded just nine goals in seven Premier League games this season.

Defenders – Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Kurt Zouma (Chelsea), Gabriel (Arsenal)

Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Kurt Zouma (Chelsea), Gabriel (Arsenal)

Kyle Walker: The goal by Kyle Walker that secured Manchester City’s victory at Sheffield United was one of those daisy-cutters – when you see them travel sweetly along wet, dewy grass and hit the back of the net, they look absolutely fabulous.

Since I gave Walker a rap on his knuckles a couple of weeks ago for not taking more of a leadership role, he seems to have done just that. His reluctance to celebrate his goal against Sheffield United, the club that gave him his chance in football, would have been appreciated by their fans just as much as it would have been by Walker’s mum and dad. They still live in the area. Smart move.

Did you know? Walker scored his first Premier League away goal on Saturday – his previous seven were all on home soil.

Kurt Zouma: His third goal of the season came from another towering header – Kurt Zouma is starting to develop a taste for scoring from set-plays. He’s already scored against Brighton and Crystal Palace this season and his headed goal against a poor-looking Burnley was a beauty.

Regular readers will know I have been rather ambivalent about Zouma over the years. When I saw him make his debut for Chelsea, I said he could be another Marcel Desailly. I’m no longer sure about that but there is no doubt that loan spells at Stoke and Everton have clearly benefited the defender. Will he win titles with Chelsea like Desailly? Well, I’m not sure about that either.

Did you know? Zouma has scored three goals in six Premier League games in 2020-21 – his best tally in any season in the competition.

Gabriel: Sunday’s win at Manchester United was one of the best Arsenal performances I’ve seen for some time. I criticised Mikel Arteta the last time he was in Manchester for playing a team without a recognised centre-forward. Not so at Old Trafford. The Arsenal manager laid his stall out perfectly and restricted United to a handful of chances. Gabriel was at the heart of an outstanding defensive display by the Gunners.

Meanwhile, United have a serious consistency problem. Mason Greenwood was substituted and walked off the pitch looking as though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had committed a crime. Paul Pogba has so much more to give but can’t seem to find it to give. And Marcus Rashford, one of my favourite players, performed as if he had been given the afternoon off. Sorry Marcus, there are no days off when you play for Manchester United.

Did you know? Gabriel made more tackles (five) than any Arsenal or Manchester United player in Sunday’s game at Old Trafford.

Midfielders – James Ward-Prowse (Southampton), Thomas Partey (Arsenal), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea)

James Ward-Prowse, Thomas Partey, Jordan Henderson and Hakim Ziyech

James Ward-Prowse: What an extraordinary game at Villa Park. Seven goals included three of the best you’ll ever see by Southampton and two by James Ward-Prowse.

This lad is in fantastic form, by the way. He was my man of the match against Everton and his two wonderfully taken free-kicks in quick succession seemed to paralyse Aston Villa. By the time the home side had realised what had happened, the game was beyond them. Just as well for the Saints, as Villa came back with a vengeance having been 4-0 down.

Villa showed some real courage and determination in the second half. If referee Darren England had played the amount of added time manager Dean Smith felt entitled to, I reckon Villa might have got something out of this fixture.

Did you know? Ward-Prowse is the ninth player in Premier League history to score two direct free-kick goals in a game, and first since Christian Eriksen for Spurs in October 2015 (against Swansea).

Thomas Partey: That was some performance by Thomas Partey at Old Trafford. The Ghana international looks fit, strong and up for any battle – while his ability to intercept and break up the opposition’s play on Sunday was outstanding.

Partey along with Mohamed Elneny, dominated Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay. I’ve not seen an Arsenal midfield duo dominate the centre of the park at Old Trafford so effectively since Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit. This is very worrying if you are a Spurs fan.

Did you know? Partey gained possession on more occasions (11) than any Arsenal or Manchester United player in Sunday’s match.

Jordan Henderson: I didn’t think it was a Liverpool penalty at the time and I still don’t. I have criticised Mohamed Salah in the past for going down in the box when not touched. I’ve no doubt contact was made by West Ham’s Arthur Masuaku but as far as contact sports go, that was no foul. However it’s the referee’s opinion that counts and Kevin Friend thought otherwise.

Jordan Henderson played a captain’s part in pulling Liverpool through a difficult fixture against the Hammers on Saturday. It was Henderson’s controlled pass to Xherdan Shaqiri which resulted in Diogo Jota scoring Liverpool’s winner.

I wonder if Henderson might have a gentle word with Salah to remind him that he has placed himself among the Liverpool greats – and not to spoil it with cheap nonsense like diving.

Did you know? Henderson completed 133 passes against West Ham, the most in a Premier League game since Virgil van Dijk against Sheffield United in January 2020 (134).

Hakim Ziyech: At Burnley, he scored his first Premier League goal for Chelsea. On that performance, it won’t be his last. Hakim Ziyech scored in the Champions League in midweek against Krasnodar and looks capable of scoring lots more.

The Morocco international looks so balanced and comfortable on the ball. The way he took the ball from Reece James with his left foot and then transferred it to his right in order to slide the ball to Timo Werner to score was quite stunning. The ball never stopped travelling forward and as a consequence it never gave Burnley’s defence any time to readjust. It looks as if the Atlas Lions have found another star – with Chelsea now getting the benefit.

Did you know? Ziyech is the first player to score in both of his first two starts for Chelsea in all competitions since Diego Costa in August 2014.

Forwards – Daniel Podence (Wolves), Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Callum Wilson (Newcastle)

Daniel Podence, Jamie Vardy and Callum Wilson

Daniel Podence: Crystal Palace saw the threat from Daniel Podence quite early in Friday’s game at Wolves but couldn’t seem to do anything about it. Palace keeper Vicente Guaita made two excellent saves from Podence – but was beaten as the Portugal international planted the most glorious shot past him.

However, the incident that sent manager Roy Hodgson over the edge was seeing his captain Luka Milivojevic sent off for what was, in his view, no more than a bookable offence.

I disagree. Milivojevic has made this sort of challenge before and it was only a matter of time before a referee decided against giving the Serbia international the benefit of doubt. Martin Atkinson was that referee.

Did you know? Each of Podence’s two Premier League goals have come against Crystal Palace.

Jamie Vardy: Not since Leicester City won the Premier League title have I seen them look in such devastating form. On a foul night in Yorkshire, they made Leeds United look less than ordinary.

Brendan Rogers said in his pre-match interview that his team would use the counter-attack to their advantage and that’s precisely what they did.

This was also a memorable night for Jamie Vardy. The former England striker seemed to be involved in everything Leicester produced and eventually got the goal his efforts deserved. What a pity Vardy decided to step away from international football. He still has so much to offer.

Did you know? Jamie Vardy has been directly involved in 13 goals in his past 12 Premier League games (11 goals, two assists).

Callum Wilson: I’m not sure what’s going on at Everton at the moment. They started the season as if they had a point to prove and they probably did. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has made it clear he can play in this league, and James Rodriguez’s ability was never in doubt. While their performance against Newcastle was marginally better than their shocker at Southampton, they still look off the pace.

Meanwhile, Callum Wilson’s arrival at St James’ Park has been a slow burner in comparison but has given Newcastle a cutting edge, especially at home. Wilson’s craftiness to draw a penalty from Everton’s Andre Gomes was astute and so was the conversion.

Did you know? Wilson has scored six goals in his first seven Premier League appearances for Newcastle – only Les Ferdinand has reached six goals in fewer appearances in the Premier League for the Magpies (six apps).

The Crooks of the Matter

Nobby Stiles
Nobby Stiles (left) alongside George Best and Bobby Charlton, who helped Manchester United beat Benfica to become European champions for the first time at Wembley

Last Friday brought the sad news that England World Cup winner Nobby Stiles had died. One of the unfortunate realities of the modern game, and indeed the times, is that heroes such as Stiles are too easily forgotten.

I’ve no doubt that Manchester United’s academy players will be aware that in 1968, the club won the European Cup, now spuriously known as the Champions League, and were the first English team to do so. But I wonder how many of their academy players knew that Stiles was central to that victory.

They will have heard of the immortalised Sir Bobby Charlton and no doubt been told numerous times about George Best, if only in relation to the dangers that befall a genius with a reckless lifestyle. But I’ll put a pound to a penny they didn’t know that had it not been for Stiles, Portugal’s Eusebio would have destroyed England’s chances of winning the 1966 World Cup and United’s dreams of lifting the European trophy. Stiles was a ferocious tackler in his day.

Could Stiles have played in the modern game? I don’t know. What I do know is, when I worked with him briefly during his time as first-team coach at West Bromwich Albion, I was continually amazed that however the ball came to him, he always retained it. He had this extraordinary ability to make sure the ball never went astray and the pass was always delivered to where it was intended.

If you did happen to give the ball away needlessly, you would soon know about it. In fact, his game wasn’t dissimilar to that of former United captain Roy Keane or Manchester City’s Fernandinho. He displayed the qualities of a tiger on the field and yet was the most mild-mannered and delightful man off it.

If ‘taking one for the team’ is a prerequisite for selection these days, then Stiles makes it. What’s more, if Paul Pogba had a modicum of what Stiles possessed as a player, Liverpool and Manchester City would never have sniffed those titles. Now that is something that Manchester United’s academy players should know, don’t you think?

Pick your team of the week

Pick your XI from our list and share with your friends.

Pick your XI from our list and share with your friends.

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