Controversy reigned once again this weekend, after an incredible Merseyside derby which was overshadowed by Virgil van Dijk’s serious injury, caused by Jordan’s Pickford’s reckless lunge. It led to a flurry of questions arriving in Peter Crouch’s inbox and prompted some strong opinions from Sportsmail’s columnist.
He’s had enough of VAR… but he also knows a secret Burger King.
Peter Crouch answers more of your questions as part of a weekly series here for Sportsmail
How pivotal will Virgil van Dijk’s injury be?
Liam W via Twitter
It’s huge, Liam, an absolutely massive blow. We have only seen five Premier League games so far but it is not overstating things to say this could have an influence on the title race, given how big Van Dijk is for Liverpool.
With goalkeeper Alisson also out, the timing could not be worse.
I like Joel Matip and Joe Gomez, they are both very good centre halves. But they both look like they have an occasional mistake in them and that is not something you ever feel about Van Dijk, who is commanding.
He’s got to be worth a minimum of 10 points each season to Liverpool.
Virgil van Dijk limped off on Saturday, later being diagnosed with an ACL injury ruling him out
The Dutchman will be out for much of the season and could hugely dent Liverpool’s title shot
Listen, I tipped Liverpool for the title and I wouldn’t desert them now. I still fancy them to retain the trophy, but without Van Dijk, the gap to their pursuers is likely to be much narrower.
Look at the impact injuries to Aymeric Laporte and Kevin De Bruyne have had on Manchester City in recent seasons; take Harry Kane out of Tottenham’s team and see what happens to them.
Van Dijk keeps Liverpool moving smoothly along and this is a major test for Jurgen Klopp’s squad.
How bad was Jordan Pickford’s challenge?
James Hewlett via Twitter
Oh, James, it was a shocker. I called it a leg-breaker on BT Sport and I haven’t changed my mind.
That was the kind of challenge that can end a career and it gave me an indication of Pickford’s state of mind. He is a keeper whose confidence has evaporated.
Watch the incident again. There is a moment when Pickford hesitates slightly and takes a step back.
Jordan Pickford somehow escaped punishment for a horrific tackle on Van Dijk in the derby
The Everton stopper’s confidence has completely left him and it’s showing in his games
He then decides to go and his thought is to take everything with him. It has had calamitous consequences and I suspect he will deeply regret it.
What amazed me was the fact he didn’t get a red card. We see players given three-match bans for shoving opponents in the face with the ferocity of a nine-year-old but a potentially career-ending foul doesn’t get penalised?
I’m sorry, I can’t work that one out.
What would you do to improve VAR?
Trevski via Twitter
Here we go, Trevski. You have set me off. For starters, I would change the handball rule.
If it’s unintentional, it’s not handball. It’s simple. You have a look at VAR, you see if a player meant it and you decide from there.
You don’t award penalties like the one Newcastle got against Tottenham.
Crouch is tired of VAR, after Sadio Mane’s sleeve was caught offside for Liverpool’s winner
You then change offside. None of this nonsense we are seeing. If you are level, you are onside.
I don’t want to see armpits or little toes or graphs being used to determine what pixel is out of place. If there is clear daylight, a player is offside. If a player is level, the attacker gets the benefit.
Don’t we want to see more goals? Don’t we want to see excitement? I hate VAR, I hate what football has become with the way it is being interpreted and I am not alone in having such feelings.
Is there a one per cent chance of us getting normal football back?
Hamez Milner via Twitter
No, Hamez. To put it bluntly, no. I’m going to frame it to you like this: I don’t want to spend the weekend looking at negatives and getting worked up about stupid decisions.
I want to see football with fun and VAR is just ripping the fun out of everything.
I’m going to give you an example: Sergio Aguero v QPR in 2012 to win the title. I would say for a number of Manchester City fans that was the best moment of their entire lives.
Winning the league with the last kick of the season? Don’t you remember the explosion of joy?
Crouc believes THAT Sergio Aguero moment would not have been the same with VAR
In 2020, even if fans were allowed into grounds, goal celebrations would have to be muted
Now imagine it in the current climate. That spontaneous, natural release would be lost. Why? You are now never sure whether the goal is going to be ruled out for some minor infringement that happened 30 seconds before and your urge to celebrate is being curbed.
How can that be? For players, for supporters, there is nothing like the elation of a goal. I might be saying something obvious but it needs to be reinforced just what we are being denied.
Stop stripping us of the emotions we associate with football. That’s how strongly I feel about it.
How many goals would you have lost with these rules in your career?
Chris Mundy via Twitter
At a conservative guess, Chris, I’d say 10. So it would have stopped me getting to 202 career goals, an achievement of which I am incredibly proud.
I can think of little nudges, challenges here and there that would certainly have been penalised now but were never debated then.
You can probably guess, having read the previous answers, that I’m in a mood.
Crouch finished his career on 202 goals but may not have reached that mark with VAR
The Champions League is back this week: who is going to win it?
Chris Mac via email
I had £1 on Juventus last year, Chris, as it was the first time I was allowed to bet on football following my retirement. You can see from that my tipping record isn’t exactly stellar.
I was thinking of siding with an English team but I’m just not sure at this point. What I will say is that Bayern Munich set a standard that is going to prove difficult to top.
They were brilliant last season and the make-up of their squad suggests they are going to keep improving. Whoever beats them will win it.
I’m delighted the Champions League is back. I’ll be working on it this week and watching the Ajax v Liverpool game for BT Sport, then doing the start of Leicester’s Europa League campaign 24 hours later.
Bayern Munich proved they’re the best team in Europe last season and will be tough to beat
Why don’t the big clubs pay more attention to lower-league talent?
David Edwards via email
Good question, David. When I returned to the Championship with Stoke, following our relegation in 2018, it was like a different league from the one I had been in years before.
It was technical, it was athletic and the standard was exceptional.
Ollie Watkins, once of Brentford, is a shining example and I’ve always thought he was a good player. I hope he continues to flourish at Aston Villa.
The best thing I can say is that if you score 20 goals in the Championship now, you’ll score 15-20 in the Premier League. That’s the standard.
Ollie Watkins is an example who has shone in the Championship and earned top-flight interest
What did you make of Harry Maguire’s comeback at Newcastle?
Mark McCart via email
I spoke to Harry last year, Mark. We talked about the culture shock of moving from a club that isn’t usually in the headlines to one of the country’s super-powers.
Nothing can prepare you for the scrutiny that comes your way. Nothing at all.
He’s had a difficult time and his sending-off for England was avoidable. But he has not become a bad player overnight.
I believe he will remind people how good he was at the 2018 World Cup. The goal at Newcastle was a step in the right direction.
Harry Maguire has had a tough time lately but he took a step in the right direction on Saturday
How much are you missing going to gigs and hearing new music?
John McLaren via email
It’s awful, John. Abbey and I used to go to a night called This Feeling, which was run by a friend of ours in pubs around London. We’d hear a lot of unsigned musicians and get insights into the new sounds that were emerging.
When I heard that politicians had said musicians should retrain, it made me feel sick. Music and the arts have kept us going through lockdown and provide entertainment.
What are they suggesting? We should stop making music? They should stop talking nonsense.
Live music is showing no signs of a return with the Government’s bizarre recent campaign
Why doesn’t Burger King do drive-thrus?
Inspectah Degs via Twitter
Thank God for this question, Inspectah, but you are clearly no super sleuth. I can reveal that where I used to live, out in West Ealing, there is a part of the A40 that has a Burger King drive thru.
I’m led to believe it is the only one. And, yes, I have frequented the establishment.
Before you ask, it was a bacon double cheeseburger meal with a Coke. If I’m feeling particularly hungry, there will also be a side of chicken dippers.
If you are going to do it, you need to do it properly.
Until next time, stay safe and well.