After a packed festive period, the Premier League took a break last weekend and made way for the FA Cup. The third round provided its fair share of controversial moments with one manager paying the price for a surprising but not-so-surprising defeat, one referee completely ignoring something you’d see in WWE and one club that are never far from the headlines.
3. Mark Hughes
I promise this is the last time the now former Stoke City manager makes this shortlist for the time being. That’s because he’s been sacked. At long last, the Stoke fans have been put out of their misery and the Stoke board really had no choice after Hughes’s side were knocked out by League Two Coventry in the third round of the FA Cup. Jack Grimmer’s late strike sealed a 2-1 win for the lower league side and Stoke became the first victim of a weekend of shocks. After a large turnover of players in the last couple of years, Stoke have gone from three consecutive 9th place finishes to fighting relegation and the fans had become increasingly impatient with Hughes and the team. The former Manchester United and Chelsea midfielder leaves the club in the relegation zone after a poor run of form. Were we really that shocked that they went down at Coventry? I don’t think so.
2. Bobby Madley
It’s no coincidence this referee features quite often in this column, he’s that bad. Madley was assigned the Merseyside Derby on Friday night in the FA Cup third round at Anfield and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Firstly. Madley gave a soft penalty after Mason Holgate breathed on Adam Lallana which James Milner converted to put Liverpool 1-0 up. With tempers boiling, Mason Holgate shoved Roberto Firmino into the Liverpool fans on the near touchline – a definite yellow card and maybe even a red for endangering the Brazilian’s safety.
A furious Firmino emerged from the crowd like a WWE wrestler storming back into the ring after being hurled out and came face-to-face with Holgate before Madley came between them. Firmino obviously said something offensive towards Holgate, which Madley has since reported to the FA, and the Everton youngster was incensed. He grabbed the referee in a bid to get his attention, a certain red card. After everything had calmed down, Madley went over to consult the fourth official about something but decided, bizarrely, not to punish anyone.
The Gunners just can’t seem to string two good games together. They fought back to draw against Chelsea last week in a fairly respectable performance but Hector Bellerin’s stoppage-time equaliser was forgotten by Sunday evening as a much-changed Arsenal side were on the wrong side of a 4-2 drubbing by Nottingham Forest of the Championship. Arsene Wenger, who watched the game from the stands after a touchline ban for questioning Mike Dean’s integrity (don’t we all?), picked a mixture of youth and experience for the trip to the City Ground. Except that those ‘experienced’ players haven’t had many minutes at all this season and it showed in a very poor display.
To make matters worse, pictures emerged of Alex Iwobi, who had started that game for Arsenal, out partying on Friday night – breaking the club’s curfew for matches. Arsene Wenger was forced to sit in his press conference and deny Iwobi hadn’t touched any drugs during the party and maintain that he’d be punished for breaking club rules. An embarrassing situation on and off the pitch for the Gunners, but then again, they’re used to it.