A pulsating weekend of FA Cup action brought with it a fair few shocks–Tottenham, Chelsea and Man City were all felled by inferior opposition. Here are five of the biggest talking points from a magical round:
Chelsea’s exit could be a blessing in disguise…
Despite Jose Mourinho’s proclamation that to lose at home to Bradford City was a“disgrace”and that he was“ashamed”by the result, there is a very real sense in which Chelsea exiting the FA Cup at this stage is a good thing as far as their pursuit of bigger trophies is concerned.
With a fierce title race to contend with, and the Champions League as a prize that Mourinho will clearly be keen to add to his trophy cabinet, lessening the games that they’ll need to play this season could well be a godsend.
…while City need to shape up or their manager’s likely to be shipped out
Chelsea’s encounter with Bradford may have been a topsy-turvy one, but there was nothing unjust or strange about City losing at home to Middlesborough. The Citizens looked limp and lifeless as they welcomed the Teesiders to the Etihad.
What will concern Manuel Pellegrini is that this was not some hastily assembled skeleton side. Whilst Chelsea had a midweek game to contend with, City had no such excuse, and even a cursory glance at their team-sheet would tell the observer that a strong side took to the field against Boro.
City’s main issue right now is that key players are underperforming. Aguero doesn’t look fit, while Kompany continues his awful run of form. The Citizens may be hanging on in the title race, but a few more performances like this and the thread they’re hanging by will break. Should this happen, it seems unlikely that Pellegrini will stick around for too long.
Man United are far from fixed
Despite their position on the Premier League table, the reality is that after spending north of£100 million on players last summer, Manchester United are not noticeably better than the side that David Moyes led to a disastrous seventh last season.
Their latest performance saw them fail to score in 90 minutes against non-league side Cambridge City, and given that the title is almost certainly out of reach this season, the FA Cup is their best chance of silverware. Silverware that Louis van Gaal could really do with. The reality is that United will probably progress after the replay, but the fact remains that this really isn’t good enough following such heavy investment.
Liverpool really are struggling to score
After yet another listless performance in a 0-0 draw against Bolton, one really has to wonder what’s next for Liverpool.
Despite having 24 shots, the Reds only managed to get nine on target–and converted none of those chances. While Daniel Sturridge’s return can’t come soon enough, the decision to buy Mario Balotelli last summer seems stranger and stranger by the day. Not even on the bench against Bolton, Balotelli is apparently underperforming in training; whatever the reason for his non-appearance, his purchase is looking like an expensive mistake.
The FA Cup is amazing
With three of the top four losing and plenty of other shocks, the FA Cup is back with a bang. And the best bit? It’s wide open. Anyone betting on the winner right now is a very brave punter.