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FA Cup Fourth Round: 10 Talking Points From the Weekend Action

FA Cup Fourth Round: 10 Talking Points From the Weekend Action

Thursday, 31 January, 2019 - 06:30
Romelu Lukaku of Manchester United; Jake Cooper of Millwall; John Coleman, manager of Accrington Stanley. Composite: REX/Shutterstock/Getty Images/Reuters
London - The Guardian Sport
1) Accrington manager misses magic of the Cup

It was a pity John Coleman saw fit to savage Jon Moss, stealing the headlines when his players’ tremendous performance against Derby deserved more attention. The referee did not get everything right but the Accrington manager was wrong to describe his decisions as horrendous, particularly as his supposedly worst call only led to the corner that resulted in the goal. Frank Lampard was on safer ground talking of the magic of the FA Cup. “We had 2,500 fans here and I thought it was great, it felt like a proper game,” the Derby manager said. “I’ve played in Cup ties like that for Chelsea, we won 1-0 at Scarborough a few years back and by no means were we the much better team. This was difficult, it was real football, and I’m glad my players experienced it. That’s the beauty of the FA Cup, it’s not just about winning the final, it’s about adapting to new challenges and different conditions. I enjoyed being a part of it.” Paul Wilson

2) Arnautovic adds to West Ham’s strange Saturday

Even by West Ham’s standards the timing was curious. Minutes after their defeat by AFC Wimbledon was confirmed on Saturday night the club’s Twitter account announced their star forward had signed a contract extension. “I glad [sic] to play again, show myself and score goals, to make assists,” said Marko Arnautovic, who had been linked with a move to China. “But also to say that the major point is Marko Arnautovic never refused [to play or train]. I would never refuse.” The Austrian was nowhere to be seen at Kingsmeadow as West Ham failed to reach the fifth round for the third successive season but he is expected to be in contention to face Wolves on Tuesday having made only three appearances in 2019. Yet after he appeared so willing to leave West Ham to “win titles” in China, one has to doubt whether Arnautovic will stick around much longer. Ed Aarons

3) Solskjær tactical tweaks show a proper manager at work

Ole Gunnar Solskjær gave a little tactical insight with the nonchalance of a kid solving a Rubik’s Cube with one hand whirring away while staring casually into the middle distance. The matter in question was the posting of Romelu Lukaku down the right channel. Solskjær proved his eye for strategic awareness by identifying the need to put someone physically strong against the barrelling Sead Kolasinac – one of Arsenal’s most productive instigators of attacks – while also noting the opposition full-backs leave spaces to exploit. Bingo. Lukaku was highly influential, creating two goals with precision passes for Alexis Sánchez and Jesse Lingard, while also nullifying a threat. Solskjær’s shrewd choices and calm explanations provide further evidence there is more to this situation than an old friend turning up and making everyone feel happy. He means business. Amy Lawrence

4) Higuaín on the wrong frequency

Gonzalo Higuaín was energetic and whole-hearted, super-keen to make an impression on his Chelsea debut against Sheffield Wednesday; to illuminate his first appearance in English club football with something special. It did not happen. The service from a Chelsea midfield which saw three different players tried in the role in front of the back four was poor but what stood out was that understanding would not come instantly. “He made a couple of great moves in the first half but we couldn’t find the right ball,” Gianfranco Zola, the Chelsea assistant manager, said. “We couldn’t see his movements.” A number of quality players have laboured in the role of Chelsea No 9 – even Eden Hazard – and it is because it is a tough gig; heavy on workload, surprisingly low on touches. It will be fascinating to see whether Higuaín can make the necessary adjustments in the coming weeks. David Hytner

5) Spurs’ substitutes not up to scratch against Palace

Mauricio Pochettino’s decision to leave Christian Eriksen out of his squad was a factor in Spurs’ defeat at Selhurst Park but it was understandable with the Dane having played 90 minutes against Chelsea on Thursday, a testing Premier League match against Watford on Wednesday, Borussia Dortmund on the horizon, and the very real risk of losing him to injury amid Harry Kane’s and Dele Alli’s enforced absences. With Lucas Moura, Érik Lamela and Fernando Llorente, Pochettino still had enough attacking options to beat Palace but was let down by his players up against a Palace central defensive pair who have played only one game together this season. That Spurs did not score is testament to Martin Kelly, Scott Dann and Roy Hodgson’s coaching but also how disappointing Lucas, Llorente and Lamela, as a second-half substitute, were. James Piercy

6) Guardiola admits desire to emulate Barcelona

For Pep Guardiola the challenge for Manchester City is clear – try to “imitate Barcelona, Juventus and Bayern Munich” by relentlessly competing for trophies. This was the manager’s mantra after City cuffed Burnley aside 5-0. “It’s important in January we are there,” Guardiola said. “The big clubs, that is the big difference – Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, these are the best teams in the last decade in Europe: why? Because every season they win the league, every season they win the cups, every season they are there [competing]. It’s [very] difficult to imitate them. So Premier League until the end, Carabao Cup final after [winning it last season] – chapeau, hats off for my players. Through in the FA Cup, prepare to play Schalke in the Champions League [next month]. That’s when you become a better team, a better club.” Jamie Jackson

7) Dolan strikes and then pays respect to mentor
Dave Parnaby could not hide his disappointment when the team-sheets were distributed. The former head of Middlesbrough’s academy had hoped to watch one of his old protégés, Matty Dolan, play in midfield for Newport. Dolan, though, was feeling his way back from hamstring trouble and began on the bench, leaving Parnaby, watching from the press box, to wait 87 minutes for his introduction. And what a bow it was too – in the fourth minute of stoppage time, a swipe of Dolan’s left foot made it 1-1, setting the scene for an evocative replay at Rodney Parade. The Teessider left Boro without making a first-team appearance and seemed slightly startled to find himself addressing a post-match media conference but, tellingly, Dolan spent a fair percentage of it praising Parnaby’s influence on his career. Louise Taylor

8) Silva has to prove he can learn from mistakes

Just over a year since Marco Silva was sacked by Watford there are no strong suggestions he is going to suffer the same fate at Everton any time soon. Equally Silva finds himself on increasingly icy ground after seven defeats in 12 games with the most recent being the worst. There was an element of injustice to Everton’s defeat by Millwall given the handball involved in Jake Cooper’s goal but, regardless, they deserved little given how poorly they defended at set pieces and how little they offered in attack. And therein lies a major problem for Silva – Everton’s failings keep repeating themselves, fuelling the belief held by an increasing number of observers that he is a manager incapable of learning from his mistakes. Silva’s task between now and the end of a season with otherwise little meaning for Everton is to prove the naysayers wrong. Sachin Nakrani

9) Watford’s Hughes looks forward to Wembley

Watford visit Tottenham on Wednesday in the Premier League and, with FA Cup semi-finals played at Wembley, the midfielder Will Hughes said: “Let’s hope this is the first of three visits to Wembley this season.” Watford reached the semi-final in 2016 – losing to Crystal Palace – and with 33 points in the league, Javi Gracia’s squad can have a go in the Cup. Gracia’s 11 changes for their fourth-round win at Newcastle – “the most important thing is the confidence I have in all my players” – highlighted Watford’s depth, certainly in contrast to that of their opponents. “Today is the 26th of January,” said a downbeat Rafael Benítez of the absence of Newcastle recruits. “We have what we have. We have 15 games now to play in the league and we have to be sure everyone is focused and no distractions. I have no reason to say anything more.” Michael Walker

10) Shrewsbury have themselves to blame for Wolves draw

Absent ball boys is a new one when it comes to reasons for adding on time but that, according to Sam Ricketts, was factored into the six additional minutes at New Meadow on Saturday. Wolves completed their comeback from two goals down in the 93rd minute to deflate Shrewsbury and prompt criticism of an injury time that was surprising and costly. Ball boys were moved for their own safety when trouble broke out between rival fans after Luke Waterfall’s 71st-minute goal for the League One side. But there were no prolonged breaks in play as a consequence and only those ball boys close to the scuffles were shifted. It did not explain six minutes of stoppage time in a Cup tie featuring six substitutions and no physio involvement, although it was a stretch to claim that was the cause of Shrewsbury’s heartache. While Wolves were given fresh impetus by the time-keeping, it was Shrewsbury’s inability to hold out for the win that lay at the root of Ricketts’ anger. Andy Hunter

The Guardian Sport

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