Garth Crooks' team of the week: Aguero, Maddison, Alonso – and who else?

Premier League champions Manchester City put six past Huddersfield, Brighton recorded another famous victory over Manchester United, and Chelsea edged a five-goal thriller at home to London rivals Arsenal.

Elsewhere, Harry Kane ended his August goal drought as Tottenham beat Fulham, and Everton’s summer signing Richarlison scored again in their win over Southampton.

Bournemouth and Watford continued their winning starts against West Ham and Burnley respectively, while Leicester bounced back from an opening-day defeat to beat Wolves, and Cardiff earned a first point of the campaign against Newcastle.

But who did enough to make my team of the week? Read my selections and then pick your own XI.

Goalkeeper – Jordan Pickford

Jordan Pickford: What a save it was by Jordan Pickford to deny Southampton striker Danny Ings. The Everton goalkeeper struggled to hold an initial shot from Cedric Soares, though it didn’t seem too hot to handle, but reacted brilliantly.

Afterwards, Saints boss Mark Hughes insisted the England keeper should have been sent off for his involvement in a 50-50 contest, which he won, though I can’t remember Hughes ever pulling out of such a tackle in his long, illustrious career.

I don’t know why he would expect Pickford to either. Poor show, Mark. Poor show.

Defenders – Shane Duffy, Steve Cook, Benjamin Mendy

Shane Duffy: Last week, Brighton manager Chris Hughton was issuing verbal warnings to his players following their defeat at Watford. This week, the manager was full of praise for them. At the heart of Brighton’s victory over Manchester United was centre-back Shane Duffy.

The defender was outstanding, particularly having lost his accomplice Lewis Dunk through injury. Conversely, I don’t think I’ve seen Eric Bailly or Victor Lindelof play as badly in central defence as I did against the Seagulls.

How can Manchester United look so poor in such important positions at this stage of the season? It’s frightening.

Steve Cook: Loyalty and continuity seem to be the name of the game for Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, which is why it is perfectly understandable he has stuck with Steve Cook – a Bournemouth player since their days in League One.

The centre-back’s presence terrified West Ham defender Angelo Ogbonna into using strong-arm tactics and, yet, he still could not stop the Cherries defender from getting his head to the ball and planting the winning goal.

I think it’s back to the drawing board for West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini.

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Benjamin Mendy: It is no coincidence that Benjamin Mendy’s return to first-team action with Manchester City is having a direct effect on Sergio Aguero’s scoring powers.

The full-back has a clear ability to get into advanced positions using his pace and power, while Aguero is benefiting from Mendy’s pinpoint crosses because they are delivered early.

There is nothing worse than a full-back who takes three touches to get control of the ball when one should be enough.

Midfielders – Gylfi Sigurdsson, David Silva, James Maddison, Marcos Alonso

Gylfi Sigurdsson: Gylfi Sigurdsson didn’t set the world alight for Everton under Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce last season, after a big-money move to Goodison. However, this season – under Marco Silva – he might.

The Iceland international was outstanding against Southampton and, for me, the best player on the park. The position just behind the striker seems to bring the best out of Sigurdsson and, on this occasion, Everton as well.

I just hope Everton fans treat Silva better than they treated Allardyce.

David Silva: After watching Manchester City demolish Huddersfield at Etihad Stadium, orchestrated by David Silva, it left me in little doubt that back-to-back Premier League titles is seriously on.

Having seen Manchester United’s shambolic performance at Brighton, I think Liverpool are the only team who can stop City.

United boss Jose Mourinho can say Manchester City’s fly-on-the-wall documentary lacks class but City seem to ooze class with every move, and the classiest of them all is David Silva.

James Maddison: I didn’t see a lot of James Maddison in the Championship but I was impressed with his performance against Manchester United in the opening game of the season.

The midfielder seemed to get his reward a week later against Wolves with his first Premier League goal, though I was a bit perturbed by Jamie Vardy’s challenge on Matt Doherty.

Leicester manager Claude Puel claimed his centre-forward’s challenge, which resulted in Vardy receiving his marching orders, was merely over-enthusiastic. Please! Scoring a goal and waving your shirt over your head is over-enthusiastic. Going into a tackle at breakneck speed and making contact just below the opponent’s knee is reckless.

Marcos Alonso: This is a very different Chelsea under Maurizio Sarri than it was under Antonio Conte. For a start, the Blues played parts of the game as though they had forgotten how to defend.

It’s not that long ago that Chelsea had the best defensive record in the league and, with better finishing from Arsenal, the Gunners could have gone on to win this London derby.

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Fortunately for Chelsea, Marcos Alonso was on hand to apply the finishing touch to a very entertaining football match. Last week, against Manchester City, I said Arsenal would do well to finish in the top six. This performance against Chelsea was much improved. In fact, they deserved a draw. But I’ve not changed my position.

Forwards – Callum Wilson, Sergio Aguero, Harry Kane

Callum Wilson: Callum Wilson has scored on five separate occasions against West Ham and, after his latest performance against the Hammers, I can see why. The way he breezed past Fabian Balbuena and Pablo Zabaleta was scary from a Hammers perspective.

Pellegrini was so surprised, as he was disappointed, that West Ham fans left the stadium with 10 minutes to play. He does have a point. An awful lot can happen on a football field in 10 minutes – especially if the fans play their part.

That said, this was a rocky Hammers horror show.

Sergio Aguero: The Buenos Aires assassin is at it again. Sergio Aguero was at his deadly best against a Huddersfield side who looked outgunned, outclassed and left for dead in a 6-1 drubbing.

It also looks like the often combustible relationship between manager Pep Guardiola and the Argentina international is back to its best.

Aguero left the pitch to a standing ovation after scoring his 13th hat-trick for City. As he left the pitch, Guardiola sealed Aguero’s performance with a kiss. It doesn’t get better than that.

Harry Kane: So, Harry Kane has laid the August ghost to rest. Finally, Spurs fans do not need to bother themselves anymore with this utterly useless statistic.

To be brutally honest, Kane should have had a hat-trick but the goal he did score was so unbelievably glorious I didn’t care about the ones he missed.

Spurs are looking good again and that’s all that matters right now. Imagine what it will be like when the new stadium is ready.

Now it’s your turn

You’ve seen my picks this week. But who would you go for?

The Crooks of the matter…

Raheem Sterling’s excellent finish against Arsenal last week opened up an interesting debate.

The Manchester City star was greeted throughout the match with boos and jeers, a feature that has followed the young man’s career since his audacious departure from Liverpool, and it prompted my dear friend and BBC colleague Ian Wright to ask the question ‘why?’

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I’ve met Raheem and interviewed him on a number of occasions for Football Focus and, I must say, I haven’t met many young men who have impressed me quite as much.

Apart from his polite demeanour and welcoming smile, he possesses the same steeliness I saw in Cristiano Ronaldo as an 18-year-old.

Cristiano Ronaldo joined Manchester United in the summer of 2003

Both men have been subjected to extraordinary abuse from fans over the years, and much of that vitriol has been fuelled by many factors. I remember in 1998 when Diego Simeone did just enough to provoke David Beckham to react and get sent off against Argentina. England went out of the World Cup because of their inability to take penalties – and not because the captain was sent off. Beckham, nevertheless, carried the can.

The abuse that followed the Manchester United star was outrageous. Similar punishment was meted out during John Terry’s long and distinguished career at Chelsea. The point is that football fans, as long as I can remember, have always harboured a figure of hate. Someone to scream and shout at and others to love and to hate. It’s what defines us.

I was prompted by how love can so quickly turn to hate in football when I recently met Sol Campbell. I had the pleasure of sharing a few moments with this soccer giant at Stamford Bridge, shortly before Chelsea took on Arsenal. Without doubt one of the best defenders this country has produced, he was subjected to the most awful abuse by Spurs fans when he left for Arsenal in the summer of 2001.

I remember Sol being bemused by the sheer intensity of their venom – however the period was best described by a Tottenham fan when he said: “We hate him so much because we loved him so much.”

Raheem Sterling is a Premier League winner with Manchester City

And that is the point. Hate, in football, can so often be wrapped up in secret admiration of a player or a team.

What Sterling should do is take the abuse he is receiving as an enormous compliment.

Firstly, it won’t last and, secondly, only the very best players – with the odd exception – ever receive such attention.



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