Hello! FA Cup 3rd Round weekend is one of the best days on the football calendar for me, and even if we’ve got not non-league side in the 3rd round, there were still plenty of talking points and a few shocks. Seeing as we’re Tales from the Top Flight, I have limited my selection to Premier League players only. The team selections were far stronger than expected, in some cases, so here are the best and worst cast members of this weekend’s production, with a manager to boot.
Nick Pope – This lad has done an unbelievable job for Burnley since stepping in for the injured Tom Heaton, in fact, I don’t recall him making a single error. That is of course until Saturday, when he found himself outside of his box with Leroy Sane charging towards him. Popey offered a sort of star jump defence which Sane sidestepped and it was soon 4-1. Get them out of your system now, it’s back to the Premier League next week.
Virgil van Dijk – Well that was a chaotic Friday evening, wasn’t it? Amidst all the carnage, a £75m debutant headed in a Merseyside Derby winner, becoming an instant hero. Of course, this will be overshadowed by two other headlines – the spat between Holgate and Firmino is being investigated, whilst Philippe Coutinho has been sold to Barcelona. January is going to be pretty interesting for Liverpool.
Steve Cook – Another scoring defender, but Cook’s 90th-minute header kept his side in the competition for the time being. A replay at Wigan won’t be easy, but they’d rather have that than be out. Cook has now scored in consecutive matches and continues to be an important figure in Bournemouth’s progression (or lack of).
Per Mertesacker – There’s an old joke that milk turns quicker than Per Mertesacker, but it turns out this is actually an insult to milk. Nottingham Forest and their army of children who are very good at football had a field day against poor old Per, simply knocking the ball beyond the big German and letting Brereton run past him. Of course Per did score, which is more than can be said of Theo Walcott, but it was the whole “conceding 4 goals to Championship opposition” that has brought Arsenal’s defence of the FA Cup to a rather premature conclusion.
Jesse Lingard – Lionel Jesse was at it again on Friday night, another fantastic goal for his ever-increasing showreel. After England qualified for the World Cup, I wrote an article speculating on the 23 for next Summer. Lingard was nowhere near the Man Utd first 11 at the time, whereas now I’d say he’d be one of the first names in the squad. Quite the turnaround.
Leroy Fer – The softest red card of all time? Fer went for the old “cynical trip, take a booking for the team” scenario, yet somehow the referee deemed it a red card. It will get overturned.
Jacob Murphy – Newcastle’s win was fairly routine, for the most part, and you’d think a team 3-0 up at half time would have played quite well. In reality, it was a little bit smash and grab, but I’ve picked out Murphy as the standout performer. It was Murphy’s driving run that won the free kick which lead to Perez’s opening goal and the winger was a constant threat willing to run at the opposition.
Josh Cullen – Oh my how I winced. We didn’t need to see slow-motion replays of a young man getting his front tooth kicked out but we did, over and over again. Fair play to the lad for playing on, I’d have taken a week off but Cullen came back to finish the match despite having to do an entire wardrobe change on the sideline and being given milk…for some reason. Anyway, I hope they can patch him up as it’s an awful thing to happen.
Sergio Aguero – Sergio is at it again. Free from the rotation shackle that is Gabriel Jesus, Aguero scored twice in a little over a minute to turn the tie on its head. Of course, Aguero was helped by two assists from Ilkay Gundogan, the second a lovely backheel, but it’s looking pretty ominous for the rest of the Premier League with the momentum Aguero is picking up at the moment.
Hal Robson-Kanu – What an awful penalty. Alan Pardew secured his first win as West Brom manager away at Exeter, but crikey, he wasn’t helped by this woeful spot-kick that was easily saved. Still, they’re in the hat for Round 4, and that’s not down to Hal.
Mame Biram Diouf – Stoke had about 400 shots at Coventry on Saturday, and whilst I don’t think you can blame Diouf entirely for Mark Hughes losing his job, he certainly didn’t help matters by failing to convert a number of chances both here and against Newcastle on New Year’s Day. I guess you could say he took one for the team.
Mark Hughes – Goodnight, sweet prince. Sacked just hours after Stoke’s defeat at Coventry, the only shock is that he hadn’t been sacked before the game. Stoke have Man Utd away next Monday night, which can’t help matters. There’s no clear favourite on who will take over but they are inheriting a squad of very good players who seem to have lost a bit of cohesion. That’s what selling Glenn Whelan does for you.
That’s all for this week, but it’s back to the Premier League next weekend. Toodles for now.