Garth Crooks’ Team of the Season for the 2023-24 Premier League Campaign

52 minutes ago

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

This week though, after the end of the 2023-24 campaign, Garth has picked his Team of the Season.

Jordan Pickford (Everton): The golden glove – for the highest number of clean sheets this season – may have gone to David Raya, but he had the good fortune to have inherited an Arsenal defensive unit that was the best in the country.

Everton were doing fine until they had 10 points deducted, with the club thrown into a tailspin. Mid-table mediocrity was suddenly replaced by a fight for survival. Throughout this turbulent period there were two individuals who remained unshakable.

Manager Sean Dyche was like a rock, and Jordan Pickford showed nerves of steel. The England number one goalkeeper producing match-winning performances whenever it mattered. Let’s hope he can do the same for England at Euro 2024.

William Saliba (Arsenal): Last season Arsenal lost out on the title because William Saliba missed vital matches during their run-in. This season Saliba has started every game and the Gunners have still been outgunned by a Manchester City side who have become serial winners.

The France international defender, however, has an impeccable manner about him and puts all those defenders who kick and tear their way through games to shame. Saliba is a class act and players with his talent should be winning things.

Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool): To have selected only one Liverpool player for my team says it all really. Liverpool have not only let the title slip from their grasp, they have shown signs that the pressure was starting to get to them.

The departures of James Milner and Jordan Henderson cannot be quantified, but it was left to Virgil van Dijk to hold it all together. Gone are the days when the team used to pick itself. Neither can we be sure what impact the timing of Jurgen Klopp’s announcement, that he was leaving Anfield at the end of the season, had on the players.

All of these were factors of Liverpool’s title failure, but they are back in the Champions League – and who can forget that heroic performance by Van Dijk in the League Cup final against Chelsea?

Manuel Akanji (Man City): What a buy this lad has turned out to be. Manuel Akanji came from Borussia Dortmund at a price of about £15m. It’s one thing spotting the talent but Manchester City certainly know how to develop it, provided you have the temperament.

This calm, composed, elegant defender is practically unflappable and has been at the heart of Manchester City’s title-winning season.

Declan Rice (Arsenal): I can’t remember a professional footballer living with a price tag so comfortably. The sheer weight of the £105m Declan Rice cost Arsenal would have destroyed most players. However, we are dealing with a rather special individual who has improved the Gunners, and placed them in a position where they are capable of beating any team on their day.

They may not have won the title or the Champions League but they are edging closer to both with every season.

Bukayo Saka (Arsenal): I’ve no doubt that Bukayo Saka will be devastated by his team missing out on lifting the Premier League title, but hopefully his fortunes will change at Euro 2024 this summer in Germany.

Arsenal’s leading goalscorer, who was written off and racially abused by trolls on social media after missing his penalty in the Euro 2020 final shootout three years ago, has certainly come a long way since then.

Those who abused and wrote him off on that infamous evening are looking rather foolish now.

Martin Odegaard (Arsenal): Normally my player of the season goes to the best player of whichever team wins the Premier League title. However, this year I am prepared to make an exception for an exceptional player.

Martin Odegaard is more than just a professional footballer, he’s a throwback to what captains of big clubs used to be like. Outstanding player, great leader and respected by his team-mates. Odegaard is all of those things.

He has little time for the spotlight and is only interested in getting the job done. The game needs more like him.

Cole Palmer (Chelsea): I haven’t seen a player so gifted in years. The game comes so effortlessly to Cole Palmer, he makes it look easy. The 22-year-old has just picked up the Premier League’s Young Player of the Season – to sit alongside his Chelsea Player of the Year awards – and quite rightly.

To score 25 goals and have 15 assists in your first full season says volumes about this extraordinary talent. What awaits this young man is anyone’s guess, but England must accommodate this kind of special talent in a way it has failed to do so in the past.

Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa): There were some who doubted whether Ollie Watkins could make a successful transition into the Premier League. Well, the player has certainly smashed that particular query into smithereens.

The question now is whether he can make the jump from the Premier League to international football. Watkins has had an amazing season, with his 27 goals and 13 assists, and been instrumental in taking Villa into the Champions League. But, just how effective he will be for England at Euro 2024 remains to be seen.

Erling Haaland (Man City): Whatever you may think about Erling Haaland’s contribution or hold-up play outside the penalty area for Manchester City, one thing is for sure, there is no doubting his ability to put the ball in the back of the net.

Haaland appears to have broken nearly every goalscoring record the Premier League has to offer, so why anyone would be remotely interested in his contribution to the game outside the box is a complete mystery to me.

Phil Foden (Man City): This is a player who has finally come of age. There have been games this season, in the absence of the injured Kevin de Bruyne, where he’s won matches for City almost single-handedly. Foden is no longer the junior partner of the team, but a major player in a title-winning outfit.

It has been a tough learning curve for the recently awarded Premier League and Football Writers’ player of the season. It couldn’t have been easy adapting to a culture where his manager’s demands are so high that he dropped the player for having a night out in midweek, having just won a match 7-0. Foden won’t make that mistake again.

Honourable mentions

Kyle Walker (Man City): Kyle Walker has not allowed any matters outside of professional football to have the slightest impact on his career. So much so that he retained the captaincy and led Manchester City to a historic fourth consecutive Premier League title, and I wouldn’t bet against them winning the FA Cup for the second year running.

Tom Lockyer (Luton Town): Ever since Luton Town lost the services of Tom Lockyer, after suffering a cardiac arrest against Bournemouth, the team have struggled. Only a few months before he had made my team selection, having played a starring role in a 2-1 win at Everton. Had he remained available the club’s league fortunes might have been very different. He may have to retire from the game as a consequence of his heart condition and we wish him well.

Jurgen Klopp & Mo Salah (Liverpool): These two individuals have lit up the Premier League landscape since their arrival on Merseyside like no other. Jurgen Klopp will join the ranks of Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley, while Mohamed Salah – who has probably made my team selection more than any other player during the past five years – will accompany the likes of Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush in Liverpool’s pantheon of greats. Klopp has left Anfield with grace and dignity, and given the kind of farewell by the Kop only the very best receive. Salah, who could also move on this summer, is this wonderful mild-mannered man who has made the most significant contribution to the game, his community and Liverpool Football Club. What contributions.

2024-05-20 11:23:59
#Garth #Crooks #Team #Season #Erling #Haaland #Phil #Foden #William #Saliba #Ollie #Watkins #Bukayo #Saka


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