The first weekend of the new year is always one of the most eagerly awaited in English football as the FA Cup begins in earnest for the big boys. With several intriguing ties set to be played out, such as Manchester United v Leeds, Reading v Liverpool and West Ham taking on Arsenal in a London derby game, it was expected to be the usual weekend of thrills and spills and that is just what it proved to be. Here’s the five things we’ve learned from the FA Cup action this weekend;
1. Despite all their claims to the contrary, Manchester United’s squad is lacking a player or two if they are to realistically challenge for the major trophies.
United’s lack of quality in their squad has already been exposed three times this season, once at Burnley, then again at home to Besiktas in the Champions League and now again at home to Leeds United in the FA Cup. Although the FA Cup exit will not worry Sir Alex Ferguson unduly, the manner of it will concern the manager as much as it did the fans. That Jermaine Beckford caused his back line so many problems will be a real concern as will his teams inability to convert their chances in the penalty box. It may only be a fringe team that Sir Alex selected once again, but three defeats in key games will not cut it at Old Trafford.
2. Chelsea can cope without Drogba & Co…Or at least they can against the likes of Watford…
Carlo Ancelotti’s men returned to form with a 5-0 thumping of Championship side Watford and Didier Drogba’s replacement, Daniel Sturridge, netted two goals in what will be a huge boost to his confidence and seeming vindication of Ancelotti’s stated belief that Sturridge can replace the African Nations departed Ivory Coast striker. Are you convinced Sturridge is the answer? Personally, I think the acid test will come in some of Chelsea’s tough Premier League games in January rather than an FA Cup stroll against lower league opposition.
3. El Hadji Diouf is still a berk.
He’s been rather quiet this season hasn’t he? Blackburn Rovers Senegalese star seemed to have quietened down and wasn’t making the headlines for all the wrong reasons this year. However he was back to his old tricks against Aston Villa with a dreadful lunge at Habib Beye. A straight red and comforting to note that Diouf is still prone to bouts of crass stupidity. I was worried he was going to be sensible for the entire season at one point.
4. Aaron Ramsey looks well capable of filling in for Cesc Fabregas.
Not content with scoring a brilliant goal last week in the rout of Portsmouth, the young Welshman played a big part in bringing Arsenal back from a goal down to eventually topple West Ham 2-1 at Upton Park. His running with the ball, pace, vision and ability to score a goal at a crucial time have him earmarked as a real prospect not just for the future, but for the present also.
5. What was once the world’s premiere competition, is now a side show.
It’s not me saying that. It’s the managers who continually field weaker teams in the competition, it is the fans who don’t bother to turn up to FA Cup games and leave their teams playing in half empty stadia up and down the country, it’s the fact that Arsene Wenger bemoaned staying IN the competition and hinted that he’d have been happy to be like Sir Alex Ferguson and be OUT of it so he could focus on what matters (for that you can read the richer competitions). It makes a mockery of what was once the greatest club competition in the world and it is a great, great shame.
What five things did you learn this weekend? Let us know below.
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