Garth Crooks' team of the week: De Gea, Aguero, Shelvey, Mirallas

By Garth CrooksFootball analyst
Team of the week

Arsenal finished the weekend top of the table after a goalless draw at Stoke.

Manchester United won at Liverpool while Manchester City maintained their title challenge with a comfortable win against Crystal Palace.

Chelsea left it late to snatch a point at home to Everton and Newcastle moved out of the relegation zone by beating West Ham.

But who were the outstanding performers? Here are my selections.

Goalkeeper - David de Gea (Manchester United)

David De Gea
Since the start of last season, only two keepers (Hart 24 & Mignolet 20) have kept more clean sheets than David de Gea has in the Premier League (18)

Petr Cech and Jack Butland were superb in their respective fixtures but if you want to know why Real Madrid are still chasing David de Gea you need look no further than his performance for Manchester United against arch rivals Liverpool.

He made two world-class saves from Emre Can and that was what galvanised United and proved the springboard to victory. The shot from Can on the edge of the box was travelling like a bullet and it took a very athletic De Gea at full stretch to pull off the save.

It is still a mystery why Real Madrid failed to land the much sought-after Spanish keeper but, whatever it was, with De Gea in goal a top-four finish for United seems almost guaranteed.

Defender - Leighton Baines (Everton)

Leighton Baines
Everton left-back Baines provided his first Premier League assist since April, setting up Kevin Mirallas

I watched Leighton Baines stroll through Chelsea's game against Everton with an authority that suggests he is back to his best again.

I selected Baines for my team of the week in December against Norwich when I said that, with Luke Shaw injured, he is a must for Roy Hodgson's England starting XI at the European Championship in France. My position has not changed.

Strangely enough, Everton should have won that game comfortably as well. Everton were so much better than Chelsea, who got away with a result through a dodgy equaliser that should have been ruled offside.

If "money can't but you Stones" - the Everton fans' artistically crafted take on the Beatles classic 'Can't buy me Love', and the best fans' song this season - what must Baines be worth?

Defender - Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City)

Pablo Zabaleta
Man City right-back Zabaleta this weekend became the sixth South American player to make 200 Premier League appearances

It's great to see Pablo Zabaleta back in action for Manchester City again after such a long lay-off. I knew it was him when I saw City's right-back in the opposition's penalty area.

What was also clearly noticeable against Crystal Palace on Saturday was the immediate rapport Zabaleta seemed to have with Kevin de Bruyne down City's right-hand side.

Zabaleta is going to be a very important addition for Manchester City during their title challenge in the second half of the season. Manager Manuel Pellegrini might have timed the Argentine's return just right.

Defender - Chris Smalling (Man Utd)

Chris Smalling
Smalling made more clearances than any United or Liverpool player in Sunday's contest (seven)

In a team that seems to struggle when they don't defend in numbers, Chris Smalling appeared to keep Manchester United composed under extreme provocation at times.

Admittedly United have a world-class goalkeeper who would make any defence feel like Fort Knox, but Smalling provided the extra security.

Defender - Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool)

Mamadou Sakho
Only team-mate Lucas Leiva (88) had more than Sakho's 83 touches against Manchester United for Liverpool (83)

It was a pity this lad was on the losing side.

Mamadou Sakho made a superb tackle on Manchester United's Anthony Martial on the edge of his own box when everyone seemed to be screaming penalty. There were occasions in this fixture when Manchester United looked particularly dangerous and when they did Sakho was equal to it.

However, at the other end of the field Liverpool lacked cutting edge, so the fact Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp refused to play a proven goalscorer like Christian Benteke against Manchester United is a complete nonsense to me.

Maybe this latest defeat will provoke Sakho and others in the dressing room to ask Klopp the question: "Why the blazes do you leave us in a game of such importance without a recognised goalscorer?"

Midfielder - Fabian Delph (Man City)

Fabian Delph
Fabian Delph has been on the winning side in all 15 games in which he has scored in his senior club career (in all competitions)

I thought that the move to Manchester City came too soon for Fabian Delph but there is no doubt that the England international is starting to make an impact at City.

Against Crystal Palace he was making decisions that suggest he is growing in confidence among a group of players that will stretch his talents.

If Delph can continue this sort of form, and in this company, he could find himself not simply winning trophies but playing a central role in England's European Championship campaign.

Midfielder - James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)

James Ward-Prowse
Ward Prowse was the first Southampton player to score a Premier League goal from a direct free-kick since Rickie Lambert in February 2014

James Ward-Prowse had only scored twice in 114 matches and he had doubled his career tally in just 30 minutes for the Saints against a very ordinary West Brom. His first goal was a beautifully taken free-kick and his second was a penalty that he looked so comfortable scoring he could have done it in carpet slippers.

However it looks like manager Ronald Koeman has bowled himself into a selection nightmare. With Shane Long in good form, Graziano Pelle still to return and Dusan Tadic and Ward-Prowse scoring goals, it will be very interesting to see where he plays new signing Charlie Austin.

Austin can score goals but not without a particular type of service. The other players mentioned have more than goals to their repertoire - so it looks like Sadio Mane could be on his way.

Forward - Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle)

Jonjo Shelvey attempted more passes than any other Newcastle player on Saturday (59), completing 91.5% of them.
Jonjo Shelvey attempted more passes than any other Newcastle player on Saturday (59), completing 91.5% of them

What a ball from Jonjo Shelvey for Daryl Janmaat to cross for Georginio Wijnaldum to score in Newcastle's win against West Ham. Paired in the centre of midfield, Shelvey and Jack Colback look capable of transforming Newcastle's season.

However there was also a real dark side to Shelvey's performance when he appeared to take West Ham's Enner Valencia out of the game, which suggests to me that Shelvey is prepared to do whatever it takes in order to win a football match.

The only problem with tactics like that is they can win or lose you matches.

Forward - Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)

Christian Eriksen
Christian Eriksen has now scored in all four of his Premier League appearances against Sunderland (five goals)

I saw Tottenham on Wednesday night against Leicester City and they were ordinary. Against Sunderland they were not much better but the Black Cats are struggling at the foot of the table and it showed.

Fortunately for Spurs they have the capacity to produce a touch of class on occasions and when they do it's normally Christian Eriksen who is at the heart of it. Whether he scores goals or not (and he got two on this occasion) he's the sort of footballer fans have no problem paying decent money to see.

Conversely, I don't think I've seen a worst start to a Premier League debut than I saw from Sunderland's Jan Kirchhoff. He certainly made an impact, I'll give him that.

Forward - Kevin Mirallas (Everton)

Kevin Mirallas
Kevin Mirallas has bagged three goals in his last five appearances for the Toffees in all competitions after scoring just once in his previous 15 for the club

Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois knows all about international team-mate Kevin Mirallas.

The Everton man forced his fellow Belgian to produce a fine save in the first half having turned Kurt Zouma like a spinning top prior to the strike.

Mirallas really should have had a hat-trick in this game, but his contribution to this impressive Everton performance was clearly evident.

Striker - Sergio Aguero (Man City)

Sergio Aguero
Since coming to the Premier League in the summer of 2011, Sergio Aguero has bagged 88 goals, 10 more than any other player

I was desperately disappointed with Sergio Aguero's performance against Leicester when he didn't seem to relish the battle against enforcers Robert Huth and Wes Morgan.

It seemed, however, that Crystal Palace's Scott Dann and Damien Delaney were not as formidable as Huth and Morgan, who didn't offer Aguero anything like the respect presented by those two. That said, Palace were completely overrun by City and the Argentine had two goals put on a plate for him.

However, what I find interesting at City is what are they going to do if Pellegrini wins the FA Cup, League Cup and the Premier League title? It is quite feasible - so will Pep Guardiola be welcomed with open arms then? I wonder what Aguero and his team-mates would have to say about that.

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