GARTH CROOKS’ TEAM OF THE WEEK

With Chelsea and Manchester City taking each other on tonight at the Etihad Stadium, it gave the lesser clubs in the Premier League a time to shine, and it was an opportunity that Stoke City and Sunderland took very well as they picked up two impressive wins against Manchester United and Newcastle United respectively.

So after Sunday’s games, BBC pundit Garth Crooks selected his best XI, and here is what he came up with!

GOALKEEPER – Asmir Begovic (Stoke City)

In any other week, Cardiff City’s David Marshall would be occupying this spot but in one of the best games I’ve seen at the Britannia Stadium in years and, in appalling conditions, Asmir Begovic was superb. In swirling wind, what he didn’t stop he pushed on to the woodwork. He’s no Gordon Banks or Peter Shilton, goalkeepers Stoke fans know well, but against Manchester United there were moments in the game when you thought that not even those two greats could have done any better.

DEFENDER – Phil Bardsley (Sunderland)

If you weren’t entirely sure why Paolo Di Canio’s services were no longer required by Sunderland, you need look no further than the Italian’s refusal to play the likes of Phil Bardsley during his final weeks at the club. The full-back was solid against Newcastle and has been nothing short of amazing under Gus Poyet. It is amazing what players can do with a bit of encouragement.

DEFENDER – James Tomkins (West Ham)

The combination of James Collins and James Tomkins at the centre of West Ham’s defence will be crucial if the Hammers are to survive the drop this season. Against Swansea, the performance of Tomkins in particular was impressive, and his tackle on Wilfried Bony when the striker was in on goal was brilliant.

DEFENDER – John O’Shea (Sunderland)

I could have picked Sunderland’s entire back line, plus striker Fabio Borini, in my Team of the Week – that’s how impressive their performance against Newcastle was. I’ve gone for John O’Shea, who provided the leadership on the field in a fine Sunderland display.

DEFENDER – Erik Pieters (Stoke City)

What a tackle by Erik Pieters on Juan Mata. Just as the Spaniard was about to pull the trigger, Peters threw his entire body towards the ball in order to block the shot, which was destined for the back of the net. Now if Michael Carrick had done the same with Charlie Adam’s free-kick then the outcome of a cracking fixture might have been completely different. Manchester United would also be considerably closer to Liverpool and that fourth spot than they are.

MIDFIELDER – Charlie Adam (Stoke City)

The game was made for Charlie Adam. The conditions were atrocious, the battle fierce and the opposition prepared to slug it out with the home side. The Stoke fans would have loved this fixture and, in particular, Adam’s left-foot strike that put the game beyond United. The last Stoke player I saw score a goal like that was Potters legend Harry Burrows. He didn’t have a bad left foot either.

MIDFIELDER – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal)

It is always good to see talented players return to the first team, especially after a long spell out through injury. I must say I thought it was a masterstroke by Arsene Wenger to bring Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain back into the fold against Crystal Palace. This fixture was never going to be brutal and at times you got the feeling that Arsenal were toying with the opposition. It was the perfect return for another young Englishman with a point to prove.

MIDFIELDER – Jack Colback (Sunderland)

To see Newcastle fans streaming out of St James’ Park well before the end of the game was indicative of the pain they were going through. What made their suffering considerably worse was Jack Colback, who hails from Tyneside and who cut Newcastle to ribbons with a team from Wearside. Talk about adding insult to injury!

MIDFIELDER – Adam Johnson (Sunderland)

Sunderland fans are seeing the sort of performances from Adam Johnson that they once saw from Dennis Tueart in his heyday at the club. Both players also played for Manchester City and England, of course. The question now is will Johnson get a recall to international duty? If he keeps playing like this, then it is a question Roy Hodgson will have to take very seriously.

MIDFIELDER – Adam Lallana (Southampton)

All three of Southampton’s England internationals played brilliantly against Fulham. For me, Adam Lallana was the pick of the bunch but Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert played their part in the total destruction of the Cottagers. The quicker Fulham get their new signings in the team the better – they are the only thing that stands between them and relegation.

FORWARD – Andy Carroll – (West Ham)

In midweek against Chelsea, Andy Carroll was West Ham’s best defender and best attacker. He produced the same performance against Swansea only to blot his copybook by engaging in a minor altercation with Chico Flores. The incident resulted in the West Ham striker getting his marching orders from referee Howard Webb. It just goes to show that even the very best referees get it wrong sometimes.

What are your thoughts then guys?

Written by Alex Batt – @AlexBatt – @AlexsArticles

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