Euro 2020 Special

Talking Points From FA Cup Third Round

The FA Cup saw intense action over the weekend as 64 clubs across all tiers of English football competed to enter the fourth round of the competition. 20 teams were promoted from the second round, while all 20 Premier League clubs and 24 EFL Championship clubs joined the tournament over the weekend.

The round saw numerous upsets as eight of the 20 Premier League clubs were eliminated – the highest since 2007. Five fixtures will be replayed this weekend, with Liverpool and Leeds United failing to win over the weekend against Wolves and Cardiff City respectively.

Here are five talking points from the FA Cup third-round action from the last week.


Graham Potter in trouble at Chelsea

The Blues suffered a humiliating 4-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City over the weekend with Pep Guardiola’s men outclassing Chelsea in all departments.

Riyad Mahrez opened the score for the Citizens in the 23rd minute with Julian Alvarez adding to the score just seven minutes later from the penalty spot.

The Blues were so poor in the second-half that by the end of the night, their xG was 0.1 – the lowest total for them in the last five seasons across all competitions.

Graham Potter’s future at Stamford Bridge is increasingly looking untenable. Chelsea lost narrowly to Manchester City before their FA Cup fixture, and they followed it up with a 2-1 loss to Fulham yesterday. With just one victory in their last 10 games across all competitions, the Blues are increasingly looking like a second-tier side in the Premier League.

This is the first time since 1999 that Chelsea were eliminated from the third round of the FA Cup, and the criticism of Graham Potter’s tactics is increasingly finding traction among fans and experts.


Wrexham shock Coventry

The biggest upset of the round came from Wrexham, who compete in the National League, the fifth tier of the English football league system.

In a thrilling seven-goal encounter, they prevailed over EFL Championship side Coventry City on Saturday. With 59 places in the English pyramid between the two sides, the fixture saw Wrexham firing all their cylinders during the night.

Sam Dalby and Elliott Lee opened the score for Wrexham in the first-half, scoring back-to-back goals to give the National League side an unexpected early advantage. While Ben Sheaf narrowed the deficit for Coventry City, Thomas O’Connor put Wrexham once again on top with a late goal in extra time of the first-half.

Paul Mullin’s goal in the 58th minute almost sealed the victory for Wrexham, but 10-man Coventry City scored two goals in the second-half to come back into the game. Wrexham had to defend the lead with all their energy which they were able to do to secure a historic victory.


Liverpool and Leeds United struggle

Late-night VAR drama saw Liverpool survive their fixture against Wolves, as Toti Gomes’ 83rd-minute goal was disallowed by the referee.

Liverpool made four changes in their starting XI for their fixture with Jurgen Klopp giving a debut to Cody Gakpo. The Reds produced the first few chances of the night, but it was the Wolves who opened the scoreboard with Goncalo Guedes netting the ball. Darwin Nunez was able to volley the ball past Matija Sarkic despite faltering in front of the goalline to equalise the score.

Liverpool came out with guns blazing in the second-half as Mohamed Salah scored early in the second-half to give Jurgen Klopp’s side the lead. But Hee-Chan Hwang’s equaliser 15 minutes later means that the game will be replayed next week.

Leeds United were able to earn a replay of the FA Cup third round as they struggled against Cardiff City on Sunday. The EFL Championship side struck twice in the first-half with Jaden Philogene and Sheyi Ojo putting the hosts with back-to-back strikes.

With the visitors facing elimination, Jesse Marsch brought on Rodrigo who quickly reposed the faith put in him by scoring in the 65th minute.

The striker missed a golden opportunity to equalise the score for Leeds United in the 81st minute when he missed a penalty-kick. Sonny Perkins’ late strike in extra time kept the Whites alive in the competition.


Manchester City to face Arsenal

Premier League leaders Arsenal will face defending champions Arsenal in a titanic clash in the fourth round with the Gunners easing past Oxford City on Tuesday.

Mohamed Elneny opened the score line for Mikel Arteta’s side in the 63rd minute with Eddie Nketiah scoring two goals minutes later to seal the victory for Arsenal.

The FA Cup fixture means that the two sides will face each other at least thrice in the next three months with the Premier League fixture getting postponed earlier during the season.


Are Premier League sides taking the competition too lightly?

Criticism is flowing in from all quarters regarding the performance of Premier League sides in the FA Cup, with eight of the 20 sides exiting from the tournament already while others struggled to advance to the fourth round.

While the tournament remains the best opportunity for lower-league sides to play against the best clubs in England, top-tier clubs are increasingly fielding youngsters and reserve players in a bid to rest key players.

While this approach by some teams is justified to some extent given how busy the calendar for these teams has become, it becomes a clear mark of disrespect for the tournament when sides like Newcastle United and Aston Villa rest their main players.

Teams like Liverpool and Manchester City have won the tournament using their second-choice players in the past, but as Chelsea are finding out, the approach might not always work.




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