Garth Crooks’ Team of the Week: Ronaldo, Diaz, Eriksen, Yarmolenko, Rudiger

Garth team of the week

Liverpool shifted pressure back onto Manchester City in the Premier League title race, Cristiano Ronaldo produced a stunning display for Manchester United and Leeds United sealed a massive win down at the bottom.

Chelsea managed a gutsy win in testing circumstances, and an emotional Andriy Yarmolenko grabbed the headlines after the Ukrainian struck in West Ham’s latest win.

But what you want to know is: who made my Team of the Week? Check it out below and then make your own selections at the bottom of the article.

Garth Crooks' Team of the Week

Goalkeeper – Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham)

Łukasz Fabiański (West Ham)

Lukasz Fabianski: It was a world class save. The shot came from Danny Ings on the turn and may have had a slight deflection on its way to goal but that didn’t seem to deter Fabianski, who pushed what seemed like an impossible stop onto the post before the ball rebounded into his arms. The save set up an extraordinary win for the Hammers on what turned out to be an emotional afternoon for everyone at the London Stadium. Little did we know then that Yarmolenko was destined to steal the show but it was Fabianski who set the whole thing up.

Did you know? Fabianski made six saves for West Ham against Aston Villa. Only against Manchester United – when he made eight – in September has he made more in a Premier League game this season.

Defenders – Joel Matip (Liverpool), Conor Coady (Wolves), Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea)

Joel Matip (Liverpool), Conor Coady (Wolves), Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea)

Joel Matip: It’s not often Joel Matip makes my team of the week largely due to his team-mate Virgil van Dijk’s outstanding performances. But on this occasion I was compelled to select the former Cameroon international. It started with the ball he played for Luis Diaz to run onto and score his second goal for Liverpool since his arrival. The ball was magnificent. The rest of the defender’s performance was consistently high. Matip always seems to be the junior partner when he plays alongside Van Dijk and is often left to do the last-minute blocks and headers off the line while Van Dijk controls the traffic and organises all the other proceedings. Both defenders played well and no heroics were required against Brighton but Matip pipped it for me.

Did you know? Liverpool have won 73% of the Premier League games in which Matip has featured this season, with the Reds winning 16 of the 22 games when he has played.

Conor Coady: If you’re going to score you might as well do it in your home city. Conor Coady’s return to Merseyside might have been good for the England defender and Wolverhampton Wanderers but it has started a nightmare for Frank Lampard. The headed winner by Coady was outstanding while the newly installed Lampard has no more honeymoon period left to call on. He has to start winning games soon otherwise life at Goodison could become rather uncomfortable. The Toffees may have two games in hand over Burnley and three on Leeds but that won’t cut any ice with Everton supporters. They are a long way from where they want to be and Lampard is expected to sort it.

Did you know? Coady has scored three goals in 33 appearances in all competitions for Wolves this season, as many as he had in 275 matches for the club in his previous six seasons with them.

Antonio Rudiger: Under normal circumstances a win at home against Newcastle United by the European champions, regardless of the Geordie resurgence, would not have required special mention. However in the current climate I thought this was an outstanding performance by Chelsea who have been thrown into turmoil by government sanctions imposed on them. Rudiger is one of their key players who is out of contract at the end of the season, with the club now unable to renegotiate his contract due to the sanctions. You would never have known by the passion, determination and sheer enthusiasm of his performance. Looking at the attitude of the players and manager after the match one or two might still hang around regardless of their contractual situation. Read more about this extraordinary situation unfolding at Chelsea in the Crooks of the Matter below.

Did you know? Rudiger has made more headed clearances (36) and won more aerial duels (48) than any other Chelsea player in the Premier League this season.

Midfielders – Andriy Yarmolenko (West Ham), Martin Odegaard (Arsenal), Christian Eriksen (Brentford), Raphinha (Leeds)

Andriy Yarmolenko (West Ham), Martin Odegaard (Arsenal), Christian Eriksen (Brentford), Raphinha (Leeds)

Christian Eriksen: The Dane was instrumental in Brentford’s victory away at Norwich last week but the quality he produced for the cross to enable Ivan Toney to score against Burnley was just exquisite. It was without doubt the only bit of genuine quality in the entire match. Brentford desperately needed these points and that became plainly obvious by the reaction of the players, their manager and their fans immediately after the game. I reckon eight more points should make Brentford safe. With 30 points already on the board if they can’t get the remaining number of points with nine matches left to play they don’t deserve to remain in the Premier League.

Did you know? Eriksen registered his first Premier League assist since December 2019, when he set up Jan Vertonghen’s winning goal against Wolves for Spurs. Since his first Premier League appearance in September 2013, only Kevin de Bruyne (80) has more assists in the competition than Eriksen (63).

Martin Odegaard: I was taken to task last week by a punter, in a petrol station of all places, who asked me why I hadn’t selected Martin Odegaard in my team after his performance against Watford. I had thought about putting Odegaard in for a while but realised I had run out of places. Reece James, Philippe Coutinho, Kevin de Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez were a bit spicy I told this punter, but I did say to him he had a fair point. No such problems this week. In a performance that was not scintillating but professional – and I thought Leicester were poor – Odegaard looks a touch of class. Arsenal are turning out steady, consistent performances. I wish I could say the same about their neighbours.

Did you know? Odegaard created six chances for Arsenal in this game – five of those came during the first half, which was the most chances created in the first half of a Premier League game by an Arsenal player since Mesut Ozil against Everton in October 2017 (6).

Andriy Yarmolenko: The moment the substitution was made my immediate thought was: ‘Does he have the mental strength to cope with Premier League football with everything else that must be going on in his life?’ Not only did the Ukraine international cope with the occasion but his goal was magical. Football has a habit of throwing up moments like this but to see an entire stadium rise to its feet in admiration of Yarmolenko’s goal and strength of purpose is about as good as football gets. This was an excellent win for the Hammers and keeps them in the hunt for a top-four finish.

Did you know? Yarmolenko scored the first Premier League goal by a Ukrainian since the very same man scored against Aston Villa in July 2020, with that goal also coming from the bench at the London Stadium.

Raphinha: What a game this was and it had Elland Road jumping as a consequence. Norwich played their part and on another day might have got a point out of this match. However it took the magic of Raphinha to inspire not just the team but the crowd. The Brazilian hit the woodwork on two occasions and provided the assist for Joe Gelhardt to seal their victory in the 94th minute. To think Marcelo Bielsa left Raphinha out of the game against Manchester United a few weeks ago. It might not have effected the result but you don’t leave players of his quality on the bench when you’re fighting for points to stay in the league.

Did you know? Raphinha has been directly involved in 12 goals for Leeds in the Premier League this season (nine goals, three assists) – more than any other player in that side.

Forwards – Luis Diaz (Liverpool), Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd), Ivan Toney (Brentford)

Luis Diaz (Liverpool), Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd), Ivan Toney (Brentford)

Cristiano Ronaldo: Just when you think Spurs are making progress something comes along to convince you it was all smoke and mirrors. The person this time to shatter all Tottenham’s illusions that they might be a top-four side was Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese superstar was in blistering form against Spurs at Old Trafford. Ronaldo was left out of the starting line-up against Manchester City with a suspected hip injury. It was just as well because he was looking jaded and seems to have benefited from the rest. Here is someone who still wants to play every week but as an outfield player and especially as a striker aged 37, someone should tell him that even he should give way to youth occasionally.

Did you know? Ronaldo has scored a hat-trick in each of the last 13 seasons of his club career (every season since 2009-10), with his treble against Spurs being his 49th career hat-trick at club level.

Luis Diaz: I said after the Carabao Cup final that this lad looked a bit special and he continued to prove the point at Brighton. The way the player has slotted into the Liverpool setup in just a couple of months you could be forgiven for thinking he has been there all his life. Fortunately for Diaz he escaped serious injury, having shown immense bravery, after what can only be described as the most diabolical challenge by Brighton keeper Robert Sanchez. How Mike Dean, a referee who seems to take pride in holding the record number of sendings off, inexplicably allowed Sanchez to remain on the pitch only compounds my theory that he knows everything about the rules but cannot distinguish between what is reckless and what is not.

Did you know? Diaz became the first player to score on his first away Premier League appearance for Liverpool since Mo Salah against Watford in August 2017.

Ivan Toney: I caused a bit of a stir on Final Score and my colleagues Dion Dublin and Jason Mohammed raised eyebrows when I suggested that Ivan Toney would make a good fit for Arsenal next season. I think they were slightly taken aback because they thought I might know something or have an inside track but my comments were purely speculative. After all Ollie Watkins, a former Brentford striker, has made the transition at Aston Villa. Toney would be an ideal replacement if Alexandre Lacazette, for example, were to leave the Gunners in the summer. Unlike Watkins when he transferred to Villa, Toney is already scoring goals in the Premier league and plenty of them – he has no transition to make. As for Brentford, if Arsenal do come knocking, the west London club may have no choice but to accept the money. Brentford have a habit of selling when a player is hot.

Did you know? Toney has scored seven goals in his last five Premier League appearances, after having scored just four goals in his first 19 appearances this season for Brentford.

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

The Crooks of the Matter

I find myself, and for the third consecutive week, writing about the fortunes of Chelsea Football Club and its owner. The truth of the matter is no-one actually knows their fortunes anymore, particularly since Her Majesty’s Government imposed sanctions on the club. The sanctions have left Chelsea unable to sell matchday tickets, merchandise, or renegotiate contracts due to the new measures. It has also left supporters unable to attend games unless they are season ticket holders. No transfers in or out will have a big impact on the club as this could allow some of their best players to leave Stamford Bridge having not renewed their contracts.

These sanctions were supposed to hurt Roman Abramovich, who has now lost a £3bn asset and £1.5bn in loans. But it has also hurt a football club’s ability to operate. The players might be loaded and can wait until the club is sold in order to be paid and for the club to renew its financial activities but there will be people on their payroll who can’t.

This will cause massive uncertainty for all the club’s employees, however glorified they might be, not least the manager Thomas Tuchel. The German seems to have been thrust into the glare and appears to be the only articulate voice at the club prepared to say anything remotely coherent on this matter at all.

I’m sure it was never the government’s intention to hurt the innocent parties in this particular matter, and they would say they are doing it so money can’t be taken out of or made for Chelsea by one of Vladimir Putin’s known associates as part of a so-called cultural war.

It’s right and proper that individuals should be made accountable for their actions and, where appropriate, even their relationships. But this issue here is about Abramovich and not Chelsea Football Club, and I’m not sure the licence they have been granted does enough to protect the club as a cultural asset – as it was supposed to do.

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