Goals defined Peter Crouch‘s career but how does Sportsmail‘s columnist rate goalscoring defenders?
It was one of many queries waiting for him in a mailbox that was brimming with correspondence this week.
There was a huge amount of controversy around referee Lee Mason (right) on Saturday afternoon, and our man Peter Crouch looks through that incident, plus all your other questions
Can you explain what happened at The Hawthorns?
Charlie Parry via email
No, in a word, Charlie. I remember an incident at Portsmouth when someone took a quick free-kick against us, scored and it was allowed. I’ve played in games when we have taken a quick free-kick, scored and had it pulled back. There’s no rhyme or reason.
It has always puzzled me why teams aren’t allowed to take free-kicks quickly. How is it fair for the team who have made the foul to be able to regroup and get back into position? From that viewpoint, I have every sympathy with Brighton. I imagine people are expecting me to steam into referee Lee Mason for his handling of the incident. You should know by now how much I hate VAR but I’m not going to hound the referee for ruling out Brighton’s ‘goal’.
People are wondering why he consulted VAR. I believe it was because there is such pressure on referees now that they are finding themselves in intolerable situations to get everything right. The rules have been complicated to an extent that we are all a bit lost.
Mason has my sympathies. By the letter of the law, the goal had to be ruled out because he had blown his whistle twice.
But the palaver that followed was, I think, a case of a man in a difficult position being terrified of getting something wrong.
Lee Mason was called a f***ing disgrace after having to twice rule out Brighton’s goal
Why do we not mic the refs and VAR officials as happens in rugby?
Glenn Sargent via Twitter
I’m sure you have played football, Glenn. You know what gets said, the language that is involved. You simply couldn’t have that broadcast live.
Listen, I’m not saying it’s right and I am not excusing anyone but I know what gets said when emotions are running high.
The way football and rugby view match officials is completely different and until the mindset changes in football, there is no way referees will have microphones on them that are being picked up by broadcasters.
Now you have put the argument forward, what about this: why not record the conversations, make any edits to bad language that are needed and play them at half-time or full-time if there has been controversy? It feels like that is a good middle ground.
There have been calls from some to mic up the referees in football like they do in rugby (above is Maro Itoje of England and referee Pascal Gauzere during Saturday’s Six Nations match)
Fulham, Newcastle or Brighton – who goes down?
Damien Rafter via email
That’s tough, Damien. When I made my predictions at the beginning of the season, I had Fulham and Brighton as two of my three to go down, along with West Brom. When Newcastle started with a win at West Ham, I said on these pages that Steve Bruce had bought well and they would be fine. You have asked me to make the prediction today, though, and the picture has completely changed.
I’ve watched Brighton a lot recently and I’ve been won over by them. They play good football, they have got too many good players and they won’t go down. They should have won at West Brom on Saturday.
Fulham are putting a compelling argument together, too. Scott Parker looked like he had an impossible job at the start of the season — I was at Craven Cottage on the opening day and they didn’t give me any confidence — but they have got momentum now.
There is a relegation battle going on between Fulham, Brighton, and Newcastle United
Newcastle, on the other hand, are sinking. It pains me to say because I am a fan of Bruce — I have never hidden that — but the toxicity around them, together with crippled confidence and big injuries, is dragging them down.
We are all looking forward to seeing fans back inside stadiums but I’d argue that Newcastle are better off playing behind closed doors for as long as possible, as the discontent is so apparent.
It isn’t helpful. I love them as a club but I’d now have them as favourites for the last relegation place.
Newcastle are sinking, due to crippled confidence and injury issues in the past season
Will English clubs win both European trophies this season as they did in 2019?
Daniel Joseph via email
We sometimes assume, Daniel, that nobody else can touch the Premier League but it is often a misconception. There is an arrogance in thinking at this stage of the competitions that our clubs will just start breezing past everyone.
The year Liverpool and Chelsea won the Champions League and Europa League was an exception to the rule. I certainly wouldn’t be in a hurry to put money on that outcome, even though we have strong representatives in both tournaments.
Manchester City are favourites for the Champions League but I watched Bayern Munich beat Lazio in midweek and I was so impressed by them. They looked right back at it, so strong and formidable. Underestimate them at your peril.
The Europa League looks more winnable for our teams and I wouldn’t discount Steven Gerrard taking Rangers deep into the competition, either — but, again, don’t get carried away. I was very impressed by Slavia Prague, who looked a proper team in beating Leicester. There is quality everywhere.
Manchester City are favourites for the Champions League but Bayern are back at it
Would Arsenal be better off not qualifying for Europe next season to help the rebuild?
Chris Weston via email
I didn’t predict they would beat Leicester so impressively yesterday, Chris. It was a big win, one which illustrated the club’s attacking capabilities, but they are still at the back of the queue when it comes to finishing in the top six or seven. They still struggle to find consistency.
I just find it difficult watching Arsenal at the moment, in terms of the transition that is sweeping the club and how far they have fallen behind. Arsenal, to me, are a Champions League club — one of the Premier League’s elite representatives. I want to see them back at that level.
It is going to be a long road back. However, it might be accelerated if they can avoid the slog of Thursday-Sunday next season, to concentrate on mounting a significant top-four challenge. As always with these things, it is easier said than done.
Arsenal may be able to rebuild quicker if they don’t qualify for European football next season
Dele Alli has got the moves but what happens next for him?
Kev Garbutt via Twitter
I was at Tottenham last Wednesday, Kev, and I thought Alli was superb. He had a glint in his eyes, he looked hungry and a class above. Yes, he was playing opponents who were average but his quality shone through and it was a reminder of how good he can be.
So I could understand why he would have been frustrated yesterday. He hasn’t featured in nine of Tottenham’s Premier League squads this season and that is too much absence for a player of his class. He shouldn’t be left to rot, he shouldn’t have a career that is just drifting aimlessly.
We aren’t privy to what is happening behind closed doors and we have to respect why Jose Mourinho is making these calls, but I expect Dele would have been totally deflated at being on the bench against Burnley.
Gareth Bale looked like the Gareth Bale we all know against Burnley. Harry Kane and Son Heung-min were on fire, too.
If you add Dele into that equation, you have a front four who are as exciting as anything in the country. I hope he gets another chance.
Dele Alli has not featured enough for Tottenham for someone with as much class as he has
After the double from John Stones and Ruben Dias, who are the best scoring defenders you have seen?
Jade Craddock via email
Great question, Jade. Paul Warhurst and Ian Marshall were the first ones that came to my mind — Warhurst made the most successful transition between positions — but the answer, without a doubt, is John Terry. He finished with 72 career goals.
Robert Huth got 10 one year for Stoke and the boost it gives a team is incredible, having that added threat.
I also have to give a special mention to Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos, whose career tally stands at 126. Some strikers would be happy with that number.
Until next time, stay safe and well.
Peter Crouch marks former Chelsea man John Terry as one of the best goalscoring defenders