Garth Crooks team of the week: Mane, Abraham, Longstaff, Grealish, Luiz


A fantastic weekend of Premier League action saw Liverpool extend their lead at the top of the table to eight points following a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Leicester.

Champions Manchester City lost ground with a shock 2-0 home defeat by Wolves, while Tottenham’s week went from bad to worse with a heavy 3-0 loss at Brighton.

Newcastle moved out of the relegation zone with an impressive 1-0 win over troubled Manchester United, while there were wins for Burnley,Aston Villa and Crystal Palace.

Here’s my team of the week – have a read and select your own below.

Goalkeeper – Mat Ryan (Brighton)

Ryan: As bad as Tottenham were against Brighton, this game could have finished 4-4 had it not been for the brilliance of Mathew Ryan. Two wonderful saves from Lucas Moura, one from Erik Lamela and another from Harry Kane put Spurs firmly in their place.

The longer the game went on the more confident Ryan became. This was a first-class performance from the Brighton keeper.

Did you know? Ryan made three saves against Spurs, registering a clean sheet against the Lilywhites for the first time in his Premier League career.

Defenders – Gary Cahill (Crystal Palace), David Luiz (Arsenal), Lewis Dunk (Brighton)

Cahill: It is coming to something when Crystal Palace fans start ‘insisting’ who I should put in my team of the week. Just what it has got to do with them I don’t know.

However, I did find myself bowing to the wishes of one of their followers who was mightily impressed with Gary Cahill’s performance against West Ham.

He also went on to tell me that he couldn’t understand why Chelsea had let him go when they obviously need his experience in view of who they are currently playing at the back.

He then went on to say, «how could Arsenal pay Chelsea £8m for David Luiz when Cahill went on a free transfer?». He does have a point.

Did you know? Cahill completed 95% of his 60 passes against West Ham for Crystal Palace – the best completion rate among the Eagles’ players.

Luiz: Just when Spurs fans think the week cannot get any worse, Arsenal win at home to Bournemouth and the victory takes them up to third in the table.

Luiz, who never does things the easy way, scored his first goal for the Gunners and the only goal of the game but more importantly kept his first clean sheet in an Arsenal shirt.

I cannot believe this Arsenal team are third in the table. I know we are only eight games into the Premier League season but their defence has been so bad, how is this possible?

Did you know? 10 of Luiz’s 12 Premier League goals have been scored in home matches, with this his first goal for Arsenal.

Dunk: Another performance that was agony to watch for Tottenham, only this time Lewis Dunk was to blame. The defender slammed Brighton’s back door in Tottenham’s face.

He won every header, every challenge, trampled over any Spurs player who got in his way without so much as an apology or hint of respect and that is exactly how you deal with superstars indulging in a pity party.

I don’t know what is going on at Spurs – although manager Mauricio Pochettino insists there is a bad feeling at the club – but whatever is the matter they had better sort it out, and quickly.

Spurs’ players are paid an awful lot of money and fans are entitled to a performance, not a charade.

Did you know? Dunk helped Brighton to a clean sheet against Spurs, making 10 clearances – the most of any Brighton player.

Midfielders – Jack Grealish (Aston Villa), Matty Longstaff (Newcastle), James Milner (Liverpool), Adama Traore (Wolves)

Grealish: It has not been an easy journey for Jack Grealish over the years but he seems to have found his destination. To captain Aston Villa in the Premier League is no mean feat. Villa are a big club.

Grealish was outstanding away at Crystal Palace and he led his team to victory against a Norwich team that was demolished by a rampant Villa. I have not seen a Villa captain with such an appetite for the game since Dennis Mortimer, who played for the club between 1975-85 and skippered them to the 1982 European Cup.

Did you know? Grealish scored his first Premier League goal since netting against Leicester in September 2015 (1,483 days ago).

Longstaff: This was a massive win for Newcastle and Steve Bruce in particular. It was his first managerial win over Manchester United and he called on a young 19-year-old local Geordie lad to do it.

Matthew Longstaff is the kid. Remember the name. It is not often a manager takes up most of the column inches in my report but on this occasion Bruce deserves it.

It takes a tremendous amount of courage for a manager to give a young lad his debut against Manchester United when points are in desperate need. Not only did the kid deliver, he scored the winning goal.

This could have turned out very badly for Bruce, but instead it turned out extremely badly for United and their manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Did you know? At 19 years and 199 days, Longstaff became the youngest player to score on his Premier League debut for Newcastle United.

Milner: James Milner is back: back in the Liverpool team and back among the goals. The ball from Milner for Sadio Mane to slot home was just glorious.

However the pressure to score a 95th-minute penalty when your team have underperformed, and knowing a victory keeps your unbeaten run alive, must have been excruciating.

It is Milner’s coolness under extreme pressure that is so impressive and should Liverpool lift the title, he is a player that can seriously be considered for the Footballer of the Year award, if only for his service to the game. Or should that be an OBE?

Did you know? Milner’s penalty in the 95th minute was the latest Liverpool have scored from the spot in the Premier League since Christian Benteke against Crystal Palace in March 2016 (96th minute).

Traore: This lad is what is commonly known in the game as a speed merchant but also as somebody who seldom delivers the killer blow.

That theory (the killer blow part) was shot down in flames against Manchester City because Traore’s two goals against the champions may have already consigned Pep Guardiola’s side to a runners-up place in the title race.

I have begged Wolves to ditch the Europa League for fear of a team with limited resources struggling in the Premier League. With results like this I need not have worried.

Did you know? Traore had not scored in his last 32 Premier League games before netting twice against Man City. His previous goal was against West Ham in September 2018.

Forwards – Aaron Connolly (Brighton), Tammy Abraham (Chelsea), Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

Connolly: I thought that Wednesday, when Spurs got battered 7-2 in the Champions League, was a bad night but at least they were facing Robert Lewandowski and Bayern Munich.

I had only heard of Aaron Connolly when he came on briefly as a substitute for Brighton in their mauling by Manchester City. Every Spurs fan in the country knows him now. What a performance by the 19-year-old.

He took Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, two experienced Belgium internationals, apart. If Brighton can continue to play like this at home and turn the Amex Stadium into a fortress, they won’t be talking about Premier League survival but mid-table security.

Did you know? Connolly became the first teenager from the Republic of Ireland to score a Premier League brace since Robbie Keane did so for Coventry against Derby in August 1999.

Abraham: It was the great Jimmy Greaves who said that football is a funny old game. Well, who would have thought that Chelsea fans would be chanting the name of Tammy Abraham in the same manner they used to celebrate Didier Drogba.

That is because the young striker is leading the line in a similar manner to the Ivory Coast legend. If Abraham continues to develop at this rate, manager Frank Lampard will have another problem on his hands – keeping him at Stamford Bridge.

Did you know? Abraham has scored nine goals for Chelsea across all competitions in 2019-20; the joint-most of any current Premier League player along with Raheem Sterling.

Mane: I thought the penalty awarded by referee Chris Kavanagh for the tackle on Sadio Mane was a poor decision. Do I blame Mane for going down when contact is made in the box? Of course I don’t, but it wasn’t an infringement, it was merely contact in a sport that allows an element of contact.

Regardless of that decision, Mane was back to his sparkling best and Leicester’s Marc Albrighton should have known better than to lay even a finger on the Senegal international in the box.

Did you know? Mane, making his 100th league appearance for Liverpool, scored his 50th Premier League goal for the Reds. He is the 10th player to reach the milestone for the club in the competition, more than any other side.

Now it’s your turn

You’ve seen my selections this season. But who would you go for?

Crooks of the Matter

If you are a Spurs fan then this has been a very bad week for all of us. Defeat by Bayern Munich at home was a humiliation and losing to Brighton away only added insult to injury.

However I have never laughed so much at the genuine ‘witty banter’ posted online by those fans who love to hate us.

It’s what real football fans used to be famous for. We also know who the real culprits are and it’s largely due to the fact that we always do things with an element of style. We even lose elegantly!

Football banter, when delivered properly, brings fans together like nothing else. The quip of the week was, without doubt, the shot of Tottenham’s famous Seven Sisters Tube station renamed (by some cleverclogs) Seven-Two Sisters Station after Wednesday night’s drubbing.

To make fans laugh in the midst of such anguish is quite a skill. More banter and less abuse, all.

I just hope it’s not all at Tottenham’s expense.

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