Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

FA Cup: 10 Talking Points From the Weekend's Third-Round Action

FA Cup: 10 Talking Points From the Weekend's Third-Round Action

Thursday, 10 January, 2019 - 09:30
Eddie Nketiah’s wasteful finishing did not detract from his touch and movement; Andy Carroll scored and infuriated; Cesc Fàbregas said his goodbyes at Stamford Bridge. Composite: AFP/Getty Images/PA
London- Guardian Sport

Nketiah shows rich promise, Chelsea may rue Fàbregas’s exit, things about to hot up for Solskjær and what next for Carroll?

1) Leicester may come to regret resting players in the Cup

Given Newport’s recent Cup pedigree – the League Two side knocked out Leeds and took Tottenham to a replay last season – Sunday’s game never looked an easy tie for Claude Puel’s Leicester, but looked even less so when he left the likes of Kasper Schmeichel, Harry Maguire, Ben Chilwell, Wilfred Ndidi and Jamie Vardy at home. Puel would still have expected the XI he sent out to progress but with no midweek game and no other competitions to play for, supporters who made the long trip to south Wales would be forgiven their dark mutterings on the return journey after a humbling defeat. Sunday’s other Premier League fall guys, Fulham, at least have a relegation battle to occupy them until May but seventh-placed Leicester are a long way from sixth and with fine victories over Manchester City and at Chelsea last month have shown what they are capable of at full-strength. The Christmas period leaves players jaded but you don’t get second chances in the FA Cup. Paul Chronnell

2) Nketiah hits right note despite hat-trick of misses

There should have been two 19-year-olds on the scoresheet for Arsenal at Bloomfield Road as the young players entrusted by Unai Emery impressed against Blackpool. Joe Willock, the England Under-20 midfielder, seized his opportunities with two goals that owed much to sharp reactions and good awareness, and was only denied a first Arsenal hat-trick by a correct offside decision. Eddie Nketiah, was nowhere near as clinical, missing three presentable chances before half-time, and yet this remained a promising display from the Lewisham-born forward. Nketiah’s pace, movement and first touch all stood out against the League One side. As did his refusal to allow the misses to effect his contribution. He was replaced by Alexandre Lacazette in the 64th minute, a reminder of the obstacles in the way. Andy Hunter

3) Huddersfield must spend to reduce striking deficit

David Wagner was chuckling before the reporter had finished asking a question that started with the words: “Luckily you’re in a January transfer window so you can bring players into the club …” The Huddersfield manager, bringing a touch of reality to it all, replied: “Theoretically this is correct. Everybody knows the circumstances which we have in our football club, that we financially are not at the top of the hierarchy.” His team are bottom of the Premier League and eight points from safety. The German added: “We will see what we can make happen or not make happen.” A chastening FA Cup exit at Bristol City made it nine successive defeats and there have been only two victories all season, suggesting the board needs to make as much as possible happen in this window to give Wagner a fighting chance, with a proven goalscorer surely the priority. Stuart James

4) Ayew buys himself time but Hodgson’s impatience is clear

If Roy Hodgson’s mood was anything to go by after his side edged past a valiant 10-man Grimsby, thanks to Jordan Ayew’s second goal in as many games, then this could be a long month for the Crystal Palace manager. Having pulled out of a loan deal to sign Dominic Solanke from Liverpool, finding a striker remains imperative given Alexander Sørloth’s travails in front of goal, although the impending return of Christian Benteke and Ayew’s sudden burst of form may give them some breathing space. The Ghana forward now looks likely to have his loan extended until the end of the season, while Hodgson claimed not to have even heard of Sunderland’s Josh Maja after he was linked with the club last week. “His name’s not been mentioned to me,” said the former England manager. “I don’t spend my time watching Sunderland play.” Ed Aarons

5) Fàbregas’s imminent exit may come back to haunt Sarri

Chelsea were busily insisting the deal was not yet done, but the tears of Cesc Fàbregas as he left the Stamford Bridge pitch and the assorted tributes from colleagues suggested otherwise. He played what is almost certain to be his last game for the club against Nottingham Forest on Saturday before leaving for Monaco, but even though he has been a peripheral figure you wonder about the wisdom of letting him go mid-season. The Catalan has served as the primary back-up to Jorginho as the deep-lying playmaker, perhaps the most important role in Maurizio Sarri’s system. “It would be really a problem without Cesc,” said Sarri a few weeks ago, probably because the alternatives are the talented but extremely raw Ethan Ampadu and, erm, David Luiz? The Brazilian centre-back said: “You need a minimum 20 players to rotate.” Nick Miller

6) Lampard beginning to sound like an old managerial hand

It felt unusual to hear Frank Lampard behaving like a typical manager on Saturday, offering up – if not quite excuses – then mitigation for his side. Derby travel to Leeds this weekend before replaying their FA Cup tie with Southampton and Lampard wanted it known that his squad will be stretched as his sixth-placed Rams look to hold on to their Championship play-off spot. “We’re going into a really important phase now, and it’s going to be test after test,” said Lampard. “We’re going to be competing against tough sides and just behind us are Aston Villa and Stoke with big budgets. I had to give Mason Mount a rest today, but I only have two centre-halves, so they’re playing. I’m not crying, I took this job knowing what it was. Spending the most money doesn’t mean you’ll win, but I do fear the tiredness and I’m not the only one saying that.” Paul MacInnes

7) Davies in danger of losing his way at Everton

In an ideal world, Marco Silva would not have introduced André Gomes as a half-time substitute on Saturday. The Portugal midfielder has looked tired in recent games and this was a much-needed opportunity for him to rest, but Everton needed to re-establish control against Lincoln City and so on he came. That he replaced Tom Davies was no great surprise given the 20-year-old’s largely ineffective display up to then. It was not the first time either from a boyhood Evertonian who, like Ross Barkley before him, is in danger of losing his way at Goodison Park. Davies, with nine Premier League appearances this season, looked the real deal under Ronald Koeman but, two permanent managers later, the picture is very different and having not grasped the opportunity afforded to him on Saturday it is possible he may not get another one soon. Sachin Nakrani

8) Things about to hot up for Solskjær’s United revolution

Ole Gunnar Solskjær will enjoy a week of warm-weather training in Dubai with Manchester United feeling his players believe they can now finish in a Champions League berth. Saturday’s 2-0 win over Reading was a fifth consecutive victory as caretaker manager but after closing the gap to six points to Chelsea, fourth place is Solskjær’s prime target. “I think the players are getting confidence and the feeling that we have momentum,” he said. How United fare in Sunday’s trip to third-placed Tottenham will provide the best barometer yet of where United are. “They’ve performed really well over a few years now and they’ve been towards the top of the league,” said the Norwegian. “You’ve got Harry Kane, one of the best strikers in the world, Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-min, Dele Alli – and we have to look at how we play against them.” Jamie Jackson

9) Unwanted replay adds to the Newcastle tragi-comedy

Hats off to Blackburn’s impressive Bradley Dack and Charlie Mulgrew for raising the tone but the reality is that most drama at Newcastle occurs off the pitch these days. Unfortunately it tends to be of the tragi-comic variety. For instance, the weekend saw an orchestrated leaking of a letter from Peter Kenyon to Mike Ashley saying he hopes his consortium will be offered more time to try and buy out Newcastle. Then there’s the separate suggestion the two consortiums headed by Kenyon and Garry Cook might somehow govern the club, coalition style. Maybe Kenyon and Cook could be joint chief executives? Meanwhile Rafael Benítez seems under pressure to sign a one-year contract extension – his current deal expires in May – in exchange for Ashley buying some new players this month. Benítez will not relish next week’s Ewood Park replay. Louise Taylor

10) Best and worst of Carroll leaves West Ham future in balance

It was tricky to assess Andy Carroll’s performance in West Ham’s nervy victory. On the one hand it was a typical piece of Carroll play that settled the tie, with the Birmingham defence powerless to stop the big man from rising to score his first goal since last April, and in those moments it is easy to understand why the 30-year-old might yet win over Manuel Pellegrini. The forward’s injury record will count against him when West Ham decide whether to renew his contract in the summer, but the sight of him soaring above a cowering defence remains something of a guilty pleasure. Before his goal, however, Carroll had infuriated the crowd with poor hold-up play and two woeful misses with his feet. His case for a new deal did not feel that strong when he made a farcical hash of trying to round Lee Camp, Birmingham’s goalkeeper. Jacob Steinberg

(The Guardian)

Editor Picks