Rich Laverty takes a look at some of the weekend’s FA Cup action as the competition showcased Premier League upsets and Non-League victories, while over in Spain Barcelona’s disallowed goal raises questions about the need for goal-line technology in La Liga.
That cup magic…again
There’s been a lot of talk over the weekend about the number of upsets in the FA Cup. After the last round, I suggested the magic of the cup was diminished from the third round onwards due to the amount of changes made by the top sides – not just in the Premier League either.
In my honest opinion it still rings true. Yes, it was great watching Lincoln progress past Brighton and seeing Sutton knock out Leeds but would these games be so close if the top teams played their full-strength sides?
Nobody got excited last week when Coventry City knocked Swansea’s B team out of the Checkatrade Trophy because we all knew it wasn’t a representative Swansea side. It was another weekend which saw Jurgen Klopp change nine players for Liverpool’s match against Wolves, Spurs also made nine changes, and even Championship promotion-chasers Leeds United changed ten players for their match at Sutton United while Brighton made nine of their own at Lincoln. FA Cup holders Manchester United also made nine changes and did anyone sit down in anticipation on Saturday night when Southampton and Arsenal put their B teams up against each other? Unlikely.
It’s great seeing lower league and even non-league sides get as far as the fifth round but the weekend once again proved that top sides just don’t see the FA Cup as a priority anymore, and that’s sad.
More worryingly, why don’t those coming in grab their chances?
I’ll be fair and offer up the counter argument to my rant above and that is that most of these teams should still be capable of beating the sides they come up against.
Leeds United are a good example, despite the changes those players are at the club because Garry Monk clearly believes they are good enough to be part of a squad looking for promotion to the Premier League. So why when they were all given a rare chance did they not look bothered? It was the same for a large part of Saturday’s games for Tottenham, Brighton and Newcastle.
Even Manchester United looked thoroughly disinterested for most of the first half against Wigan. Jose Mourinho handed chances to the likes of Antony Martial and Luke Shaw, but the pace and intensity was non-existent for 45 minutes. These are players who should be busting a gut to prove they can be regular first-teamers but it appears most are content to sit in the shadows and pick up their weekly pay packet. Admittedly Martial came to life after the break as United ran out comfortable winners…
The only squad players who did themselves justice this weekend were Arsenal’s players. Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott and co. impressed but the less said about Southampton the better, what exactly was Sam McQueen doing for that third goal?! Certainly no desire there…
Klopp needs a ‘Plan B’
It just isn’t going very well for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool right now. While the January schedule has been particular cruel on Klopp’s side, they could have saved themselves one midweek match if they’d sent Plymouth packing at Anfield in the the FA Cup third round.
There’s no doubt rotation is necessary during such a run of games, but it seemed odd that Klopp rotated almost his entire team against Wolves with the League Cup gone and the Premier League looking more unlikely by the week.
But Liverpool need some new ideas, they look tired and their high press isn’t as effective as it was at the start of the season. Teams have sussed them out, even Wolves – currently 18th in the Championship – managed to sit deep and counter quickly on Saturday and that’s not a good look for a manager with Klopp’s reputation.
With Antonio Conte’s Chelsea perfectly set up to do what Wolves did and with much better players, things might get ugly if Liverpool record a fourth home defeat in 11 days when the Blues come to play on Tuesday night.
We should all hope for Lincoln vs Sutton
Though I’ve continued to be the critical of the FA Cup and the supposed ‘magic’ it continues to throw up, we should really hope at this stage that the likes of Lincoln and Sutton draw each other in Monday’s draw.
Although seeing Manchester United or Arsenal going to Sincil Bank or Gander Green Lane would be great, and seeing a non-league side progress as far as the quarter-finals would be a lovely story. With several sides left in the draw who are punching above their weight, there’s every chance we could see someone from the National League make the final eight if the draw is kind to them.
If not, I’m sure any of them would welcome a money-spinning trip to Old Trafford or the Emirates Stadium.
Spain needs goal-line technology
I’ve not seen a goal disallowed that was as far over the line as Barcelona’s on Sunday since poor Pedro Mendes saw his effort at Old Trafford disallowed over a decade ago.
While there was no goalkeeping catastrophe on the levels on Roy Carroll under the Betis sun, how the linesman failed to spot the ball was at least a foot over the line is beyond me and probably anyone who watched the game live
La Liga is the only one of the top five leagues in Europe that hasn’t yet brought in such technology, so hopefully Sunday was a stark reminder that we’re continually foolish to rely on the accuracy of officials to decide the outcome of big games.
Follow Rich on Twitter at @RichJLaverty