If the FA Cup 3rd round is where giant-killing happens, the FA Cup 4th round is where folklore can be found or, more realistically, the crushing of those plucky little 3rd round winners occurs.
And folks, it was very much the latter this weekend.
There’s an argument to say the closest we came to a major shock was down at Cheltenham, where Peppy G’s thoroughbred racehorses faced fireworks and missiles being launched from the side of the pitch.
Ben Tozer’s very best Rory Delap’s were discussed before the match at length and, understandably, City looked all at sea each time the opportunity came along – after all, you can’t imagine Guardiola spent too much time in training practising the art of defending the very long throw.
Had there been some FA Cup romance in the air, the match would have ended after 70 minutes and we’d have had the goal that would be replayed every year until 2052 – but romance was otherwise engaged, sadly, probably in lockdown and not allowed out.
City scored three in the last eight minutes – boo and indeed hiss.
The of-so-conveniently-drawn headline tie of the round was at Old Trafford where in-form Manchester United welcomed very much out-of-form Liverpool in what all us neutrals hoped would be a better affair than two weeks ago. And the FA Cup gods at least allowed us a little enjoyment.
Firmino and Salah quickly remembered that goal-creating/scoring feeling which inspired Mason Greenwood, his personal drought being twice the length of Liverpool’s, to get United level. Blows were traded and then it came down to the big guns off the bench to get the job done – Bruno Fernandes, in to the game to blast home a free-kick where you have to wonder why the wall was set up in that way.
Once more, Jurgen fails to go deep into the cup and United can keep driving towards another semi-final defeat.
At Stamford Bridge, Luton may have kept us waiting to get their match versus Chelsea underway due to, allegedly, snow affecting the clock in the makeshift away dressing room, but Chelsea came out of the blocks quickly and got two early doors. Not just two goals, of course. But two balls. For Chelsea’s opener, two balls were on the pitch – a fact worryingly ignored by the referee and two linesmen. Did the ball interfere with play? Well, given that both Luton central defenders were watching the wrong ball and the new ball was chucked in behind them, you could argue that it did interfere with play.
That said, with Kepa in goal for Chelsea you are never completely out of a match and Luton became the latest side to test his chocolate wrists to get back into the match. It wasn’t enough as Tammy Abraham helped himself to his hat-trick at the 19th attempt – making the statement ‘there can only be one man-of-the-match’ utterly pundit-like. Abraham was average at best and just happened to not manage to miss all of his chances, three happening to go in.
And if you want the dictionary definition of ‘good height for a keeper’ take a look at Timo Werner’s penalty.
Given that Arsenal won’t finish in the top six or win anything else this season, what was Mikel Arteta’s team selection about? Considering that the Gunners did really, really well to win the cup last season you’d have thought they’d be a tad more interested in defending it. They fully deserved the winning goal to come from an ex-Spurs player – it even managed a bit of classic modern Arsenal with Kyle Walker-Peters’ shot taking a couple of deflections on the way in.
West Ham fans, I apologise now on two counts – one, I think you could win the FA Cup this season which means you are going to crash and burn in the 5th round. Two, I think David Moyes is making you into a very respectable replica of his Everton side from way back when. Up until last season, you’d have thought the Hammers at home to Doncaster was where we might get a shock but not with this West Ham side – 4-0, job done.
The weekend’s action got underway in Chorley and how much better would Vitinho’s goal been had it been scored by the home side? As it is, it’ll be forgotten by Thursday.
Sheffield United are in unprecedented territory for this season. That’s three wins out of four now for the Blades, albeit two of which have been in the cup. But, could this cup run help them win Premier League football matches? It cannot do any harm and if nothing else, beating teams in divisions lower than them should stand Wilder in good stead for next season.
Brentford will rue yet another missed opportunity in a cup this season, having led Leicester 1-0 at half time. They were 2-1 down before fans would have taken their seats for the second half, had there been any there. James Maddison, another creative midfielder who keeps being told he needs to add goals to his game, made it four in four as he sealed the win.
Fulham will be more interested in their own top-flight survival than a big FA Cup run so it was no real surprise to see Burnley turn them over 3-0 at Craven Cottage. Equally, the snow would have probably pleased Sean Dyche – a manager who I am still convinced would choose the worst conditions possible to play every match if he was given the option.
The token Premier League match saw Aston Villa easily see of Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United. Hey, Mike. Rafa’s available.