Garth Crooks’ team of the week: Pulisic, Perez, Maguire, Vardy, Mane - (2022)
It is the first time I have included three players who have scored a hat-trick in my team of the week.
The goals started to flow on Friday night when Leicester thrashed Southampton 9-0, before Chelsea beat Burnley 4-2 and Brighton won 3-2 against Everton on Saturday.
Manchester City kept the pressure on Liverpool with a win over Aston Villa but the Reds responded with a big victory over Tottenham on Sunday.
Here's my team of the week – have a read and select your own below.
Goalkeeper – Ederson (Manchester City)
Ederson: Two great first-half saves by Ederson from John McGinn and Douglas Luiz during the same phase of play against Aston Villa kept Manchester City alive. There is no doubt about it, City have issues in defence and it has taken Ederson in goal these past few weeks to pull them out of some very difficult situations. However, the Brazilian is not only capable of keeping clean sheets when it matters but spotting when the opposition is vulnerable. His long-ball delivery for Jesus to flick on for Raheem Sterling to ram home made a mockery of the notion that City over-indulge and cannot play a direct game. This is the best goalkeeper in the Premier League on current form.
Did you know? Since the start of the 2017-18 campaign, Ederson has kept more clean sheets than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League (41).
Defenders – Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle)
Alexander-Arnold: Trent Alexander-Arnold's pass on the run for Sadio Mane in the first half was out of this world. There are very few full-backs who have such an acute appreciation of the sort of pass a striker needs but Alexander-Arnold is certainly one of them. More importantly he has the ability to provide the pass. Quite apart from anything else he is back to his best after what I thought was a shaky start to the season for such an accomplished youngster. As for Spurs, when are they going to learn that Serge Aurier, as good a player as he can be on occasions, cannot be trusted? He is rash and unreliable.
Did you know? Alexander-Arnold has provided 14 assists in the Premier League since the start of last season – the joint-most by any defender alongside team-mate Andy Robertson.
Maguire: Since the arrival of Harry Maguire in the back four at Old Trafford there has been a calm in defence. This was no better illustrated than against Liverpool at home and again away at Norwich where VAR did its best to disrupt, confuse and irritate just about everyone. While his team-mates were being awarded penalties and missing them, Maguire remained composed and played the game with a quiet authority. He may have cost £80m but I'm beginning to think he is worth it in the current climate. He might even save Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's job.
Did you know? Maguire has won 39 aerial duels in the Premier League this season – 15 more than the Manchester United player with the next most (Victor Lindelof, 24).
Lascelles: After a poor start to the season Newcastle responded to some very sharp criticism. Their performance away at Spurs was probably the catalyst to their resurgence. Leadership has been the key both on and off the pitch. Jamaal Lascelles has been quite brilliant in that department for Newcastle. He takes responsibility in defence and is not afraid to attack in the opponent's box. Wolves, on the other hand, looked the better side in the second half but Newcastle held the fort and with 10 men. Newcastle displayed plenty of bottle.
Did you know? Lascelles has made more clearances (48) and more headed clearances (23) than any other Newcastle player in the Premier League this term.
Midfielders – Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea), Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City), Scott McTominay (Manchester United)
Pulisic: I said last week that Frank Lampard's ability to bring on the youngsters at Stamford Bridge was starting to make an impact and I never even included Christian Pulisic. The scream of delight after the United States international scored his first Premier League goal for the club told only part of the story. When he arrived at the club I thought “what's the game coming to; we're now spending £58m for an American!” This hat-trick against Burnley is starting to suggest that this was money well spent. As for Lampard, how many more of these impressive youngsters does he have waiting in the background ready to explode onto the scene?
Did you know? Pulisic became Chelsea's youngest hat-trick scorer in Premier League history (21y 38d), while he also became the first player to net a ‘perfect' league hat-trick for the Blues since Didier Drogba against Wigan in May 2010.
Kovacic: I normally don't care for statistics – they are for statisticians – but when I saw the pass rate for Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho against Burnley I suddenly paid attention. The performance of Kovacic in particular has been a revelation since the departure of Maurizio Sarri and the arrival of Lampard. The way he used the ball to cut Burnley to shreds was cruel at times. It's hardly surprising Chelsea fans are enjoying their football so much these days. They have developed a generation of players desperate to play for a manager who, along with his players, are going places.
Did you know? Kovacic has completed more dribbles than any other Chelsea player in the Premier League under Frank Lampard (22).
Gundogan: If it's not David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne or Raheem Sterling dominating the headlines, Man City still have players who can turn a game on a sixpence. This time it was Ilkay Gundogan who ran the show against Aston Villa. The Germany international is often perceived as the junior partner in comparison to the players previously mentioned. Nevertheless, Pep Guardiola may well find himself relying on Gundogan's services as he tries to get City to their first elusive Champions League final while still trying to retain the title.
Did you know? Gundogan has completed 318 passes in the opposition half in the Premier League this season – the only Manchester City player with more is Rodrigo (343).
McTominay: I've watched this lad a lot in recent weeks and couldn't work out why Solskjaer keeps playing him. He runs about a lot and is certainly not afraid to put his foot it – but a Manchester United player? Against Liverpool he was excellent and after his performance against Norwich he finds himself in my TOTW. He's also bright enough not to get involved in taking penalties for Manchester United. I think I might have misjudged him.
Did you know? McTominay's opener was Manchester United's 2,000th goal in the Premier League, with the Red Devils being the first team in competition history to reach this tally.
Forwards – Ayoze Perez (Leicester), Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Jamie Vardy (Leicester)
Perez: There have been players who have scored great goals, even had great games, and missed out on being in my TOTW because other players have had a greater impact on a match. However, what I will always acknowledge is when a player scores a hat-trick in a Premier League fixture. Ayoze Perez has scored two in his career against Southampton, the latest inflicting the most telling destruction of a football team I have seen in years. Would Leicester have had such a devastating effect on the Saints had VAR not interfered in proceedings? I think not. Read more about what I have to say on this affair in the Crooks of the Matter below.
Did you know? Leicester's Perez became the first player to score a hat-trick in back-to-back Premier League appearances against a single opponent since Luis Suarez against Norwich City in September 2012.
Mane: Two seasons ago it was Mo Salah who was carrying Liverpool. Last season it was Virgil van Dijk who had a massive influence on the success of the team. This season it's Sadio Mane who is carrying Liverpool on his shoulders. His speed, power and strength have been a feature of Liverpool's play this season and without the Senegal international, life at the top would be considerably less comfortable. It was Mane who caused mayhem in Tottenham's ranks the entire match and the reason they lost. With a little help from Serge Aurier, of course.
Did you know? Mane has scored more goals in Premier League home games than any other player in the competition in 2019 (15 at Anfield).
Vardy: There is a ruthlessness to Jamie Vardy's finishing that sometimes makes you have to look away. Vardy started his scoring tirade when Southampton were 4-0 down. He completed his hat-trick to make it 9-0 with the last kick of the game. The delight on Vardy's face was as if he had just scored the winning goal in the final seconds of a cup final. Is it any wonder Brendan Rodgers is looking so pleased with himself when he has a striker in his team with that kind of attitude. It's hardly surprising Vardy is so unpopular with opposition supporters.
Did you know? Vardy has scored 18 goals in the Premier League since 3 March (Brendan Rodgers' first game) – the most of any player in the competition in this period.
Now it's your turn
You've seen my selections this season. But who would you go for?
Crooks of the Matter
I thought at the time the sending-off Ryan Bertrand was a harsh decision but when I discovered Mike ‘clever clogs' Dean was behind VAR in the Southampton versus Leicester fixture I wasn't surprised.
Anyone who has played football at any level, and especially in the conditions both teams had to contend with, would have made allowances for the players.
If Dean has played the game (and I rather suspect he has) then he should know what defenders have to cope with and therefore I can only assume that he wasn't a very good player.
There wasn't one pundit in the BBC Match of the Day studio or anyone on the pitch at St Mary's who would have sent Bertrand off for the challenge on Perez. And why? Because they recognised and understood the conditions.
Quite apart from destroying what would have been a perfectly good contest for the viewing public, he's instigated huge embarrassment to the club, its players and put a manager's career on skid row – all on a whim. You would also be very wrong to compare Newcastle's Sean Longstaff's dismissal against Wolves to Bertrand's. Longstaff was reckless.
The long-held tradition in football that the referee's decision is final is no longer the case. Andre Marriner gave Leicester the advantage by letting play run on and they took it. To punish the Saints further with the ultimate sanction and a sending-off, as opposed to a booking, was double jeopardy and, in my view, not in the spirit of the game.
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