Who was rejected for being too small? It's Garth Crooks' team of the week

Garth Crooks' Team of the Week

After every Premier League weekend, BBC football pundit Garth Crooks gathers his thoughts and gives you his Team of the Week.

Here are this week's choices and, as ever, Garth also discusses the game's big talking points in the Crooks of the Matter.

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David Raya (Arsenal): It took some time for Bournemouth to put David Raya to the test on Saturday but when it came the shot from Dominic Solanke was destined for the back of the net and Raya produced a big save.

The Arsenal goalkeeper has had to come through a few tests. The former Brentford player has had to win the hearts and minds of the fans at Emirates Stadium when he was selected at the expense of Aaron Ramsdale, who had done nothing wrong.

Raya has kept three clean sheets in the last four Premier League games and 15 throughout the season, an achievement that has won him the prestigious Golden Glove award. He will need another couple of clean sheets if he’s going to stand any chance of winning the title.

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Thiago Silva (Chelsea): He’s almost 40 and he is as dangerous on set-pieces in the opposition's penalty area as any defender in the Premier League. Silva, back in the Chelsea side after a short absence through injury, was at it again. It was his header from a very well-taken corner that provided the opening for Noni Madueke to score.

The 5-0 score did flatter Chelsea. With better finishing West Ham could have had five goals themselves, with Jarrod Bowen hitting the bar three times.

Chelsea will lose the services of Silva at the end of the season and with it, his professionalism and all-round calm demeanour will be sorely missed. Having said that, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he returned to Stamford Bridge as manager in a couple of years.

Willy Boly (Nottingham Forest): It was the tackle on Gustavo Hamer by Nottingham Forest stalwart Boly that created the opening for Callum Hudson-Odoi to score his second goal and wrap this match up.

Sheffield United had a real go at Forest and it took some impressive defending by Boly in particular, and backed up by Murillo, to keep the Blades at bay. We saw Murillo limp off the field against Manchester City last Sunday and concerns were raised about the Brazilian being fit to play in what have now become crucial games in Forest’s quest for survival.

Boly and Murillo were superb at Bramall Lane and their presence will be crucial in the club's remaining two matches against Chelsea and away to Burnley. If they win either they are home and dry in my view.

Joachim Andersen (Crystal Palace): This was a Manchester United horror show. It was Ralf Rangnick, when he was Manchester United interim manager, who said they needed open heart surgery to get the club back to what they once were.

After United’s latest performance against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park they look in need of even more surgical procedures.

United might be suffering from an extraordinary amount of injuries at the moment, and you do wonder with the resources they have how they find themselves so depleted, but nevertheless with the talent they have on show they should be doing better than this.

Joachim Andersen never gave Ramus Hojlund a kick all night. The Denmark centre-back was outstanding throughout the demolition of United and set up Tyrick Mitchell for his team’s third goal. Since the arrival of Oliver Glasner, Palace have looked a different team. Next season looks very exciting for the Eagles.

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Declan Rice (Arsenal): If Declan Rice never scored another goal in his life but managed to lift the title in his first season with Arsenal, I’ve no doubt he would make the sacrifice in a heartbeat. That’s the impression you get when you watch the England international. In every match he plays he seems to put himself on the line for his team.

Even when he doesn’t have a great game, you know he’s given his best. His goal against Bournemouth put Arsenal four points clear at the top of the table for a few hours and sealed a performance that suggests Manchester City are going to have to win all their remaining games to be certain of retaining the title.

However, with Manchester United away and Everton at home still left to play, both those teams have history and they would be more than delighted to ruin the party for Arsenal just for the sheer hell of it.

Harvey Elliott (Liverpool): Whatever happened last week between Mohamed Salah and Jurgen Klopp on the touchline at West Ham seems to have fired the player up somewhat. Salah looked as sharp as a razor and keen to prove a point against a Tottenham team that seem to have lost their way.

At no stage did Spurs look like they were going to get anything out of this match and by the time Harvey Elliott had hit an absolute belter from just outside the box the game was all over. Spurs rallied but it was in vain.

Elliott has had an excellent season and proved he has a future at Anfield. Not bad for a kid who was turned down at Chelsea because he was too small. I’m amazed football clubs in England still think in those terms.

Martin Odegaard (Arsenal): The same team for the third consecutive game suggests Mikel Arteta has got nothing to lose by sticking his big guns in for the remainder. After all, Manchester City are in the driving seat with a game in hand and only one point behind. Arsenal look like they won’t be getting any favours from them.

However, that background noise failed to stop Odegaard from producing another stellar performance against a hard done by Bournemouth side. Odegaard has had an exceptional season and is in my running for the footballer of the year award.

He is a throwback to the days of old when the captain of the team wasn’t just one of the best players but also commanded respect, displayed a maturity, and conducted himself well. The Norway international possesses all of those qualities with loads to spare. A model professional if ever I saw one.

Cole Palmer (Chelsea): I’ve been very reluctant to say this as I don’t want to put any more pressure on the lad than already exists but I think Cole Palmer is the best talent this country has produced since Glenn Hoddle.

Palmer scored his 24th goal of the season like it was a training exercise and plays his game with such ease he never seems stretched. He sees the pass well before anyone else has seen it and then cuts the opposition in half with it.

The ball for Nicolas Jackson, whose mis-control landed at the feet of Conor Gallagher to score, was so good and precise it startled him. He then clipped the most glorious throughball for Mykhailo Mudryk, who squandered the chance but by this time it didn’t matter as the game was well beyond the Hammers.

Manchester City’s Phil Foden is talented but Cole Palmer is gifted. My hope is the England manager makes the most of these players. History suggests the national team has struggled with talent like this in the past.

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Nicolas Jackson (Chelsea): This lad took a tremendous amount of stick after his performance in the League Cup final defeat against Liverpool. Strikers don’t miss chances on purpose but, as a team-mate once said to me, you take the glory so you take the stick, and I think that is a fair exchange. However, what is more important than having broad shoulders is your ability to recover from disappointment and battle on.

Nicolas Jackson has done precisely that. His performance against West Ham was calm, measured and clinical. However, if West Ham were not sure about the impact not securing their manager's position for next season would have on the team, they do after this latest defeat against Chelsea.

When players start to ask the manager what’s happening and there is a shrug of the shoulders, a cloud of uncertainty descends upon a dressing room. David Moyes has clearly had difficulty holding it all together with the prospect of him not having his contract renewed and it has resulted in West Ham being a shadow of the team they were last season.

Erling Haaland (Manchester City): Pep Guardiola gave his players two days off prior to the visit of Wolves at Etihad Stadium. A clear message from their manager, if ever there was one, that his players should take some time out and think long and hard about the relevance of their remaining games.

They did the treble last season but to do back-to-back doubles would be quite extraordinary. Ever since the debate about how poor Erling Haaland is outside of the box, the striker hasn’t stopped scoring. His third and fourth goals against an outclassed Wolves were off the chart.

There are only a handful of strikers who have scored five goals in a Premier League fixture and I’m sure Haaland would have loved to have added that record to his collection but for some obscure reason, he was substituted. I suppose he will just have to settle for four.

Callum Hudson-Odoi (Nottingham Forest): It looks like the player has got his mojo back. I saw it slowly desert him at Chelsea and he almost got it back on loan to Bayer Leverkusen, but his time at Nottingham Forest has proved to be a turning point for Hudson-Odoi.

There is no doubt about the talent but there were plenty over his lack of grit and ability to fight, especially when things were going against him. However, his time at Forest has shown a different side. He scored two of the most glorious goals against Sheffield United. The second being the best, as the ball sat up and made the execution of the strike so much more difficult.

Forest have had a wretched season largely due to their points reduction but seem to have grown as a group of players through their adversity – and so has Hudson-Odoi.

Honourable mentions

Morgan Gibbs-White (Nottingham Forest): I said recently that Forest must, above all else, keep this player fit if they are serious about avoiding relegation. Having seen him against Sheffield United I have not changed my position.

His enthusiasm and desire to stay in the Premier League is patently obvious. He’s been Forest's player of the year by a mile.

Noni Madueke (Chelsea): An unselfish team-focused performance from Chelsea’s Madueke against West Ham. Nice to see this young man making an important contribution to their victory and conducting himself in a professional manner and not squabbling over who is taking penalties.

Michael Olise (Crystal Palace): His first goal was a scuffed shot but his second was a screamer. Olise played an integral part in destroying a poor Manchester United at Selhurst Park on Monday night. Eric Ten Hag comes across as a very decent man but FA Cup final or not he’s way out of his depth.

The Crooks of the Matter

We heard earlier in the week from referee supremo Howard Webb that football is “officiated by human beings” who are “making judgements”. That was his response to yet another episode where VAR, and those who operate the technology, came under even more scrutiny than normal. I must say, I expected more from him but at least his response was clear and obvious.

When is referees' body the PGMOL going to accept that the science is there to assist referees, not to take charge of the game or try and justify its use by taking an age to prove a point no-one else can see? Fans are entitled to expect the technology to reduce the errors by highlighting the obvious mistakes, not baffle them with science. Currently we have the absurd situation where supporters in grounds can’t even see why VAR has got involved, or the decision has been changed, unlike the viewers watching television.

The argument that VAR corrects more decisions than it gets wrong doesn’t cut it either. They are not the verdicts that football fans, players and managers find offensive.

VAR works when it shows errors that are clear and obvious. Anything short of that presents confusion and controversy.