The FA Cup quarter-final draw took place over the weekend and… Wait, did we just jump the gun here? Apparently, there was some FA Cup action before the draw and Premier League heavyweights did manage to gather enough players to deal with this not-so-minor irritant. How many managers were caught mumbling “Bah, humbug” by astute lip-readers? Did fans of an eliminated team collectively chant “Never fancied her anyway” while exiting the turnstiles? It’s all here, so let’s dig in.
Rochdale: It was the mother of all mismatches in the FA Cup this weekend – underappreciated, unloved and underrated Tottenham Hotspur came up against the mighty Rochdale. Spurs gave it their all, but Rochdale were just too strong for them as they forced a replay at Wembley. Just like Newport County before them. There’s a pattern here, if you can spot it.
Harry Kane: He only bloody scored. Again.
Antonio Conte: Beating teams stranded at the bottom of their respective leagues won’t make much of a difference when Barcelona come to town, but it’s something to hang on to. Like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, clinging to his raft in the face of a giant wave. The outcome of that endeavour will likely be the same.
Willian: Whatever Kane can do, Willian is able too.
Manchester United: Keeping their treble hopes alive. But City already have one hand on the Premier League, you say? Ah, but Jose will use the new ‘Transfer Window Winners’ trophy as the third one if that means he gets to wave three fingers on the podium.
Romelu Lukaku: The big Belgian took his goal tally to four goals in the FA Cup, having scored against luminaries such as Derby County, Yeovil Town and Huddersfield Town so far. Très impressionnant, non?
Southampton: A bittersweet victory, seeing as how they’ll now have another game added to their schedule. Shall we reserve a seat for you in the Championship for next season already, chaps?
Brighton: Another team in a similar situation to the Saints. But Chris Hughton’s class – and the fact that the home support does not hate his methods – might be enough to keep the ship steady while they compete on two fronts.
Jamie Vardy: The poor man’s Harry Kane?
Tottenham Hotspur: It could only happen to them. After needing a replay to overcome Newport County in the last round, Spurs just went and did it again. Maybe they really don’t want to win this competition and actually believe they will be remembered as the most entertaining team since dinosaurs played hoof-ball, despite having diddly squat in the trophy cabinet. Or perhaps, the reports of their “brilliance” have been greatly exaggerated.
Paul Pogba: From being the world’s most expensive player to becoming just another check-mark in Mourinho’s ‘List of things that go wrong when I’m about to get myself sacked’. Quite a fall.
Swansea: Stuck between a rock and a hard place. They now have another game to play in a competition they would rather not be in, at all. And I know I’m sticking my neck out on this, but should they win the replay they can kiss the Premier League goodbye.
West Brom: After four WBA players participated in GGTA – Geriatric Grand Theft Auto – in Barcelona, it was believed Pardew would make them dance with him in training until they fell to the floor, exhausted. Instead, he decided to play most of them in the FA Cup game against Southampton, hoping they won’t get in the team bus at half-time and drive away. They produced a performance you could only muster if you’d been binging on deep-fried fast food before the game. So, their losing streak continues, with no end in sight. The fans are certainly not lovin’ it.
Alan Pardew: Is that a hint of self-doubt I see on Alan’s face? When asked if he thinks he is the right man to save West Brom from relegation, Pardew could only come up with “I hope so” instead of jumping on the table and beating his puffed up chest. He could be a broken man by the time the season ends.
Vendetta Against Rulers On TV: Commonly referred to as VAR, the new technology was back under the microscope when Juan Mata’s goal was disallowed. It turned out to be the correct decision, even though it took several minutes to come to a conclusion. But it’s those squiggles that we saw on TV, apparently used to indicate the offside line, which were responsible for much of the confusion. No, VAR didn’t come up with those; it was the broadcasters. A piss-drunk alcoholic could have drawn straighter lines with his one eye shut. VAR is already making a notoriously technophobic audience nervous, let’s not make it worse by doing this sort of thing and showing it live to millions on TV, yeah? Use a ruler.