Ah, the magic of the FA Cup. The quarter-finals where winning teams guarantee a trip to Wembley. The kind of game that can give a confidence boost when you are absolutely rubbish in the league (Sheffield United and Southampton), be a pleasant distraction from the pressure of trying to win promotion (Bournemouth), be a way to actually win a trophy (Everton, Chelsea, Leicester and Manchester United) or keep the unspoken dream of a quadruple alive (Manchester City).
Mixed in with a bit of Premier League action, there was enough variety in the weekend football to help us all forget of the upcoming and utterly pointless international break.
Before we dive into it all feet first, let’s quickly come together to reflect on the week before the weekend.
Gareth Southgate picked his England squad and decided that a Premier League and Champions League-winning right-back wasn’t good enough for the Three Lions. Admittedly, England are over-stocked in that position, but still. And if ‘form’ is the reason, how on Earth has Eric Dier slipped in ahead of the likes of Ezri Konsa and Ben Godfrey?
The European draws took place with Pep’s Man City clear favourites to see off Borussia Dortmund whilst getting the opportunity to live scout Erling Haaland before snapping him up in the summer. Tommy Tuchel reckons Chelsea should be feared in the competition so let’s see if Porto are particularly papping it in the ‘teams Jose Mourinho has managed’ derby. Liverpool face Real Madrid in the battle of league champions that are nowhere near as good this season. In the Europa League, Tottenham’s exit means that Jose has pretty much got to win the League Cup to keep his job for next season and Arsenal will play Manchester United in that fantasy world where Arsenal get to the Europa League final rather than losing to Slavia Prague.
And, to the actual action.
Jonathan Woodgate has done very well to get sacked by Middlesbrough and end up in temporary charge of Bournemouth in the Championship, but it was little surprise that Southampton were able to remember they have been a very good side at some point this season for long enough to sweep the Cherries aside. Nathan Redmond gave the classic ‘too good for the Champ but probably not good enough for the Premier League’ performance as Ralph’s side booked a Wembley slot with a 3-0 win.
Everton’s clash with Man City was a test of patience – not just for the viewer who had to watch the first 82 minutes but for City who eventually managed to break Ancelotti’s side down. Mind you, it helps if you have KDB on the bench and a midfielder scoring more goals than most of the strikers in the league. Whilst knocking the Toffees out of the cup, the quadruple hopefuls are now the favourites to sign Villa’s Jack Grealish for £100m+ – and as we all know, that will work out really well for Grealish.
City will finance this move by ripping out 1500+ seats at the Etihad and replacing them with more LED advertising displays. You cannot deny, it’s a creative solution to the fact they never sell the stadium out.
When you are as absolutely garbage as Sheffield United this season, it’s not going to help if you score an own-goal to put Chelsea in the lead. The last team to score against Tuchel’s side was Luton Town way back in an earlier round of the FA Cup and given that Sheffield United have scored about six goals all season there was never going to be a way back. Take David McGoldrick’s miss as exhibit A.
More interesting was the midweek chat about Chelsea being interested in Sergio Aguero if he leaves City. I mean, I guess Lampard went the other way. Aguero is believed to have an offer from the maybe-becoming-less-crazy-now-Laporta-is-back Barcelona. I’d want to see exactly how less crazy the Catalans are before heading there though. All this means that Tammy Abraham will be on his way – the big clue being that they’ve stopped the contract talks at the Bridge. Take the hint, Tammy. Get yourself over to West Ham.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to be judged on his league position, not his trophy haul – which is great for him after Leicester City dumped them out of the FA Cup. Leicester took the lead after Fred cleverly linked up with Iheanacho who rounded Henderson to score. The best Donny van Beek has done for United since signing from Ajax is letting the ball go through his legs, which allowed Greenwood to level but it was Youri Tielemens who took advantage of the red sea parting before drilling home the winner.
Both Chelsea and City would have been celebrating that result – the winner of their semi-final will surely go on to lift the FA Cup this season.
Given how pathetic Newcastle were in their 3-0 battering by Brighton, you’d suspect Fulham will regret not beating Leeds on Friday night. Potter’s clash with Bruce was far from the turgid, nervous, quality-free relegation battle you’d expect. Brighton were as glorious to watch as always and even put the icing on the cake by scoring actual goals. Newcastle, well their punishment is that Mike Ashley is refusing to sack Steve Bruce as he feels sympathy for him.
Patrick Bamford reminded Gareth Southgate that he’s probably not called up the right strikers by scoring at Craven Cottage and you had to feel for Leeds’ skipper Luke Ayling who, thinking he’d scored his first-ever Premier League goal, let his hair down in a true air guitar celebration only for VAR to intervene.
Who is this Jesse Lingard fella that is playing at West Ham? Lingard was on fire against Arsenal, even taking the game to the point where it was plainly obvious there are not enough clever quick free-kicks in the world. Paul Merson called him the ‘midfield Emile Heskey’ and if you know whether that was a compliment or not, let us know.
The Hammers were probably still applauding it when Lacazette headed in at the far post to level the game at 3-3, having been three down. Is it unfair to point out that West Ham were winning before they brought on Mark Noble?
As mentioned before, Jose has to qualify for Europe somehow to keep his job heading into next season with Daniel Levy getting closer and closer to admitting he made a big, big booboo by appointing him in the first place. However, a 2-0 win away at Aston Villa helps – especially when both Carlos Vinicius and Harry Kane started and scored. Yes, that’s the Vinicius that Spurs won’t be paying £36m for at the end of the season, apparently. They need that money to make the Bale deal permanent.