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Garth Crooks Team of the Week: Haaland, Rice, Palmer, Odegaard, Jackson

After every Premier League weekend, BBC football pundit Garth Crooks gathers his thoughts and brings you his Team of the Week.

Here are this week’s picks, and as always, Garth also discusses the game’s big talking points in Crooks of the Matter.

David Raya (Arsenal): Bournemouth took a while to test David Raya on Saturday, but when it came Dominic Solanke’s shot was destined for the back of the net and Raya produced a great save.

The Arsenal goalkeeper had to go through some tests. The former Brentford man had to win over the hearts and minds of the fans at the Emirates Stadium when he was selected over Aaron Ramsdale, who had done nothing wrong.

Raya has kept three clean sheets in his last four Premier League games and 15 throughout the season, an achievement which earned him the prestigious Golden Glove award. He will need two more clean sheets if he is to have any chance of winning the title.

Thiago Silva (Chelsea): He is almost 40 years old and is as dangerous to kick into the opponents’ penalty area as any defender in the Premier League. Silva, back in the Chelsea team after a brief absence through injury, was at it again. It was his header from a well taken corner that provided the opening for Noni Madueke to score.

Chelsea will lose the services of Silva at the end of the season and with it his professionalism and complete calm demeanor will be missing. That said, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he returns to Stamford Bridge as a manager in a few years.

Willy Boly (Nottingham Forest): It was Gustavo Hamer’s tackle on Nottingham Forest’s Boly that created the opening for Callum Hudson-Odoi to score his second goal and wrap up this game.

Sheffield United had a real try at Forest and it took some impressive defending from Boly in particular and supported by Murillo to keep the Blades at bay. We saw Murillo limp off the pitch against Manchester City last Sunday and concerns have been raised over the Brazilian’s fitness to play in what have now become crucial games in Forest’s quest for survival.

Boly and Murillo were superb at Bramall Lane and their presence will be crucial in the club’s two remaining games against Chelsea and away to Burnley. If they win either they are home and dry from my point of view.

Joachim Andersen (Crystal Palace): This was a horror performance from Manchester United. Ralf Rangnick, when he was caretaker manager of Manchester United, said they needed open heart surgery to bring the club back to what it once was.

After United’s last performance against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, they look set to need even more surgery.

United may be suffering from an extraordinary amount of injuries at the moment and you wonder with the resources they have how they feel so depleted, but nevertheless with the talent they have displayed they should do better than that.

Joachim Andersen never gave Ramus Hojlund a shot all night. The Denmark centre-back was outstanding during United’s demolition and set up Tyrick Mitchell for his side’s third goal. Since the arrival of Oliver Glasner, Palace have looked a different team. Next season looks very interesting for the Eagles.

Declan Rice (Arsenal): If Declan Rice never scored another goal in his life but managed to lift the title in his first season with Arsenal, I have no doubt he would make the sacrifice in a heartbeat. That’s the impression you get when you watch the England international. Every game he plays he seems to put himself on the line for his team.

Even when he doesn’t have a great game, you know he gave it his all. His goal against Bournemouth put Arsenal four points clear at the top of the table for hours and sealed a performance that suggests Manchester City will need to win all their remaining games to be sure of retaining the title.

However, with Manchester United away and Everton at home still to play for, both teams have history and would be more than happy to spoil the party for Arsenal just for the hell of it.

Harvey Elliott (Liverpool): Whatever happened last week between Mohamed Salah and Jurgen Klopp on the touchline at West Ham seems to have fired the player somewhat. Salah looked razor sharp and eager to prove a point against a Tottenham side who seem to have lost their way.

At no stage did Spurs look like they were going to get anything out of this game and by the time Harvey Elliott hit an absolute beler from outside the box it was game over. Spurs rallied but it was to no avail.

Elliott has had an excellent season and has shown that he has a future at Anfield. Not bad for a kid who was turned down at Chelsea because he was too young. I am amazed that football clubs in England still think in these terms.

Martin Odegaard (Arsenal): The same team for the third game in a row suggests Mikel Arteta has nothing to lose if he puts in the big guns for the rest. After all, Manchester City are in the driving seat with a game in hand and just a point behind. Arsenal don’t seem to be getting any favors from them.

However, that background noise failed to stop Odegaard producing another stellar performance against a tough Bournemouth side. Odegaard has had an exceptional season and is in my running for the Footballer of the Year award.

It’s a throwback to the old days, when the team captain was not only one of the best players, but also commanded respect, showed maturity and behaved well. The Norwegian international possesses all these qualities with loads to spare. A professional model if ever I saw one.

Cole Palmer (Chelsea): I’ve been very reluctant to say this because I don’t want to put any more pressure on the lad than there already is, but I think Cole Palmer is the best talent this country has produced since Glenn Hoddle.

Palmer scored his 24th goal of the season like it was a training exercise and plays his game with such ease that he never seems stretched. He sees the pass long before anyone else does and then cuts the opposition in half with it.

The ball to Nicolas Jackson, whose mishandling landed at the feet of Conor Gallagher to score, was so good and accurate it startled him. He then clipped the most glorious through ball to Mykhailo Mudryk who wasted the chance but by then it didn’t matter as the game was well beyond the Hammers.

Manchester City’s Phil Foden is talented, but Cole Palmer is talented. My hope is that the England manager makes the most of these players. History suggests the national team has struggled with such talent in the past.

Nicolas Jackson (Chelsea): This lad took an enormous amount of stick after his performance in the League Cup final defeat against Liverpool. Strikers don’t miss chances on purpose, but as a team-mate once told me, you get the glory and you get the bat and I think that’s a fair trade. However, what is more important than having broad shoulders is your ability to bounce back from disappointment and fight on.

Nicolas Jackson did just that. His performance against West Ham was calm, measured and clinical. However, if West Ham were unsure of the impact that not securing a manager’s position for next season will have on the team, they are after this latest defeat against Chelsea.

When the players start asking the manager what’s going on and there’s a shrug, a cloud of uncertainty descends on a dressing room. David Moyes has clearly struggled to hold it together with the prospect of his contract not being renewed and has made West Ham a shadow of the team they were last season.

Erling Haaland (Manchester City): Pep Guardiola has given his players two days off ahead of Wolves’ visit to the Etihad Stadium. A clear message from their manager if ever there was one that his players should take some time and think hard about the relevance of the remaining games.

They did the treble last season, but to do the double in a row would be extraordinary. Since the debate about how poor Erling Haaland is outside the box, the striker has not stopped scoring. The third and fourth goals against an overmatched Wolves were off the charts.

There are only a handful of strikers who have scored five goals in a Premier League game and I’m sure Haaland would have loved to add that record to his collection, but for some obscure reason, he was replaced. Guess he’ll just have to settle for four.

Callum Hudson-Odoi (Nottingham Forest): Looks like the player got his mojo back. We saw him slowly leave Chelsea and almost got him back on loan at Bayer Leverkusen, but his time at Nottingham Forest proved to be a turning point for Hudson-Odoi.

There’s no doubting the talent, but there was plenty about his lack of grit and ability to fight, especially when things went against him. However, his time at Forest showed a different side. He scored two of the most glorious goals against Sheffield United. The second being the best as the ball settled and made the shot much more difficult.

Forest have had a miserable season largely due to the drop in points, but they seem to have grown as a group of players through their adversity – and so has Hudson-Odoi.

Honorable mentions

Morgan Gibbs-White (Nottingham Forest): I said recently that Forest must, above all else, keep this player fit if they want to avoid relegation. After seeing him against Sheffield United, I didn’t change my position.

His enthusiasm and desire to stay in the Premier League is evident. He was Forest’s player of the year by a mile.

Noni Madueke (Chelsea): A selfless team-focused performance from Chelsea’s Madueke against West Ham. Glad to see this young man making an important contribution to their victory and behaving in a professional manner and not arguing over who takes penalties.

Michael Olise (Crystal Palace): His first goal was a chipped shot, but his second was a screamer. Olise was instrumental in destroying a poor Manchester United at Selhurst Park on Monday night. Eric Ten Hag seems like a very decent man, but the FA Cup final is not far out of his depth.

Scammers of matter

We heard earlier in the week from top referee Howard Webb that football is “officiated by human beings” who “make judgements”. This was his response to yet another episode in which VAR and those who operate the technology have come under even more scrutiny than usual. I have to say I expected more from him, but at least his answer was clear and obvious.

When will the umpiring body, PGMOL, accept that science is there to help the umpires, not to take over the game or try to justify its use, taking an age to prove a point that no one else can see? Fans have a right to expect technology to reduce errors by highlighting obvious mistakes, not confusing them with science. We currently have the absurd situation where the fans on the pitch don’t even see why the VAR got involved or the decision was changed, unlike the viewers watching on TV.

The argument that VAR corrects more decisions than it gets wrong doesn’t cut it either. It’s not the verdicts that fans, players and managers find offensive.

VAR works when it shows clear and obvious errors. Anything short of that presents confusion and controversy.

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