Garth Crooks’ team of the week: Shaw, Ward-Prowse, Kane, Bale

Garth team of the week

Manchester United ended derby rivals Manchester City’s impressive 21-game winning run with a 2-0 victory at Etihad Stadium on Sunday, but Pep Guardiola’s side still hold an 11-point advantage at the top of the Premier League.

Leicester City remain a point behind United in third after winning 2-1 away to relegation-threatened Brighton, while Tottenham continued their recent revival with a 4-1 win over Crystal Palace.

However, defending champions Liverpool’s hopes of securing a top-four finish were dealt another blow as Fulham won 1-0 at Anfield to pull closer to safety.

Southampton recorded a first win in 10 league games with a 2-0 victory against bottom side Sheffield United, Arsenal were held to a 1-1 draw at Burnley, and there were goalless draws between West Brom and Newcastle, and Aston Villa and Wolves.

Chelsea boosted their hopes of a top-four finish by beating Everton 2-0 on Monday night, before West Ham moved fifth with a 2-0 win against Leeds.

Check out my team of the week and then make your own selections towards the bottom of the article.

Garth's team of the week

Goalkeeper – Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa)

Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez

Emiliano Martinez: When your two centre-backs turn to their goalkeeper and hug him in response to a save, you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s the turning point in the game.

Wolves should have won this game based on the chance that presented itself to Conor Coady. The Wolves captain isn’t renowned for his clinical finishing but even he’s entitled to score a goal when in the six-yard box, unopposed with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Enter Emiliano Martinez. The Argentine goalkeeper has been outstanding and, in my view, Aston Villa’s player of the season.

Did you know? No Argentine goalkeeper has more Premier League clean sheets than Martinez (20, level with Julian Speroni).

Defenders – Victor Lindelof (Man Utd), Craig Dawson (West Ham), Joachim Andersen (Fulham), Luke Shaw (Man Utd)

Victor Lindelof, Craig Dawson, Joachim Andersen and Luke Shaw

Victor Lindelof: This was a very impressive defensive performance by Manchester United. I know Manchester City had chances but they could not convert any of them.

Victor Lindelof’s ability to recover situations against City was impressive and it is becoming a feature of his game. Team-mate Harry Maguire might be more imposing but it’s Lindelof who provides that touch of class.

Did you know? Manchester United are unbeaten in their past 16 Premier League games when Lindelof has started.

Craig Dawson: Another solid game from Craig Dawson in a West Ham shirt. The former Watford and West Brom defender has slotted into the Hammers back line effortlessly. Dawson has always been a threat in the opposition’s penalty area especially on set plays, and so it proved against Leeds United.

However, it was his clearance off the line that must have sickened Leeds and put any chance of getting back into the game to bed. All credit to David Moyes, who has moulded a very good team together at London Stadium. West Ham now find themselves two points behind Chelsea with a game in hand. Not bad for a manager who was written off after his debacle at Manchester United.

Did you know? No Premier League defender has scored more goals in all competitions this season than West Ham’s Craig Dawson

Joachim Andersen: Champions Liverpool are looking anything but at the moment. Andy Robertson and Sadio Mane looked in shock as they walked off the pitch and Fulham celebrated victory at Anfield.

I said in the Crooks of the Matter some weeks ago that there was cause for concern at Liverpool. It now looks like a crisis.

Fulham, on the other hand, have grown into a Premier League team – and Scott Parker a worthy manager.

Joachim Andersen, who makes my team for the second time this season, looked immense at the back for the Cottagers. Sheffield United and West Brom have gone, in my opinion. Who will also go down is another matter entirely. One thing is for certain: Fulham have no intention of joining them.

Did you know? Fulham have conceded just two goals in their past seven league games and have kept six clean sheets in their past 10.

Luke Shaw: Well, I don’t believe it. This wasn’t the Manchester United I saw bore us all to death against Crystal Palace on Wednesday night.

This was a United intent on embarrassing their neighbours and they did. Manchester City looked off the boil but that was because of an impressive performance by United and, in particular, Luke Shaw.

The full-back was decent at Selhurst Park but impressive against City. I haven’t seen Shaw look so positive or determined in a United shirt as I have this season. City may have lost the match but the title is nailed on.

Did you know? Shaw has been directly involved in six Premier League goals this season, the most in his career.

Midfielders – James Ward-Prowse (Southampton), Youri Tielemans (Leicester), Mario Lemina (Fulham)

James Ward-Prowse (Southampton), Youri Tielemans (Leicester), Mario Lemina (Fulham)

James Ward-Prowse: This lad has been unfortunate not to appear in my team more often this season. I am convinced Southampton would be in serious trouble were it not for James Ward-Prowse.

We know he can take a free-kick and that he is capable of covering the ground, but he also has a superb temperament. The Saints had no-one better to take their penalty under their current circumstances. His contribution against Sheffield United thereafter was immense.

It’s clear Georginio Wijnaldum is almost certain to leave Liverpool at the end of the season for Barcelona. I can’t think of a better replacement than Ward-Prowse.

Did you know? Only Matt Le Tissier, James Beattie, Marians Pahars and Danny Ings have scored more Premier League goals for Southampton than James Ward-Prowse (28).

Youri Tielemans: The through-ball for Kelechi Iheanacho to score was just delightful. The fact that Youri Tielemans looked in another direction before making the pass only served to confound Brighton captain Lewis Dunk, who was completely exposed by the quality of the ball and left to watch Iheanacho administer the equaliser.

Brighton deserved to get something from this game but now I have a bad feeling about their fortunes. We are slowly moving into the period where playing good football is no longer the necessity – it’s about holding your nerve and taking your chances.

Did you know? Tielemans’ nine goal involvements in 28 league appearances this season is as many as he managed in 37 games last term.

Mario Lemina: Fulham were robbed against Spurs in midweek by the most awful handball decision to go against a team I’ve ever seen.

To Fulham’s eternal credit they somehow put that defeat behind them and went on to produce a superb battling performance to win at Anfield.

The goal by Mario Lemina came at a time when it was nothing less than Fulham deserved. This wasn’t just a horrible result for the champions, but also for Brighton and Newcastle, both of whom have now been sucked into one hell of a relegation battle.

Did you know? Sunday’s goal at Anfield was Lemina’s first in the Premier League for Fulham.

Forwards – Che Adams (Southampton), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Gareth Bale (Tottenham)

Southampton's Che Adams, Tottenham's Harry Kane and Gareth Bale

Che Adams: Southampton brought a dreadful run of defeats to an end against a Sheffield United, who look like a side resigned to their fate. I watched this game live on Final Score and I very soon established there was only one winner.

What I didn’t foresee was who would be the likely match-winner. Having seen Danny Ings limp of the field with yet another injury, it was left to Che Adams to replace him and lead the line for the Saints along with the lively Nathan Tella.

Adams sealed the game with the most wonderful strike. How United’s John Fleck remained on the field, especially in the games current over-officious climate, after the challenge on Adams is a question only referee Paul Tierney can possibly answer.

Did you know? Adams has scored four goals in his four Premier League games against former side Sheffield United, which accounts for 44% of his total goals in the competition.

Harry Kane: The two assists for Bale were unselfishly brilliant, while his first goal was simply sensational.

Spurs were too good for Palace on the day, although the visitors did have a moment. As for Kane’s second goal, the time it took VAR to decide what we already knew was unnecessary.

Why does VAR have to check everything – especially when it’s clear to everyone that there is no offside? I have far more to say about how VAR is destroying the mood of the game in Crooks of the Matter below.

Did you know? Kane is the first Spurs player to score at least two goals and make at least two assists in a Premier League game since Jurgen Klinsmann in 1998.

Gareth Bale: It has taken him some time to get match fit but what an asset Gareth Bale is proving to be.

His two goals against Crystal Palace, both laid on a plate by Harry Kane, were well taken. However, Wales international Bale is finding some form and the net too. Six goals in six games is much more like what you expect.

The big question now is: can he win a trophy with Spurs? I suddenly fancy Spurs to beat Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final with Bale and Kane in this mood.

Did you know? Having scored four goals in his first 16 appearances for Tottenham this season, Bale has since scored six in his past six in all competitions.

The Crooks of the Matter

Lee Probert spent more than 20 years as a referee and took charge of the 2014 FA Cup final. He officiated in the Premier League from 2007, so I am prepared to take what he says about refereeing very seriously.

However, Mr Probert insists that VAR is not ruining the professional game. Things like offside are factual. They are black-and-white decisions, he maintains.

If that’s the case why does it take VAR so long to make a decision? There have been cases when the technology has taken as long as three minutes to decide the outcome and, when it did, it had to be pointed out to the viewing public which part of the players body had broken VAR’s virtual line.

Probert goes on to say that the handball law is daft. I couldn’t agree more. So why do so many Premier League referees persist in obeying the letter of the law when they have the power to exercise their opinion on matters that are not clear and obvious?

We saw it done brilliantly in the game between Chelsea and Manchester United when the ball appeared to strike both Mason Greenwood and Callum Hudson Odoi’s hands at the same time, so the referee waved play on and quite rightly. Neither player gained a substantial advantage, nor was it intentional.

Of course, the new law says it doesn’t have to be intentional, but that’s precisely what is wrong with it. Why bog the game down in technicalities when neither team has gained an material advantage just because the letter of the law says so? What Mr Probert and those responsible for the rule changes don’t understand is that football is entertainment and VAR is killing the show.

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