In a new addition to the site, Rich Laverty takes a weekly look at five areas of the weekend’s football and explores the key issues behind teams in form, out of form and why. This week, the FA Cup’s third round ties are put under the microscope; Oliver Giroud’s late goal saves Arsenal and Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe shouldn’t be criticised for making multiple changes, while newly-appointed Hull City boss Marco Silva deserves a fair chance.
Magic of the cup still exists…until the third round
It was hard to find much ‘magic’ around the grounds this weekend. Ok, Plymouth got a very hearty and deserved draw against a young Liverpool side on Sunday afternoon but elsewhere, shocks were scarce.
There comes a point where the competition just becomes a little too strong for the minnows who do make it to this point. I can’t imagine Stourbridge were thrilled with Wycombe away, it was neither a glamour tie nor a particularly winnable one, the same goes for Barrow and Eastleigh.
Millwall did indeed beat Bournemouth comfortably, with Eddie Howe having made 11 changes, but it’s the early rounds where the romance ends. Watching Dartford and Sutton play out a nine-goal thriller, the mighty Curzon Ashton throwing away a 3-0 lead in incredible style and little Merstham Town having their big moment on TV.
The saddest part were the attendances, Cardiff vs Fulham kicked off at 11:30am on Sunday and the ground was three quarters empty. Hull attracted just 6,000 for their game against Swansea while attendances were down at the likes of Sunderland too. Even Old Trafford had empty seats as Manchester United thumped Reading. Magic of the cup? In places, but it’s just sadly not what it once was.
Olivier Giroud, what’s he all about?
I’m not an Arsenal fan, I’ve grown up supporting a team that Arsenal would claim as one of their biggest rivals. But as an unbiased writer I look upon Olivier Giroud and just wonder what’s going on, nobody polarises the Arsenal support quite like the bearded Frenchman.
Giroud has popped up with several key late goals for Arsenal of late – including at Old Trafford, a game where Arsenal could quite easily have walked away on the end of a hammering. Since then, Giroud has popped up with an 86th minute winner against West Brom, a 92nd minute equaliser against Bournemouth and pulled off a scorpion kick against Crystal Palace.
He topped it off with another late winner on Saturday at Preston after offering almost nothing for the majority of the game. It was the same story against West Brom and particularly at Bournemouth. The Cherries were 3-0 up and coasting with Giroud isolated until he flicked on a header for Alexis Sanchez to bring Arsenal back into it.
You can see why Arsenal fans are torn, many games can be recalled where the striker has missed sitter upon sitter (remember Monaco?) and even against Palace he missed a tap in before pulling off the impossible. Seriously, what’s he all about?!
Eddie Howe shouldn’t be criticised
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, Eddie Howe actually mentioned that himself in his post-match interview after Bournemouth became the first Premier League side to lose by three to a lower league team in the FA Cup.
Howe made 11 changes to his Bournemouth team as they buckled at The Den, but that’s Howe’s prerogative to do so. The Premier League allows 25 players to be registered so why not use them? January is an incredibly busy time for all Premier League clubs and footballers are only humans. It’s not ‘disrespectful’, it just goes to show Bournemouth don’t have the finances to have such quality in reserve as the country’s top teams.
Manchester United made nine changes against Reading, but nobody really noticed nor cared because their attack still consisted of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata. Liverpool made ten, as did Chelsea, but the topic was only really brought up if said team didn’t win. If the FA don’t like teams resting players, don’t pack the schedule up so much just before the third round!
Ellis Harrison deserves more credit
Poor Ellis Harrison, the FA Cup third round weekend really is the one weekend a year where the football league gets swept right under the old living room carpet. Just five League One games took place on Saturday as the eyes of the nation turned towards the FA Cup and in one of them something truly remarkable occurred.
It’s all gone a bit wrong for Northampton Town. They were on a remarkable unbeaten run, which they maintained for a further seven matches upon their League One return, but since defeat to Chesterfield, it’s all been downhill.
They’ve now lost 11 of their last 18 matches and on Saturday were on the end of a 5-0 thumping at Bristol Rovers – it was 4-0 at half-time. But what was most remarkable about the occasion was Harrison’s seven-minute hat-trick. Ok, it wasn’t quite Sadio Mane territory but mightily impressive all the same.
Harrison doubled his tally for the season between the 17th and 24th minutes of the match and it’s most likely got a few managers looking around at him given there are still 23 days of the transfer windows remaining…
Marco Silva…let’s give him a chance
On first viewing you could say Hull appointing Marco Silva is just as bizarre Swansea City hiring Bob Bradley.
Two managers with zero Premier League experience brought into dire situations with the challenge of keeping their respective sides in the top division. Silva has received more good grace over the past 24 hours based on some rather derogatory (and wrong) comments from Paul Merson and Phil Thompson, but he really doesn’t deserve such stick.
While Bradley has done well in certain jobs, Silva already has a top division pedigree. 18 months ago he won the Greek League with Olympiakos and he won domestic trophies in Portugal with Sporting Lisbon too, he’s also managed in the Champions League.
Greece and Portugal certainly don’t offer the same challenge as sitting in the Premier League relegation zone does but let’s give the man a chance. After all, he’s got a nice easy start to life in East Yorkshire on Tuesday night…
Follow Rich on Twitter at @RichJLaverty