The Premier League took a break this weekend, with the FA Cup snaring centre stage once again. Most of the heavyweights in action, so this was a great opportunity for a few upsets – as well as being a chance for the tournament favourites to assert their dominance. Here are five thoughts from three days of pulsating action:
1. Wayne Rooney can still do it
Okay, it was against Derby. But it was still a fabulous strike from the United captain in a 3-1 win and it confirmed what a number of us (including me) had doubted: Wayne Rooney has still got it. Sometimes, at least. The way he pushed the ball back towards his own goal to make room for his curled effort was reminiscent of the days when he played to his strengths and, more importantly, his instincts.
When Wayne Rooney isn’t thinking, he’s still a world beater. Trouble is, that doesn’t happen too much these days.
2. Man City for a treble would be a decent bet
The way City dismantled Aston Villa – romping to a 4-0 result – was delightful, and confirmed the side’s very genuine credentials to win the whole thing. And when one considers that they’re still favourites to win the Premier League-League Cup double, this season’s looking pretty rosy for Manuel Pellegrini’s side.
Talk of Pep taking over in the summer is unlikely to be kept at bay by these sorts of performances, but Pellegrini’s doing a very good job of forcing the City hierarchy to keep him or look stupid in the summer.
3. Leicester’s week off proves fruitful
Claudio Ranieri’s side sat out this week following their replay loss to Tottenham Hotspur, but the Italian and his band will have been delighted to see Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham all go through to the next round. With only 15 league games left, Ranieri will be able to keep his players fresh, while their rivals for top-four positions will not only be playing at least one more FA Cup games, but have games in Europe too.
4. Spurs rotate and win
Could this be a Tottenham side with genuine ability to get past the post when it really matters? Spurs have flattered to deceive for the last 20 years, always having one or two star players but not strength in depth. This all seems to have changed since Pochettino arrived at the helm. Okay, they were only playing Colchester – winning 4-1 – but Spurs still made seven changes and won convincingly. Could this be the year that they finally achieve something big?
5. Klopp plays a weakened side. Again.
Liverpool could only manage a goalless draw when they entertained West Ham; a fact that’s hardly surprising when you consider Jurgen Klopp made 10 changes to the side that started the last league games. Whatever Jurgen says, he clearly doesn’t think much of the FA Cup; but this was a mistake, whichever way you look at it.
On one level, you can understand him wanting to rest players, but the result of this decision is yet another game – Liverpool already have a plethora over the next few weeks, and the stalemate has added to it.
On another, Klopp really should be trying to win this tournament. He hasn’t exactly shone as Liverpool manager so far, but the one thing he can do to endear himself to the Kop is win a trophy. It could even be argued that the Reds would be happy with a lower league position if it meant bringing some silverware to the club, but Klopp clearly does not see it that way.