With half of the Premier League downing tools and having a break in the sun, it was FA Cup weekend once more for those foolish enough to still be in the competition. Whilst Liverpool were in Marbella, poor old Manchester United had to travel to Huddersfield. And West Bromwich Albion, who expected to have the weekend off, still managed to get that trip to Barcelona which, I would imagine, we will talk about in a bit.
Paul Pogba checked his contract and it clearly said that “if Jose blames me for losing 1-0 at Newcastle United then I am allowed to call in sick the next weekend”. And that is exactly what he did because that is exactly what Jose did in the changing room at St James’ Park. Phil Jones also got a bit of flack (but is probably used to that by now). When asked how Pogba was, Jose responded: “I don’t know and I don’t care”. Considering Jose likes to use the media to his advantage and never be caught on the back foot there is something very interesting going on and, in all honesty, something that is far more interesting than the actual game of football in Huddersfield. United won 2-0, Lukaku scored twice. However, once again, we are all pointing at VAR and shouting, “hang on, aren’t you supposed to be improving things?” Whoever painted the lines on the video referee’s monitor had clearly had a few too many at lunchtime and Juan Mata was the first player in history to be called offside because “the lines aren’t straight, ref”.
Chelsea will soon realise that there are better ways to prepare for Barcelona than beating Hull City 4-0 on a Friday night. Olivier Giroud opened his Chelsea account, scoring in the kind of game he used to score in for Arsenal – yes, the very, very easy ones. Do it in the Nou Camp Olivier, then we’ll be impressed.
Tottenham underestimating a lower level team in the Cup, check. Pochettino not even remotely bothered about a trophy that is a major part of Tottenham’s history, check. Premier League team having a moan about a lower league side’s pitch, check. Said pitch completely relaid in a week to please the Premier League side, check. When Ian Henderson and his big foot put Rochdale 1-0 up at half-time, Spotland was almost rocking. If you pick Sissoko from the start, you are telling the opposition you aren’t that bothered. Spurs fans demanded Moura from their team in the second half and Lucas Moura delivered, scoring the equaliser on his first start for the club. It wasn’t the fact that the £25m ex-PSG star was able to score against a League One side that was surprising, it was more the fact that Sissoko weighted the assist to absolute perfection. Tottenham thought they had found the old winning formula, bringing on Dele Alli to fall over in the box and watch Harry Kane tuck away the penalty. Rochdale were not done though, not at all. Steve Davies potted the black into the bottom right corner to earn Rochdale a trip to Wembley and Keith Hill gets to dress up all nice in the dugout one more time.
So, that midweek company jolly to Barcelona. Normally these “trips” come around because the office has hit target, or are performing well. They don’t usually happen when you are bottom of the league, have a totally inept manager and you believed you had the weekend off as you are normally out of the FA Cup by now. West Bromwich Albion flew out to the Catalan capital ahead of their FA Cup match against Southampton and embarrassed themselves more than most teams who end up in Barcelona, though most of them leave having been taken to the cleaners by Lionel Messi, not having stolen a taxi. Skipper Jonny Evans, the “experienced” Gareth Barry, sub goalkeeper Boaz Myhill and hilariously capped by England Jake Livermore allegedly thought it would be “great bantz” to nick the taxi that had taken them to the nearby McDonalds. Seriously, where do you begin? Any Premier League footballer putting a McDonalds into their body that is worth at least £3.6m in the case of Evans should be dropped immediately. Any professional footballer that is bottom of the Premier League and thinks its a good idea to get themselves in the papers for nicking a taxi is an absolute liability. As for Gareth Barry allegedly stealing a cab? You can just imagine him putting his seatbelt on, checking both mirrors and pulling away slowly before probably moving the car sideways and making very little progress forward. It takes some people a few days to get used to driving on the other side of the road, not the Albion lads though. In the same week, WBA sacked their Chief Executive and Chairman, presumably for being stupid enough to appoint Alan Pardew and bring in Daniel Sturridge who is, of course, injured.
Speaking of Pardew, it’s not his fault alright? He’s “furious” with the players and his mood will not have been helped by the fact that they went out and lost 3-2 to Liverpool B having beaten the first team in the last round of the FA Cup. Southampton deserved their win and it could be the kind of victory that boosts them for their Premier League survival chase. As for West Bromwich Albion, they will be Uber excited to return to the Championship.
Considering neither Sheffield Wednesday or Swansea City massively wanted a replay, neither team made much effort to go and win the match. It ended 0-0 and nobody will ever get that 90 minutes back.
Riyad Mahrez is a curious fellow but you can’t help respect him. Or, alternatively, Claude Puel is an incredible man-manager. In his first start since “Manchester Citygate” Mahrez put on a great show against Sheffield United, looking as if he actually loves playing for Leicester City and could quite happily spend the rest of his career in Foxes’ blue. Jamie Vardy scored the winner as Leicester march on to the quarterfinals. It’ll never happen though, I mean can you imagine a small club like Leicester City ripping up the rule book and actually winning a major title like the FA Cup? Not a chance.
Brighton are into the last eight for the first time since 1986, which is weird as football wasn’t invented until 1992. Actually, on a slight tangent, it was fun watching Sky’s Soccer Saturday on, well, Saturday. As they don’t have the FA Cup rights it was almost as if the competition didn’t exist as the likes of Paul Merson and Phil Thompson were forced to watch Championship matches and act as if they had any clue as to what was going on. Brighton beat Coventry City 3-1 with Jurgen Locadia scoring on his debut. £14.1m he cost, one-seventh of Romelu Lukaku.
Unsurprisingly, with the FA Cup being particularly dull this season, the four remaining big names avoided each other in the quarter-final draw. That said, Wigan Athletic will have definitely looked at Leicester in the next round as a game they can win.
Hector Bellerin had the best week of his Arsenal career, answering a question about Arsenal FanTV openly and honestly, which is rare in this day and age. Bellerin admitted he finds it strange that any individual that claims to love the club can make more of a living when the club is struggling. I know, right? Imagine saying you love something and then putting food on your table by poking fun at it….