Garth Crooks’ Team of the Week: Coutinho, De Bruyne, Havertz, Saka

Garth team of the week

Premier League leaders Manchester City responded to Liverpool’s victory over West Ham by thrashing derby rivals Manchester United on Sunday.

Arsenal beat Watford 3-1 to move into fourth place while Chelsea maintained their grip on third by beating Burnley 4-0.

Newcastle eased their relegation concerns with a 2-1 win over Brighton, as did Brentford with a 3-1 win at Norwich City, but Leeds United could not improve their situation as manager Jesse Marsch’s first game ended in a 1-0 defeat by Leicester City.

Elsewhere, Aston Villa recorded an emphatic 4-0 victory against Southampton, and Crystal Palace beat Wolves 2-0.

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's team of the week

Goalkeeper – Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City)

Kasper Schmeichel

Kasper Schmeichel’s save from Jack Harrison was decent, and the other from Daniel James was better, but the stop with his legs from Raphinha, who had the goal at his mercy with the keeper on the ground, was not only brilliant but a game-changer.

Schmeichel’s performance against a rejuvenated Leeds was crucial. Leicester’s form has been erratic recently while Leeds, under new management, were in the mood to prove a point.

Sadly their finishing wasn’t up to it. I do wonder what Don Revie and Billy Bremner would have said about an American managing Leeds United in the top flight, in what is rapidly becoming a relegation battle.

Did you know? Leicester City registered back-to-back clean sheets for the first time since February 2021.

Defenders – Fabian Schar (Newcastle United), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Joao Cancelo (Manchester City)

Fabian Schar, Thiago Silva, Joao Cancelo

Fabian Schar: Last week Fabian Schar was making goals, this week he’s scoring them. It was great movement and a brilliant header and the Magpies are flying.

It’s the second consecutive time that Schar has made my team of the week and if he keeps on playing like this he might make my team of the season.

It’s not that long ago Newcastle were in the bottom three and fighting for their lives. I don’t know who is advising the new owners but they have got all the major decisions absolutely spot on since their arrival at St James’ Park. As for Eddie Howe, he must be a candidate for manager of the season.

Did you know? No team is on a longer unbeaten run in the Premier League than Newcastle, who are without defeat in their past eight games in the competition.

Thiago Silva: Aaron Lennon had done brilliantly to get to the byline and pull the ball back for Wout Weghorst but the Burnley centre-forward’s shot was kicked off the line by Thiago Silva.

The defender’s positioning on the goalline was absolutely perfect. Not only did he save Edouard Mendy, who looked like he had been caught out of position, but he enabled Chelsea to keep a clean sheet.

Whoever’s idea it was to bring Silva to Chelsea is a genius. The man is 37 years of age and looks like he could play in the Premier League until he’s 40.

Did you know? Chelsea have won their past three Premier League games, having won just three of their previous 11 in the competition prior to this run.

Joao Cancelo: The tackle on Anthony Elanga in the second half as the game was starting to get interesting was emphatic. For a defender who doesn’t know a great deal about Manchester derbies, Joao Cancelo certainly let Elanga know he was in a game.

If Aaron Wan-Bissaka was having trouble down their right side with Phil Foden, then Cancelo had Elanga in his pocket.

Big games require big players but I was alarmed by Paul Pogba’s poor contribution in this one. If ever a fixture was made for him, this was it – and he allowed it to just pass him by.

Did you know? Manchester City completed the league double over Manchester United for the fifth time – and first since 2018-19.

Midfielders – Reece James (Chelsea), Philippe Coutinho (Aston Villa), Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City), Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)

Reece James, Philippe Coutinho, Kevin de Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez

Reece James: The return of Reece James to Chelsea’s starting line-up was telling. Thomas Tuchel left the England international out of the starting line-up against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final and Chelsea suffered for it.

Goals are invaluable in any team and when you replace goalscorers with caution it can be costly. James’ return on Chelsea’s right-hand side for the injured Cesar Azpilicueta against Burnley paid off in a major way.

James might not be as good in defence as the Spaniard but he gives you much more going forward. His second-half finish and assist for Kai Havertz set the tone for an excellent away win.

Did you know? With five goals and six assists, Reece James is one of three English players to register both at least five goals and five assists in the Premier League this season – along with Jarrod Bowen and Mason Mount.

Philippe Coutinho: Villa Park is buzzing again and it’s all down to Philippe Coutinho. When Steven Gerrard landed the services of the Brazilian he did say that once the player was fully fit he would play a major part in Villa’s progression and that seems to be the case.

Coutinho is making players play all over the pitch. Why his move to Barcelona didn’t work out is hard to fathom but I haven’t seen a player have such an impact on a Villa team since Jack Grealish.

It looks like Coutinho has well and truly replaced Grealish – and at a fraction of the cost. Coutinho for Grealish looks like good business done by Villa.

Did you know? Philippe Coutinho has been involved in six goals in four home Premier League games for Aston Villa. He has both scored and assisted in three of his last six home appearances in the competition in all.

Kevin de Bruyne: His first goal was put away with consummate ease, while his second was tucked away with the authority of a player with one hand on the Premier League title and no intention of letting go of it.

De Bruyne led his team on to the pitch with the colours of Ukraine draped around their shoulders in an impressive show of solidarity.

I don’t know if he or his team-mates were inspired by that but they certainly played like it. De Bruyne is back to his best and with him in this mood I wouldn’t bet against City winning the title if he can remain fit.

Did you know? Kevin de Bruyne is the fourth Manchester City player to score twice against Manchester United in a home Premier League game after Niall Quinn (1993), Shaun Goater (2002) and Sergio Aguero (2013).

Riyad Mahrez: Manchester United had every reason to walk off the pitch at the end of this Manchester derby looking utterly dejected, having been on the receiving end of real mauling. The Etihad Stadium, on the other hand, was jumping due to City’s sheer superiority.

Riyad Mahrez struck two of the sweetest strikes you will ever see. City might be six points clear at the top of the table but Liverpool have a game in hand and the slightest slip would let them in.

Liverpool don’t play the quality of football City do but that won’t stop them from getting their hands on the title given the opportunity.

Did you know? Only Mohamed Salah (27) has scored more goals in all competitions this season than Riyad Mahrez (21) among Premier League players.

Forwards – Ivan Toney (Brentford), Kai Havertz (Chelsea), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)

Ivan Toney, Kai Havertz, Bukayo Saka

Ivan Toney: He had a bit of a barren spell followed by injury recently but Ivan Toney came back with an impressive hat-trick against a Norwich side who have lost that little bit of fizz which Dean Smith’s arrival brought to the club.

This was a massive away win for Brentford and could be a turning point in their season. I was a little concerned that the west London club could get sucked into a relegation fight but so far they have kept themselves out of the bottom three and in a place of relative safety.

A punter recently asked me if I thought Brentford would stay up and I said I wasn’t sure. I’m much more confident now.

Did you know? Ivan Toney has scored all 16 of the penalties he has taken for Brentford in all competitions. Saturday’s match was the second time he has converted two spot-kicks in a single game for the club.

Kai Havertz: To say Kai Havertz has found his feet at Chelsea would be an understatement. The German striker is not only scoring goals but playing brilliantly.

It has taken him a while to settle in but he has certainly got there, which is just as well as Stamford Bridge can be a graveyard for strikers.

Romelu Lukaku, a centre forward who is currently out of favour and low in confidence, needs to be playing regularly to produce his best. Timo Werner is also struggling, so to have Havertz in this rich vein of form is crucial for the Blues.

Did you know? No Chelsea player has scored more goals under Thomas Tuchel in all competitions than Kai Havertz (13), who scored twice in a Premier League game for the first time since May 2021.

Bukayo Saka: If you’re a Tottenham fan it must be excruciating watching your local rivals continue to pick up points as they aim to secure a Champions League spot.

Arsenal’s most recent performance against Watford was enough to win all three points but they still show signs of frailty at the back. The reason the Gunners are still flirting with a top-four place is due largely to the brilliance of Bukayo Saka.

The England international has grown tremendously since he played in the European championships and seems to glide through games these days. If Arsenal can’t provide Champions League football for the youngster then I suggest he finds it somewhere else. Talent like this shouldn’t hang around.

Did you know? Bukayo Saka has been involved in 13 goals in the Premier League this season, which is more than any other player aged under 21 (eight goals, five assists).

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

The Crooks of the Matter

The image of Thomas Tuchel raising his voice and glaring at a reporter in response to the barrage of questions regarding the future of Roman Abramovich at Chelsea made it clear: the news conference was having a profound effect on the manager.

Chelsea’s owner and his alleged association with Vladimir Putin had become a focal point the media was not prepared to ignore. If it was having this impact on the manager, you can be certain it was having an impact on his players.

The situation surrounding Chelsea Football Club and its owner had become unmanageable. Shortly before their FA Cup fifth-round tie against Luton Town a statement was released confirming the club was to be sold. Tuchel answered questions about the owner’s decision in his post-match interview with a great deal more composure than he did days before, as though it had somehow lanced the boil.

Nevertheless, throughout all this tension, I can’t help think that the attention on Abramovich wouldn’t have been half as acute had he immediately condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The mere fact that the Chelsea owner still hasn’t roundly criticised the actions taken by his president presents members of parliament with a very big stick to beat him with. What has also become abundantly clear this week is neither the club nor Abramovich could take the pain any longer – hence the statement.

So what is the future for Chelsea? The club is a million miles away from the days under Ken Bates. Buying Chelsea is one thing but who has the disposable income to chase the sort of trophies Abramovich was chasing?

The west London club have acquired a lifestyle they may no longer be in a position to afford. It’s not the end of the world but it might take some getting used to.

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