Who scored a goal ‘like a meteorite’ to make Garth Crooks’ team of the week?
It was a weekend where Chelsea extended their lead at the top, Manchester United increased the pressure on Nuno Espirito Santo at Spurs, Crystal Palace stunned Manchester City and Burnley won their first game of the season.
Check out my team of the week and then make your own selections towards the bottom of the article.
Goalkeeper: Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
To get a hand to the ball in the first place took some doing. To keep the shot from entering the back of the net from an excellent James Maddison free-kick was world class. However it was Ramsdale’s immediate recovery and re-positioning to stop further shots going over the line that impressed me most. Ramsdale has been a big hit since his arrival at Arsenal. Is he good enough to play for England? I don’t see why not on this showing.
Did you know? Of the goalkeepers to have faced more than two shots on target this season, only Edouard Mendy (90%) is enjoying a higher save percentage than Ramsdale (85.7%), who has saved 24 of the 28 shots on target he has faced.
Defenders: Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Raphael Varane (Man Utd), Gabriel (Arsenal)
Marc Guehi: The entire Crystal Palace defence played magnificently to get this result but the standout defender in my opinion was Guehi. Manchester City behaved quite aggressively once they realised that the game was slipping away from them but that didn’t faze Palace. Manager Patrick Vieira blew two points against Arsenal by allowing the Gunners to come onto his team because he wasn’t brave enough to play with strikers in the latter stages. He quickly learned his lesson against City. Bringing on Christian Benteke and Michael Olise stopped that from happening again. Players are not the only ones that need courage.
Did you know? Guehi won all three of his aerial duels against City. He has won more aerial duels than any other Palace defender in the Premier League this season (18).
Raphael Varane: Manchester United might have found a formula that satisfies their immediate needs. Three central defenders at the back with Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire either side of Varane might be the answer. He brought a quiet authority to a United defence against Spurs that, in previous weeks, had looked decidedly shaky. The France international also provides an element of pace. Maguire is extremely competitive, but slow on the turn. Lindelof is comfortable on the ball and a good support act, but lacks leadership qualities. Varane has a little bit of what Lindelof and Maguire don’t have.
Did you know? Varane made more clearances than any other United player against Spurs (six).
Gabriel: Arsenal often look a different outfit when Gabriel is fit and in the team. It would certainly appear since their victory in the north London derby, the Gunners’ season has come alive. It’s not the first time either team has used the fixture to stimulate their season but Arsenal seem to have done it in spectacular fashion. To beat Leicester away is one thing, but to do it in the manner they did was notable. As for Leicester, I wonder if Brendan Rodgers continually being linked with clubs, Manchester United the latest, is starting to have an effect on his team?
Did you know? Gabriel is Arsenal’s highest-scoring defender in the Premier League since the start of last season (three goals), while he made the most clearances of any Arsenal player against Leicester (seven).
Midfielders: Reece James (Chelsea), Declan Rice (West Ham), Conor Gallagher (Crystal Palace), Enock Mwepu (Brighton)
Reece James: Scored the first with his left foot and the second with his right and I can’t tell which one James struck better. They were both hit with the same power and precision. This is the second consecutive week I have selected James and done so without the slightest hesitation. The lad is playing out of his skin. As for Chelsea, their best signing of the year wasn’t even playing. No, I’m not talking about Romelu Lukaku, I’m talking about manager Thomas Tuchel. He has been brilliant.
Did you know? James has been directly involved in seven goals in all competitions this season for Chelsea (four goals and three assists), the most of any player for the club.
Declan Rice: I couldn’t not select at least one player from West Ham. Their victory over Aston Villa was emphatic but also helped by a poor VAR-assisted sending-off. I’ve come to the conclusion that referee Chris Kavanagh has never scored a goal in his life, otherwise he would recognise a ‘clear’ goalscoring opportunity when he saw one. Neither could he have suffered a forearm smash. If he had, he would know that a forearm smash is dangerous and a goalscoring opportunity is not. If VAR can’t get it right what is the point of it? What was abundantly clear was the performance of Rice, who was at his commanding best. Thank goodness VAR didn’t have to make that decision.
Did you know? At 22 years and 290 days, Rice is the youngest player to score and assist in a Premier League game for West Ham since Manuel Lanzini in October 2015 against Crystal Palace (22y 244d).
Conor Gallagher: It was the steal by Gallagher on Aymeric Laporte, followed by the pass to Wilfried Zaha, that gave Palace the lead, and deservedly so, against City. The young Englishman is playing brilliantly at the moment and was outstanding at City. Currently on loan from Chelsea, manager Vieira has made it no secret he would like to buy the midfielder if he had the cash. Good try Patrick, but pleading poverty won’t help the negotiations. Gallagher’s fee is going up with every game. Do the deal with Chelsea now, shake hands on it and fill in the paperwork in January.
Did you know? Gallagher scored and assisted in the same Premier League game for the first time, with the midfielder racking up five goal involvements in the competition this season (three goals, two assists in nine appearances). It is one more than he managed in 30 top-flight games for West Brom last season (two goals, two assists).
Enock Mwepu: What a performance by Mwepu. As for his goal, well it was quite brilliant. When Jason Mohammad asked me on Final Score if I think he meant it, I was flabbergasted. Mwepu had a look at Alisson and saw the sun was blinding the Liverpool goalkeeper before he went for it. It was sheer spontaneous brilliance. I must also mention Adam Lallana, who was excellent on his Anfield return, along with Leandro Trossard. But I can’t bring myself to select Trossard even though he was outstanding – as I hate false number nines.
Did you know? Mwepu is the second Zambian to score a Premier League goal this season after Leicester’s Patson Daka. Three weeks ago, no Zambian had ever scored in the competition.
Cristiano Ronaldo: If he had not scored against Spurs, it would have been Ronaldo’s longest league drought in front of goal for 12 years since his first Old Trafford spell. An interesting statistic, but one the Portuguese star shut down within a matter of minutes. Ronaldo may be 36, but that has not affected his ability to score goals. Run around maybe, but not score goals. His volley against Tottenham that flashed by Hugo Lloris like a meteorite was of the highest order. What a pity a second was ruled offside because that strike was even better. This time Lloris stood motionless and the French World Cup winner was made to look ordinary by a genuine world-class finisher.
Did you know? At 36 years and 267 days old, Ronaldo is the oldest player to both score and assist a goal in a Premier League game since Didier Drogba in December 2014 – who was also 36y 267d and also did so against Spurs.
Edinson Cavani: The finish by Cavani was only equalled by the quality of pass from the person who provided it – Ronaldo. These two soccer giants know a thing or two about important games and big moments. They can’t cover the ground as well as they used to, but few know the game better. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer owes his managerial position to these two players. A bad result against Spurs may have forced the Glazers’ hand, much to their disapproval, and part company with the man they seem to depend on. Read why I think Spurs and Manchester United fans have reasons to be concerned in the Crooks of the Matter below.
Did you know? Ronaldo, 36, assisting Cavani, 34, is the first time two players aged 34+ have combined for a Premier League goal for United since Paul Scholes, 35, assisted Ryan Giggs, 36, against Newcastle in August 2010.
Wilfried Zaha: This is turning out to be a very different Palace side I am seeing under Vieira than Roy Hodgson. It is also a very different Zaha. It was clear after the dismissal of Laporte that City players began to target him. The Ivorian started to respond, but the half-time whistle saved him. Zaha was a different player in the second half and Palace benefitted from his more measured and controlled contribution. I don’t know what Vieira said to him, but it worked as Zaha went on to play his part in a very deserved victory. Hodgson never seemed to have that kind of connection with Zaha.
Did you know? Zaha netted his 50th Premier League, becoming the first player to hit that milestone in the top-flight for Palace.
Pick your XI from our list and share with your friends.
The Crooks of the Matter
I don’t claim to know what is going on in the Tottenham dressing room, but I know when a team is in desperate need of investment. Manchester United are lacking a manager who can provide them with a Champions League trophy or a Premier League title. The right man will cost them a lot of money if you consider the length of his contract and the transfer chest required to provide success. Everything is small beer if you’re a United fan. The game is nothing if it’s not about glory. Of course, if you can’t provide the grandeur many supporters desire, they will settle for attractive football for a while. However, if neither is present – or even on the horizon – then you had better provide the blood, sweat and tears the rest of the community have to put in order to survive or earn a crust. After all, you are representing them. These are the principles on which the game thrives.
Tottenham have lost their way and so have United.
I sense it’s not about glory for either of these clubs at the moment, but commercial interest. Football owners are not necessarily fans anymore. The days of local fans running the club like Louis Edwards, a local Manchester businessman, or Irving Scholar, a man whose ambitions outweighed even those of the Tottenham manager at the time Keith Burkinshaw, are long gone. They wanted what the fans wanted and were prepared to bankrupt themselves in the process if needed. Fans will do anything for their club, owners will often do whatever it takes to enhance their pockets. They are businessmen after all.