FA Cup: Talking Points From The Third Round Matches

FA Cup: Talking Points From The Third Round Matches
January 09 11:08 2017 Print This Article

1) Plymouth’s defensive masterclass should not be sneered at

The triumphant celebrations after Plymouth Argyle’s 0-0 draw at Anfield were further confirmation that giant-equalling is the new giantkilling. In the modern world of the FA Cup, it is enough for David to draw with Goliath – especially as it means a second payday for clubs often in need of such a financial boost. For Plymouth’s players, it was about more than that. It’s easy to be sniffy about their ultra-defensive approach against the youngest team in Liverpool’s history, but most League Two teams would not have been good enough to pull it off. Plymouth defended with such class and determination that their goalkeeper Luke McCormick barely had a save to make. And for once, there’s no harm in employing a little bit of artistic licence: in years to come, the record will show that Plymouth drew at Anfield, and the details will fade happily into the background.Rob Smyth

2) Ndidi excels in the Kanté role for Leicester

A season-ending Cup defeat prompted Ronald Koeman to turn his ire on the Everton hierarchy over their transfer business, or current lack of, but his mood would not have been helped by Wilfred Ndidi’s debut in the Leicester City midfield. Signed on Thursday from Genk for £15m, the defensive midfielder had only two training sessions with the Premier League champions before being plunged into a team missing Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani. He excelled, breaking up Everton attacks and releasing his team-mates swiftly and accurately. Early days of course, but the 20-year-old provided the protection Leicester have lacked since N’Golo Kanté left for Chelsea. “I love players who recover the ball and pass the ball straightaway forward,” Claudio Ranieri said. “People love to make comparisons and maybe how he ran was more similar to Kanté, but we need a player like him.” Andy Hunter

3) Will Hull fans rein in protest chants to help out Silva?

Only 6,608 fans attended Hull City’s win over Swansea. That was the official number: it felt like far fewer and there was an eerie atmosphere inside the KCOM Stadium on Saturday. Those discontented Hull fans have much to feel unhappy about, and their longstanding grievances range from ticket and membership issues to a lack of investment in the team. “It’s important for me that our fans believe in the team because we need help,” said Marco Silva, the new Hull manager, asking those who stayed away to return for the next league match against Bournemouth on Saturday. The boycott was a one-off, but at every home game Hull’s supporters will sing against the Allam family. Even if their reasons are valid, will the chants continue as Silva attempts to drag Hull off the bottom of the table, or will some supporters hold their tongue until the end of the season in an attempt to help their struggling side? James Riach

4) Rashford puts frustrations behind him

Marcus Rashford admitted that a lack of club goals since September had been frustrating, but the wait for his fifth Manchester United goal was ended here when he raced on to a second-half through ball and scored with a smooth finish. It was Rashford’s first strike since 24 September, in his 10th start since then, the reason being the combination of the 19-year-old’s rawness and Zlatan Ibrahimovic holding court as the No9. That was the position José Mourinho fielded Rashford in against Jaap Stam’s side, and his response was to score twice – he also registered United’s fourth after a horrific mistake from Ali al-Habsi in the Reading goal. All of this is ideal for the development of England’s brightest talents. Rashford said: “I think, halfway through the period of not scoring, it was a bit frustrating but, after I started to settle down again and getting some assists, and I was starting to play better football and now the goals have come so I’m just happy.” Jamie Jackson

5) Fonté situation clouds Puel’s outlook

Southampton’s draw against an inferior Norwich City means that, should they prevail in the replay, they will have played nine games this month. Claude Puel had bemoaned his squad’s tiredness even before this match but another preoccupation is what to do with his captain, José Fonte. The centre?back has asked to leave the club and may have cost himself a place in the side for the League Cup semi-final first leg against Liverpool on Wednesday. Selling a 33-year-old might make good business sense but Southampton must also contend with regular speculation about the future of Virgil van Dijk – the game’s outstanding player on Saturday. That, as we have seen so often, is simply Southampton’s place in the food chain and you wonder whether the club have hit their ceiling. Puel must hope his players can muster the energy to bring some cheer in midweek. Nick Ames

6) McGeady shows value of an old-fashioned entertainer

There was a real old-fashioned Cup?tie atmosphere at Deepdale, with fog swirling around the floodlight pylons, a full complement of Arsenal supporters in the Bill Shankly Stand and an excellent contest on the pitch. During the first half there was a vintage moment to savour too, when Aiden McGeady helped create the opening goal, cutting in from the left wing past one defender then bamboozling Aaron Ramsey with a pirouette. The crowd were still cheering the audacity when Callum Robinson completed the move by sticking the ball in David Ospina’s net. McGeady is on loan from Everton, where he found it difficult to hold down a first-team place. Maybe he is too inconsistent a performer for the Premier League – he certainly wilted in the second half, as did most of his team?mates – but with the ball at his feet he can be that rarest of treats, a crowd?pleasing entertainer. “Everybody here loves him,” the Preston manager, Simon Grayson, said. “We like him to run with the ball and we don’t care if he loses it. We just tell him to do it again.” Paul Wilson

7) Moyes should have reshuffled to avert tedium

A ground that rarely accommodates fewer than 40,000, and often hosts more than 45,000, for Premier League games was sparsely populated by a crowd of merely 17,632 as Sunderland drew 0-0 against Burnley. The stay-aways made the right decision in avoiding a truly appalling tie which presented a compelling case for abolishing fixture?clogging replays in the early rounds and going straight to extra-time and penalties. “Sorry about that,” David Moyes said afterwards. “It was poor.” Sunderland’s manager fielded his strongest available team, refraining from resting even Jermain Defoe on a day when it would surely have been more beneficial for Moyes to, among other possible changes, have given young Joel Asoro and Josh Maja a run out in attacking tandem, and maybe offered the untested Mika a game in goal. Anything to relieve the tedium. Louise Taylor

8) Clough pays heavy price for his sense of adventure

On a weekend when many managers chose cold realism, Nigel Clough was punished for chasing glory. You can understand him believing in Burton Albion’s ability to defy the odds given how far they have come in recent years, so it was no surprise he named a strong team for the trip to Watford, where Burton hoped to claim their first away victory against a top?flight team. Their boldness backfired during a defeat in which they lost two important forwards to injuries – Will Miller and, most cruelly, Luke Varney, the latter only having joined the club last Wednesday. Both are likely to miss at least a few matches as Burton scrap to stay above the Championship relegation zone, starting with the duel with 23rd-place Wigan next weekend. “That is why managers change teams for the FA Cup,” Clough said without a hint of regret. If Burton stay up at the end of the season, it will be worth recalling they did so without sacrificing their sense of adventure.Paul Doyle

9) McClaren gets the best from Bent and Ince

One should never underestimate how a new manager can revitalise a player. Before Steve McClaren was appointed for his second spell as Derby County manager in October, Darren Bent had scored four goals in 36 appearances since signing for the Rams permanently. After the rasping 25-yard drive that brought Derby level in their win against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, Bent has the same tally in 13 games. Alongside Bent you can file Tom Ince, who curled home the winner at the Hawthorns and in the past three months has rediscovered his zest and zing to be one of the Championship’s most threatening attackers. “We just allow him to go and play and he does the work as well, up and down,” McClaren said of Ince. “He has got great fitness and he should be a Premier League player.” McClaren’s career has been, to be charitable, patchy, but this latest chapter has started brilliantly. Nick Miller

10) Montanier staring at Forest exit after latest loss

“I know my position is not comfortable, that is logical after consecutive defeats,” the Nottingham Forest manager, Philippe Montanier, said after his team were beaten 2-0 by Wigan Athletic. That was Forest’s sixth defeat in the past seven games, a run that has left them two points off the Championship relegation zone as well as out of the FA Cup. It was not so much the defeat that might lead to Montanier being shown the door but the sort of performance you often see just before a sacking, bereft of ambition, ideas and effort. Montanier is a smart man with some pedigree, who has been hamstrung by injuries and incompetent ownership, but it is not working at the City Ground. A takeover of the club, by a group led by the American businessman John Jay Moores, is scheduled to go through this week, and one suspects that when that is confirmed Montanier will be handed his cards. Nick Miller

11) Romance alive and well for Stourbridge even in defeat

Sometimes the doomed romances leave the most cherished memories. Stourbridge, the lowest-placed side left in the Cup, received a crash course in the bittersweet cruelty of which the FA Cup is capable during their 2-1 defeat atWycombe, but that did not tarnish an experience that will be the highlight of many careers and a few lives. They played outstandingly against an in-form League Two side and could even have won: they hit the underside of the crossbar shortly before Adebayo Akinfenwa scored Wycombe’s late winner. After the game the Stourbridge manager, Gary Hackett, was given a microphone to address the away support. “When you’ve been at a club for so long and you see that amazing support, it was a bit emotional,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with that, I don’t think.” Or with looking back fondly on a defeat, and a winter romance to remember for ever. Rob Smyth

12) Batshuayi on a hiding to nothing at Chelsea

It had been billed as a golden opportunity for Michy Batshuayi to shine; to stake his claim for more regular starting football – even though he is a £33m striker and Chelsea’s opposition were Peterborough United from League One. The problem for the summer signing from Marseille is called Diego Costa. Antonio Conte plays with only one striker and that striker is always going to be Costa in the Premier League. Batshuayi should be looking good against Peterborough, and he scored one and made another in his team’s 4-1 win. It was only the 23-year-old’s fourth start for the club – the previous three had come in the EFL Cup – and there was the feeling that he had more to lose than gain. Score, and it was normal; make mistakes, and the criticism would follow. Batshuayi did make mistakes. In his desperation to find the net, he ignored Willian on 39 minutes in a better position – to Conte’s obvious frustration – while he blew a clear chance late on. The road ahead for Batshuayi does not look straightforward. David Hytner

13) Bolton make the most of limited resources

A few minutes before Sam Allardyce contemplated the apparently astronomical fees clubs might charge Crystal Palace for players this window, Phil Parkinson provided an illustration of how the other half live. Bolton Wanderers remain under a transfer embargo. They cannot buy players and while they can borrow them, there is a restriction on how many. “There is a little bit of room for manoeuvre,” Parkinson said. He lost Sammy Ameobi, who was recalled by Newcastle United, but retained James Henry, whose loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers was extended on Friday, 24 hours before he turned in a man-of-the-match display against last season’s FA Cup finalists. Henry almost supplied Bolton with a winner. So did Josh Vela, their putative player of the year. He and Zach Clough, another product of their youth system, are Wanderers’ prized assets and Parkinson added: “The most important thing is we don’t want to lose any of our best young players.” While Palace concentrate on buying, Bolton hope they will not be selling. Richard Jolly

14) Aston Villa at least have their cohesion back

For the second time in succession Aston Villa departed from White Hart Lane on the back of a defeat by two goals, yet judging by their performance on Sunday, a lot has changed at the club since they lost 3-1 there in November 2015. Back then Rémi Garde had just been appointed manager and watched on as his side recorded a seventh straight Premier League defeat, going behind early and playing poorly. They ended up being relegated, with Garde sacked in the process. This weekend, Villa again rarely looked like winning but at least this time they showed great togetherness, especially in defence. It looked as if they were going to do enough to earn a replay until Ben Davies scored for Tottenham Hotspur with a well-taken header, with Son Hueng-min’s 80th-minute strike wrapping up victory for the hosts. Steve Bruce has clearly galvanised Villa since replacing Roberto di Matteo as manager in October and while it has not been all smooth sailing since, they at least look like a team with a plan and a group of players willing to fight for each other. A blow for Bruce has been the loss of Jonathan Kodjia and Jordan Ayew to the Africa Cup of Nations yet, as the manager said after the loss to Spurs, that offers Gabriel Agbonlahor an opportunity to shine for his boyhood club after spending so long on the fringes. He worked hard on Sunday and would almost certainly have scored on 65 minutes had it not been for a fine tackle by Toby Alderweireld. In many ways the 30-year-old’s transformation from slacker to striver sums up the progress Villa have made since the dark days of relegation. Sachin Nakrani

15) Sutton’s 3G pitch still offers tough tests for visitors

“Their home form in the last 18 months is exceptional – it proves a lot of teams come here and can’t handle it,” said Neal Ardley after his AFC Wimbledon side survived their trip to Sutton’s 3G pitch with a 0-0 draw. It was certainly a contrast to the state of the playing surface during the giantkilling of Coventry City at Gander Green Lane in 1989, when a pudding of a pitch put paid to the top flight team in such dramatic fashion. Artificial surfaces have moved on since the days of Luton and QPR’s plastic pitches in the 1980s, and next year’s World Cup final in Moscow will also be played on synthetic grass. Especially in the depths of winter, there is no doubt they provide a more reliable alternative to the mudbaths of yesteryear but teams who play their matches on 3G pitches still enjoy a considerable advantage, even if Wimbledon were allowed to train at Sutton’s ground the day before the match as the result of a Football Association rule. Ed Aarons

[Guardian UK]

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