FA Cup 4th Round Weekend Review
It appears that the FA Cup is slowly coming back into the hearts of the millions of football fans in the United Kingdom. While they might have lost their way with it in recent seasons, there are some great stories being played out in this year’s competition.
Here are five things that stood out in the FA Cup 4th Round over the weekend’s fixtures:
Alexis Sánchez shows what he can bring
Alexis Sánchez made his highly anticipated debut against Yeovil Town of all places for Manchester United in the FA Cup.
The Chilean showed that he can offer a certain risk element to his game and is not a player that will play the simple pass. He might get stick for misplaced passes and being dispossessed, as he did on Friday evening, but Manchester United need players who are more willing to explore those parts of the game instead of picking out the easy ball.
Sánchez started on the left but drifted into the middle on a number of occasions throughout the match, offering his support to Marcus Rashford. The former Arsenal star also swapped wings with Juan Mata from time to time, allowing the Red Devils’ front line to act in a fluid manner, causing the defenders to drift out of position and create space in-behind.
He picked up the Man of the Match award which was most definitely deserved. Sánchez completed two stunning dribbles into Yeovil’s area that created chances for United’s attackers, but no one was on hand to finish.
It might have only been against League Two opposition, but Sánchez gave Manchester United fans a glimpse of what is to come. His first big test will be against Tottenham this Wednesday at Wembley.
Liverpool’s defence on the ropes
Once again we saw Jürgen Klopp’s defence crumble into a big heap on the floor while West Brom took advantage and scored three goals in quick succession.
It is not uncommon to see Liverpool’s defence on their backsides, but this was a new low for the Reds, who have recently just commissioned a world-record fee of £75m for Dutch centre-back Virgil Van Dijk. It was an embarrassing performance from all of the defenders in Liverpool’s team, but the former Saints man had a shaky performance and one that he would like to forget quickly.
While exiting the FA Cup is not disastrous in Liverpool’s season, it does open up the possibility of potentially failing to qualify for the Champions League due to a lacklustre and permeable defence.
Klopp must try to find some composure in his defensive selection because they simply cannot carry on with the way they have been since their emphatic win against Manchester City. The Reds’ complacency at the back could be their downfall.
Spurs in danger of losing stars
Tottenham showed their disregard to the FA Cup with a disappointing performance away to Newport County – a team who play in League Two.
Mauricio Pochettino utilised his first team starters in a strong first team, but the overall play from Tottenham was sloppy and reckless. Newport County played well and was wholeheartedly deserving of a trip to Wembley, but Spurs fans were rightfully aggravated by such a laid-back approach.
Harry Kane was Tottenham’s saviour as he has been for the past few seasons, but unless Spurs pull it out of the bag and land a trophy this year, they could be in serious danger of losing their key players.
What would make the situation worse would be Spurs’ failure to finish in the top four and therefore miss out on next season’s Champions League competition. If that is the case, coupled with their inability to win trophies, there are very few reasons why the likes of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen would stay on a wage that could be trebled elsewhere.
Claude Puel is doing wonders with Leicester City
Debutant Fousseni Diabté, signed from Gazélec Ajaccio this January, made a massive impact with two goals in Leicester’s romp away to Peterborough United.
It has to be said that Claude Puel, formerly of Southampton, has been doing a fantastic job with the Foxes, and deserves the credit that is coming his way.
The French tactician has taken Leicester well away from any sight of danger and into seventh place, with an eye clearly on Europa League qualification. Leicester certainly has the squad to do well in the competition, it is just a matter of formalities in finishing in the top seven.
Leicester have been back to their best in the transfer market by holding strong and firm on Riyad Mahrez, as well as finding gems such as Diabaté in Ligue II.
Puel was harshly dismissed from Southampton and so it would be rather pleasant if he can take the Foxes deep into the FA Cup as well as ending the season on a high note in the Premier League.
Why does Chelsea want to send Michy Batshuayi on loan?
Chelsea’s striker merry-go-round continues and will do so until the deadline is reached on Wednesday evening. It has been noted that the Blues are seeking out a physical and aerially-dominant centre-forward with Álvaro Morata currently struggling to find the back of the net.
A player who does not have such ill fortunes is Michy Batshuayi – one of the league’s most underrated players. It appears that Chelsea is looking to send him on-loan before the window shuts and bring in a replacement for the rest of the season.
It seems such an odd move for a player who has managed to score 10 goals in 25 appearances this season, a goal every 107 minutes, with most coming from the bench and without any real game rhythm. There are only a handful of players who do not need regular starts to score, and Batshuayi looks to be one of those.
The Batsman, as he is commonly referred to, has been the provider of a few crucial goals this season, and so it defies belief that Chelsea is willing to loan him until the end of the season with a potential option for that team to purchase him.
Batshuayi is a perfectly capable striker and a proven goal scorer in England. The Belgian international might not be able to hit the heights of Diego Costa, but he has rarely been given a chance to excel from the first whistle. The handling of his situation has been harsh.