This weekend the Premier League had a few days off as the FA Cup fourth round stepped up to the plate. And, of course, where there is the potential for big clubs to look somewhat foolish there is the potential for me to uncover some funny football news.
We got underway on Friday night in North London as Arsenal welcomed Manchester United to the Emirates. Now, it wasn’t that long ago that this game had some big characters taking part. If it kicked off it really kicked off. Go back to the 80s and there was that 21 man brawl that cost both teams points. Fast forward to the 90s and early 00s and you’ll always remember Martin Keown’s face contorting like an angry monkey whilst shouting abuse at Ruud van Nistelrooy.
And, of course, there was always Roy Keane versus Patrick Vieira.
Somehow, Marcus Rashford squaring up to Granit Xhaka just doesn’t have the same feel to it.
Ashley Young gobbing off to Aaron Ramsey doesn’t feel that ‘hard’.
None of that really mattered though, as United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revival continued at pace with the Norwegian miracle worker making it eight wins from eight games.
It turns out all you needed to do to make Alexis Sanchez look good again was pick him to play against that Arsenal defence he grew so tired of bailing out when he wore the colours of the Gunners.
Finally, Sanchez put in an-almost-decent performance for United and even opened the scoring following the kind of assist from Lukaku that Arsenal fans used to see once in a while from Mesut Ozil.
I kind of have to give a little bit of credit to Arsenal’s defender Sokratis. He did his best to stay on the pitch despite being clearly injured and he bore the weight of a man knowing that if he had to allow Mustafi on to the field of the play then the game was up.
Sokratis couldn’t continue and ten minutes later United led 2-0. Sokratis was right.
If Solskjaer can make Sanchez good again and convert Romelu Lukaku into a modern-day Stanley Matthews then surely he gets the job full time if he wants it? And, without a doubt, those twinkling eyes say he wants it.
When I saw the score at the Etihad I assumed that Sean Dyche had recalled Joe Hart to Burnley’s starting eleven to give him a little cup runout. But now, it was poor Nick Pope put in the firing line against Manchester City as Peppy G’s men strolled to a 5-0 win. City now have a 28-0 aggregate score against Dyche’s men over the last six matches and have won their last eight fixtures in a row.
Is Pep a happy Catalan, though? Not at all. He wants City to be ‘smarter’ in their transfer dealings having seen Barcelona trump them in the battle for Ajax’s Frenkie de Jong. Pep feels the club need to get things done quicker and quicker often means throwing down a silly amount of money that cannot be refused. You know, like City normally do.
Are we allowed to go all in on Marco Silva yet? This is a coach who somehow managed to get himself the reputation of being one of the best up-and-coming men in European football without actually doing anything.
One failed attempt to keep Hull in the Premier League, a short and unsuccessful stay at Watford and then a controversial move to Everton does not make this guy the next Guardiola or Klopp, it turns out.
Especially when Everton are dumped out of the FA Cup at Millwall.
Any Premier League team that has to whinge about a goal going against them in a cup tie against a team from a level below needs pointing at and laughing at in my opinion.
Yes, Millwall’s equaliser was handball. But that doesn’t automatically mean you have to go into a sulk and let them score an injury-time winner, does it? If you need VAR to beat a team struggling in the Championship then you need to have a long hard look at yourself.
The best bit from the New Den? Millwall manager Neil Harris screaming up at the big screen operatives to stop showing the equaliser to the crowd in case the referee decided to admit he got it wrong and disallow the goal.
Don’t cry for too long, West Ham fans. It’s OK because Marko Arnautovic has successfully negotiated that new contract and is staying. That makes an embarrassing defeat to League One strugglers AFC Wimbledon hurt less, doesn’t it? No? You surprise me.
How about the fact you’re also going to spend £43m on another striker? Because, after all, it’s your attack that is the problem in games like this, eh? Manuel Pellegrini was so furious at half-time seeing his side 2-0 down that he made all three substitutions at once.
And, it did have an immediate impact.
Yes, Wimbledon went 3-0 up 40 seconds into the second half.
Wally Downes, one of the original Crazy Gang, watched his Wimbledon side stay strong has the Hammers got it back to 3-2 before sticking the final boot in and winning 4-2. West Ham were, frankly, embarrassing.
For a while, Wolves looked like they were going to be the Premier League club with FA Cup egg all over their face. They trailed Shrewsbury 2-0 before showing enough class and industry to get themselves a replay back at Molineux. Fair play to whoever wrote the notes for that Shrewsbury corner though, they worked.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino claimed before his side’s FA Cup clash with Crystal Palace that the new stadium had ‘cost Spurs a trophy’. Central defender Thomas Vertonghen then said that the current Spurs team ‘deserves so many trophies’. Well, chaps, it’s not as if you aren’t getting the chances, is it? All you had to do was not be rubbish against Chelsea midweek and you’d have another pop at cup glory.
All the entitlement chat before the game made me hopeful that Crystal Palace might cause a bit of an upset and I wasn’t disappointed. Crystal Palace saw Spurs off 2-0 including a goal from Connor Wickham, not something I type too frequently. Wickham kneed in his first goal in nearly 800 days before Kyle Walker-Peters randomly handled in the box. And as for Kieran Trippier’s penalty, you just know they need Harry Kane back in time for Dortmund.
Spurs have now crashed out of both cup competitions in the space of a week but don’t forget, this team deserves trophies.
According to Watford’s manager Javi Gracia, choosing between getting to the FA Cup final and giving Watford’s fans a day out they will never forget or finishing 7th in the Premier League is like ‘choosing your favourite parent’. Javi, that must mean that 7th place is the father who spends little time at home, didn’t provide any real memories but always made sure there was plenty of pocket money.
Either way, Watford beat Newcastle 2-0 meaning Gracia still has that choice to make.
Brighton also get to make a few choices after they contrived to get a 0-0 draw against WBA; a result neither team was massively keen on.
Chelsea youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi is really keen to avoid being sent to Vitesse Arnhem on loan and much prefers the option of moving to Bayern Munich permanently for £45m. He is so keen on the idea he’s actually filed a transfer request. Chelsea did pick him and he did score, but I guess he isn’t too keen on training with Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentine made his Chelsea debut in the drab victory over Sheffield Wednesday at Stamford Bridge. Let’s not judge him on that though, eh? He’s only been in the country five minutes and he’s made it to more finals than Tottenham in the last decade or so.
Doncaster Rovers beat Oldham to reach the fifth round for the first time in 63 years. Oldham got done by a dodgy penalty and interim manager Peter Wild then claimed he ‘knew nothing’ about the rumours of Paul Scholes taking over. Pete, you just have to follow Twitter mate. It’s quite easy to stay abreast of the latest rumours.
Fratton Park was bouncing just like the days Portsmouth financially doped their way to FA Cup glory a decade ago. They managed a 1-1 draw against Championship side QPR.
Finally, Swansea made it to the last 16 for the first time since the mid-60s. And having been to Swansea in the last five years I can confirm that the locals probably feel like that was yesterday just by looking around.
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