On Friday, Mediawatch stumbled upon its new favourite thing: The Daily Express‘ predicted end-of-season Premier League table.
It had everything. Tottenham were to concede three goals all season, and Everton just seven. The good news for Toffees fans is that you will now go the season unbeaten; defeat to Bournemouth must be the sole loss the Express had predicted.
For Stoke, however, there is bad news. You were predicted to earn just six points; the draw against West Brom means you have already reached a third of your total seasonal tally.
Rather pleasingly, that draw does mean West Brom are on course to draw 16 of their 19 away games, just as the Express predicted. They knew all along.
Eight, in case you were wondering. That is eight of the 11 players in Garth Crooks’ Team of the Week for BBC Sport to have scored a goal at the weekend. A central midfield of Paul Pogba and Philippe Coutinho will certainly put some stress on that defence.
But what does Crooks have to say for himself as he explains his selections? Let’s find out.
The first questionable decision is Crook’s choice of goalkeeper. Good start.
‘Last season, far too much emphasis was placed on Cech’s arrival at the Emirates,’ writes Crooks. As you can guess, Petr Cech is his keeper of the week. ‘There was an assumption that the title was a formality in what was otherwise thought to be a championship-winning team. A year later and, in an Arsenal side whose defence was unflappable against Chelsea, Cech can still produce the big saves when called upon.’
Considering Cech made one save – from Michy Batshuayi in the 84th minute, with Arsenal 3-0 up – what ‘big save’ is Crooks referring to? No side had fewer shots on target over the weekend than Chelsea’s one.
‘I’ve only ever seen one goalkeeper whose save turned a season and that was Peter Shilton in Brian Clough’s 1977-78 Nottingham Forest title-winning team. His point-blank save from Coventry’s Mick Ferguson was a turning point and was regarded as the moment that delivered Forest the championship.
‘Cech is very capable of producing something similar which is just as well if you are serious about winning the title.’
That’s all very well, Garth, but what did he do in this game? Y’know, the one that impressed you so much that you awarded him a place in the Premier League’s Team of the Week?
Crooks then moves on to the right-wing, where we find Son Heung-min.
‘Eyebrows were raised by some Spurs fans when Nacer Chadli was sold to West Brom and Son remained at the club,’ says Crooks. Considering last week those same Spurs fans were ‘already announcing their disgust about the player’s departure on social media’, that is quite the comedown.
‘No-one is raising eyebrows anymore,’ Crooks adds. Oh, they are, Garth…
On the other flank is Raheem Sterling, fresh from his goal against Swansea. ‘Last season, Sterling couldn’t hit a barn door but that was before Pep Guardiola got hold of him and shook the dust of doubt from his heels.’
Granted, Sterling is much improved this season. But ‘couldn’t hit a barn door’ before Pep Guardiola arrived? He scored 11 goals in all competitions last season – only three Manchester City players were more prolific.
Finally, Sterling’s teammate Sergio Aguero takes a place up front, having scored twice in City’s victory. Crooks was most impressed with his attitude.
‘The sheer audacity of the penalty taker was enough to tell you that Aguero had been clearly unaffected by his three-match domestic suspension.’
A couple of points here, Garth.
a) Aguero had already scored one. Was that enough to show he was ‘clearly unaffected’?
b) He had also scored a hat-trick in the Champions League since his three-match suspension.
c) Did you really expect Aguero to become sh*t as a direct result of elbowing Winston Reid in the face?
Paying the penalty
Welcome to ‘Penalties: A Masterclass’ with Garth Crooks.
‘There’s something rather obtuse about a right-footed midfield player playing left-back,’ he writes on James Milner. ‘However, he seems determined to make it work for Liverpool. The question is for how long?
‘The position does not, of course, affect a player’s ability to score penalties with your right foot – you just have to be on the pitch to do that and have a very cool head.’
And a right foot, presumably.
And yet, Crooks’ effort is nowhere near the most bizarre Team of the Week. That honour goes to the Sunday Mirror, for this rather controversial idea:
Let it never be forgotten that the Sunday Mirror think Daley Blind and James Milner is the central-defensive partnership we all deserve. pic.twitter.com/6lU6bCAEyD
— Football365 (@F365) September 26, 2016
One word comes to mind: Narrow. James Milner and Daley Blind is one thing – and one batsh*t mental thing at that – but Paul Pogba and Philippe Coutinho as wingers, David Silva and Son Heung-min as dual No. 10s and a front two of Jermain Defoe and Sergio Aguero? It might just work.
On the other hand, it really wouldn’t.
Oh, and silly Arsenal, believing that any of their players were any good as they comfortably beat Chelsea on Saturday. Who wouldn’t pick Milner over Laurent Koscielny or Shkodran Mustafi at centre-half, after all?
Roon for one more
Crooks was also in fine form for Final Score for BBC Sport. He issued a staunch defence of Wayne Rooney.
But what is it that impresses Crooks most about the Manchester United captain. His record? His raking 40-yard passes to the full-back? His ability to sit on the bench?
“He turns up every time – good, bad, or indifferent. And people look to him as a responsible player, and that’s what I like about him.”
He turns up. He. Turns. Up.
Run of the Mills
There must have been something in the water over on the Final Score set. Crooks’ fellow pundit Danny Mills attempted to overshadow his colleague.
“Liverpool are entertaining going forward but defensively are a bit suspect,” said the former right-back. “Against the bigger teams they might be found out, which is for me why they won’t win the title this season.”
“Against the bigger teams”? They have already beaten Arsenal, Leicester and Chelsea, and drawn against Tottenham.
Flying without Wing’s
We might have a turf war on our hands. Someone really ought to let the Daily Mail know about the Daily Mirror‘s recent antics.
‘Paul Pogba celebrates first Manchester United goal with a trip to Wing’s Chinese restaurant,’ reads the headline on the latter’s website. It looks like someone else wants some free Chinese takeaway.
Arash Hekmat has saved his best material for this story, as we can tell by the excerpt: ‘The Frenchman was after dim sum after dimming some of the criticism he’d faced in the early season with a header to break his United goal duck.’
Mediawatch had to stop there, because that is simply remarkable.
Jamie Redknapp was impressed with one particular Arsenal player on Saturday. He writes, in the Daily Mail:
‘Arsenal have won plenty of plaudits for their attacking play against Chelsea but I was so impressed with how sound they were defensively.
‘Their centre backs have been too easily bullied in recent years by Didier Drogba and Diego Costa. On Saturday afternoon, Shkodran Mustafi wasn’t having any of it.
‘He showed so much quality alongside Laurent Koscielny and for the first time in a long time it looks like Arsenal have found a great centre-back partnership.’
It is hard to argue with Harry’s son. Arsenal’s two centre-halves made three tackles each, while Mustafi made six interceptions, completed five clearances, and helped keep a clean sheet against Chelsea.
But Mediawatch must question the following from Redknapp:
‘Mustafi hasn’t found it easy adapting to the Premier League since his move from Valencia…’
Arsenal conceded five goals in three Premier League games before Mustafi made his debut, four of which came in one game against Liverpool. Arsenal have conceded just two goals in the following three games, with Mustafi starting each.
If he has struggled to adapt, he has hidden it awfully well.
One of our Keown
“I was at Old Trafford last night, and one player who really impressed me was Wayne Rooney. He was playing in a deeper role and his passing reminded me of Paul Scholes at times. He was spraying fantastic cross-field balls around, but it looked like he was lacking a bit of fitness. With a bit better conditioning, I feel he could really thrive in this role for club and country going forward” – Martin Keown, April 22, 2016.
‘Like Giggs and Scholes, Rooney must be intelligent about the situation he faces. He can’t play in a deep-lying midfield role as he will struggle to cover the ground Ander Herrera did against Leicester’ – Martin Keown, September 26, 2016.
It only took five months to realise his ‘conditioning’ was a lost cause.
Graham Poll is decidedly unimpressed with former refereeing colleague Jon Moss in the Daily Mail. He really is quite scathing in his assessment. He writes:
‘Jon Moss appears to be a referee players don’t respect.
‘In a relatively straightforward game the Wearside referee struggled to maintain control with virtually every decision being disputed and challenged.
‘The fact Moss cautioned seven players, five of them from West Ham, in a game without a nasty tackle showed how he failed to manage the match.’
Strong words, not least considering they come from a former referee.
Poll adds that ‘it was hard to fathom what was a foul and what wasn’t according to Moss’ at times. What did he think Moss was doing every time he blew his whistle?
Within a few paragraphs, Poll’s withering evaluation reaches a nadir. ‘There was so much exaggeration of the slightest of contacts,’ he writes, that Moss’ job was almost impossible’.
So it was an ‘almost impossible’ job, but Moss was rubbish?
In all fairness, Graham, he isn’t the one who once booked a player three times at a World Cup.
Knowing me, knowing you, Zaha
Poor Wilfried Zaha had a shocker for West Ham yesterday. pic.twitter.com/QZpepZD8K6
— Football365 (@F365) September 26, 2016
The Sun reveal why Wilfried Zaha did not feature for Crystal Palace at the weekend.
Recommended reading of the day
David Hytner on Granit Xhaka.
Nick Miller on Paul Pogba.
Archie Rhind-Tutt on Darmstadt.