Greetings. I will start this week’s roundup with some advice. If you can’t say something good about something, don’t say anything at all. The FA Cup 5th round is almost over – good.
That theory won’t really wash when you have to pick 11 players who caught the eye over a weekend of just 7 matches, with the eighth on Monday night. Still, I’ve had a good go of it and we had a penalty save and some VAR stupidity. I can’t wait for normality to return.
Willy Caballero – Willy has made quite the name for himself as a penalty saver, going back to when Man City beat Liverpool on penalties to win the League Cup. He probably saved penalties before that, I just don’t wish to research it. The FA Cup always throws up some interesting discussion points, namely does it still count as an achievement if you save a penalty from David Meyler? In this column, beggars can’t be choosers, so Willy is in and Chelsea are in the quarters.
Alfie Mawson – Mawson might actually be the smartest of us all. He pulled out of the Swansea team to face Sheffield Wednesday with an injury in the warmup, meaning he can’t be tainted by the 90 minutes of dross we endured from there. An awful game which deservedly finished 0-0 and the great news is we get to watch it all again in 10 days. That’s a replay a round for Swansea, the unwanted ratio.
Wesley Hoedt – Last week Hoedt was part of the problem as his mistake led to Liverpool’s opening goal, but he bounced back in the best way possible by getting Southampton off the mark at West Brom on Saturday. If Southampton don’t nickname him ‘the owl’ then football is dead.
Connor Goldson – It’s a nice story for Goldson that a year on from the diagnosis that he needed major heart surgery he was on the scoresheet for Brighton in their 3-1 win over Coventry. The lad has barely had a kick this season due to the form of Duffy and Dunk but this was a reminder to Chris Hughton that he is a very capable replacement.
Willian – Chelsea had the tie with Hull won by half time and that was largely down to the brilliance of the Brazilian, who continues to be criminally underrated. Yes, it was against Hull but it doesn’t matter, how he doesn’t command a more regular place in the Blues’ lineup I really don’t know.
Gareth Barry – Maybe I’m being unfair singling out just one member of the ‘cab four’ but Gareth Barry is, in terms of appearances, the most experienced player in English Premier League history. Let that sink in when you remember he was allegedly part of the group who stole a taxi. West Brom are bottom of the league and now out of the cup and they have that disastrous air about them where everybody keeps doing stupid things. We’ll move on to his manager later.
Juan Mata – Mata thought he’d scored Man Utd’s second before the biggest drama of the weekend took place – the VAR sideshow took another dark turn by not-really-working-but-actually-you-know-what-it-did-work-because-Graham-Poll-said-it-did-after-EIGHT MINUTES. Yes, I’ve included Mata because it allows me to touch on the only talking point of the weekend, or if you watched BT’s coverage the entire 90 minutes. Mata’s knee cap was offside, yes, we eventually discovered that to be true, but we’re talking the finest of fine margins here and I don’t think it was clear and obvious enough to overturn the on-field decision. Then there are the wonky lines. I haven’t seen a line as bad as that since Newcastle tried to play offside against Liverpool under Ruud Gullit. This nuisance machinery is going to ruin a World Cup this summer – unless it turns out it is just the English FA that are incompetent, which seems quite likely.
Lucas Moura – Who would have thought a £25m signing would look good against Rochdale? Still, he took his goal well and he’s off and running. An interesting new option for Spurs especially as he isn’t Moussa Sissoko. Spurs though now have the dream in their hands – they could play every possible FA Cup round at Wembley.
Jamie Vardy – Leicester weren’t at their best on Friday night but they still had enough to get past Sheffield United thanks to Jamie Vardy’s second-half goal. Vardy is really coming into form at the right time after a bit of a dry spell but I’ve been banging the FA Cup drum for Leicester since January – they are now one game away from Wembley and in no danger of being relegated. Throw the kitchen sink at it and I’m sure Bocelli will come back again for a sing-song when you prepare the FA Cup (replace Bocelli with Puel’s favourite if necessary)
Salomon Rondon – Goal of the weekend? A beautiful volley that was reminiscent of Van Persie during his Man Utd title-winning days. Shame it was all for nothing really. Rondon remains a mystery to me. He has a Premier League hat-trick to his name but can go months without scoring or even threatening to score. Call it the Pulis/Pardew factor.
Romelu Lukaku – The second Man Utd goal was a counter-attacking thing of beauty and although the pass into big Rom was nice, the way he took the goal was outstanding. Two for Lukaku on Saturday evening and Mourinho will hope this is the start of yet another purple patch, as Lukaku seems to be a patchy sort of player when it comes to scoring goals.
Alan Pardew – We need to talk about Alan. Why take your players away for some warm weather training when you’ve played Monday and will play again Saturday? Just lunacy. My theory is they booked in advance after seeing the 4th Round Draw, expected to lose to Liverpool and didn’t want to lose their deposit. Either way, the trip has been a disaster. Four of their players allegedly played real-life GTA and they lost to Southampton. Pardew himself will no doubt manage to deflect the blame, but with the people who appointed this fraud already fired, you do wonder if the axe will fall on the Pardy man before it is too late. It is certainly too late for their cup hopes.
That’s it for this week but mercifully the Premier League is back next weekend so hopefully not a VAR in sight. Toodles for now.