At the end of the Premier League Christmas fixtures, BBC football pundit Garth Crooks is on hand to give you his Team of the Week.
Who has made his starting XI? Take a look and then pick your own team below and share it on social media.
Matt Turner (Nottingham Forest): Liverpool’s Alisson did what he had to do against Burnley but conceded two goals against Newcastle, although that didn’t stop his side from going three points clear at the top of the table.
Newcastle’s Martin Dubravka saved a penalty from Mohamed Salah and had an excellent game, but couldn’t keep Liverpool at bay and his team got battered at home by Nottingham Forest a few days earlier.
Manchester City’s Ederson played three games in a matter of days – including the Club World Cup final – and kept clean sheets in two of them. He rarely lets his team down when called upon, but Nottingham Forest’s Matt Turner makes my selection for two outstanding performances away at St James’ Park and at home to Manchester United.
The American lived dangerously at times against United but wins my vote. Two great wins, two great matches and a very successful period for Forest.
Max Kilman (Wolves): The Wolves defender was part of a terrific defensive display away at Brentford and they were even better at home against Everton where they produced a superb clean sheet.
It’s not unusual for a centre-back to score a goals in Premier League fixtures but its rather rare to find both central defenders scoring goals in the same match. Kilman put Wolves ahead, and provided a nice touch by acknowledging the absence of his team-mate Mario Lemina – who was on compassionate leave in honour of his late father – with a wave of the player’s shirt having scored his goal.
Then it was Craig Dawson who sealed the victory against the Toffees, but Kilman played in both fixtures and that’s why he gets the nod.
Murillo (Nottingham Forest): It can’t be easy for any team when a new manager takes over. However, the departure of the popular Steve Cooper from Nottingham Forest seems to have done them no harm.
Since the introduction of Nuno Espirito Santo they have won two of three games and they only conceded two goals in total in their tough-looking fixtures away at Newcastle and home to Manchester United.
Forest hadn’t beaten Manchester United at the City Ground since 1992 but much of their 2-1 victory was down to the teams’ superb defensive display.
Brazilian defender Murillo was at the heart of both displays and was quite superb in their 3-1 win at St James’ Park.
Angelo Ogbonna (West Ham): Playing against your old team was always going to be a difficult fixture for Declan Rice. West Ham are flying and continued their excellent form against Arsenal, winning a third straight game without conceding. Captain Kurt Zouma was unavailable for the fixture which allowed Angelo Ogbonna to step into the breach. The Italian centre-back was outstanding considering he hasn’t had much game time recently.
Ogbonna continued to deputise for the West Ham captain and did a sterling job on Tuesday against a dangerous Brighton side who had put four goals past Spurs in their previous fixture and finished strong against the Hammers.
West Ham performed as well as they could considering they had lost forward Mohammed Kudus to the Africa Cup of Nations. Ogbonna seemed dead on his feet at the end of the game against the Seagulls but he did his job with another clean sheet. Three wins, 10 points and four clean sheets from their past four games is not a bad return and leaves West Ham comfortably in the top six.
Cole Palmer (Chelsea): Chelsea recovered from a poor performance against Wolves with a win over Crystal Palace and then went to Kenilworth Road a few days later to beat a stubborn Luton Town side. That said, Chelsea made very hard work of this victory having been 3-0 up against the Hatters before conceding two goals late in the game with some amateur defending. The disapproving shaking of the head by Thiago Silva at the end of the match said it all.
The only bright spark for the visitors was Palmer, whose two goals were taken quite brilliantly. But the English midfielder needs to watch himself. Ducking out of headers on defensive set plays doesn’t endear yourself to your team-mates, neither does suddenly losing touch with the game having scored two goals when really he should have been searching for his hat-trick.
Phil Foden (Manchester City): Manchester City returned from Saudi Arabia victorious having beaten Fluminense quite comprehensively in the Club World Cup to add yet another trophy to their cabinet.
They went straight to Goodison Park and put three goals past Everton, one of which was a superb strike by Foden. Then, for the second consecutive match, the England midfielder was the star of show against Sheffield United, setting up both goals in a 2-0 win.
Michael Olise (Crystal Palace): Crystal Palace may have lost against Chelsea but they certainly dealt with Brentford. The Bees have has a difficult time over the festive period having lost 4-1 to Wolves at home and found life just as difficult away at Selhurst Park.
The star of the show for Palace against Brentford was Olise, who scored two fabulous goals in an impressive 3-1 victory. However, their latest win didn’t seem to stop the speculation surrounding Roy Hodgson’s future at the club. Being questioned about who might take your job must be irritating particularly when you have the CV and career he’s had.
Morgan Gibbs-White (Nottingham Forest): He played in consecutive games for Nottingham Forest over the festive period and had a major influence in both. Gibbs-White was outstanding at Newcastle and took his goal brilliantly against Manchester United – and he’s not renowned for scoring.
Gibbs-White’s performance at St James’ Park was inspirational and he handled a midfield that, until recently, had been competing in the Champions League. The Under-17 World Cup winner has helped provide new Forest manager Nuno with a sensational start to his tenure at the City Ground. His tackles on Scott McTominay and Johnny Evans, which earned him a yellow card, signalled his intent. His goal won them the game.
Chris Wood (Nottingham Forest): What has happened to Manchester United? They showed all the passion and desire, even touches of brilliance in patches, in order to come from 2-0 down to beat Aston Villa 3-2. Four days later it had all evaporated in defeat at Forest.
I’ll accept they were unlucky to lose the services of striker Rasmus Hojlund through sickness. He might have produced an interesting performance against Forest, having scored his debut goal for United against Villa, but nevertheless they were a mere glimpse of their former selves.
Forest in the other hand were magnificent at St James’ Park and deserved their victory courtesy of a superb hat-trick by Wood. The same player led the line against United and, along with Anthony Elanga, has the ability to put the wind up any defence. He destroyed Newcastle and Manchester United in the space of just a few days.
Hwang Hee-chan (Wolves): Two goals by Hwang formed a major part of Wolves’ 4-1 demolition of Brentford. Wolves then took Everton apart at Molineux in their second consecutive match of the festive period.
Hwang’s ability to run in behind defences has become a feature of his game and Wolves make the most of it. His finishing could be better but there is absolutely nothing wrong with the South Korean’s work ethic.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool): The incentive for Liverpool to beat Newcastle was abundantly clear. Liverpool would go clear at the top of the table and almost without anybody noticing. On the night Liverpool were awarded two penalties. The contact made on the two strikers involved, in separate incidents, was insufficient to bring either player down but both Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota both went to ground on their own volition. Jota going down having taken two steps after the contact was made.
Twenty years ago you had to be assaulted in the box to get a penalty – now you only need to act like a dying swan. Nevertheless Salah was the difference between the two teams. He scored a goal in open play, missed a penalty, scored a penalty and was involved in two assists.
I said after their match against Burnley on Boxing Day that Liverpool will never have a better opportunity to win the title and must before Salah is tempted away into the Saudi Arabia sunset.
The Crooks of the MatterOn Boxing Day, Sam Allison was the first black referee to take charge of a Premier League match in 15 years as Sheffield United faced Luton Town in a classic encounter. The appointment begged the question: why had it taken so long to select another black Premier League ref?
The argument often presented in the defence of those who do the selecting is that many of the applicants were simply not good enough or that certain communities showed little desire to join the profession. That may have been so, but it was hardly surprising when you consider how selective their processes were. This created an air of elitism and that has remained ever since.
While I understand the importance of obtaining the best referees, especially when they are asked to operate under extraordinary pressures, those responsible for developing officials since the days of Uriah Rennie did the game a huge disservice. They refused to capitalise on the emergence of the first black professional referee by not tapping into a diverse talent pool now on offer, stimulated by his success. They also unveiled a cold disregard to help rid the game of certain criticisms levelled against it.
The Football Association’s current desire to try and redress the issue and increase 1,000 women referees and 1,000 black or Asian referees at all levels of football in three years is not the answer. Just be fair, equitable and encourage the talent to come through.
Pick your XI from our list and share with your friends.
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