Premier League and FA Cup: 10 themes for the weekend matches | Football



1

Manchester United weather Wembley whirlwind

Jamie, Jamie United. To be fair, they did find a new way to be desperate. Instead of their usual disarray, they were in total control for 70 minutes, barely allowing Coventry a chance to score. But then, somehow, they snatched chaos from the calm jaws. ITV and all the tea time viewers couldn’t believe their luck and a piece of cake turned into a classic. United gave away a 3-0 lead and were 4-3 down a minute before extra time – only VAR came to their rescue, which he failed to do when they conceded a penalty . We witnessed history, comedy, tragedy and more. Casemiro took the first penalty kick but missed it. Destiny was certainly calling on Coventry but Andre Onana stepped up and missed a penalty by flying to the right and cleverly missed another to save Eric Ten Ha A decent job. Anyway, for now. Tim Dreyer



2

Robbins’ Roller Coaster Afternoon

It’s called the Mark Robins Derby. The man himself had no such thoughts: “This has nothing to do with me,” he said firmly beforehand. But as this semifinal unfolds, it’s really about him. His decision to switch to a back five was a serious mistake and gave Diogo Dalot the space to take control of the game. United transformed, took control and even looked, in Harry Maguire’s words, “very professional”. Robins made a clear change at half-time, reverting to a back four. This helped a lot and allowed Coventry to get shots on goal and compete at level, but they still failed to score and even conceded a third. Robins kept the faith, made shrewd substitutions, and his fortunes turned: two goals in 10 minutes and another in the 95th minute. The fairy tale continued – until VAR put an end to it all. Coventry lost on penalties but their spirit won the hearts of millions. This is what the FA Cup is about. tL


3

Jackson lacks conviction when it matters

At Chelsea, when the score is 4-0, people queue up for the right to take a penalty. When the stakes are higher, the ability to take responsibility is harder to detect. For example, none of Cole Palmer’s team-mates were fazed by his stoppage-time equalizing penalty against Manchester United. Courage in big moments remains elusive. Chelsea did a lot of good things in their FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City, but it didn’t matter. City, while below their best, have plenty of expertise. By contrast, Chelsea found a way to lose again in the dying seconds, largely due to Nicholas Jackson’s failure to show why he thought he was trying to score from Palmer in the 6-0 win over Everton Taking penalties is a good idea. Where is this belief in Manchester City? Jackson had some great opportunities, but he blew them all. If only Palmer could pass the ball to Palmer. Jacob Steinberg



4

Manchester City’s challengers back on track

Crisis, what crisis? Like Arsenal, Liverpool just needed to win this weekend, and they did with two clear goals. Jurgen Klopp made a change and it paid dividends, with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ryan Gravenberg and Diogo Jota all scoring at Craven Cottage. Combined with Arsenal’s result, the title race is in a strange position. Most people think City have succeeded. The Opta computer agrees that Manchester City have a 62% chance of repeating the title, Arsenal at 22% and Liverpool at 16%. However, Manchester City are third, with the same number of wins as Liverpool and one less than Arsenal. City’s tired superstar’s next two games are on the road, the first against Brighton, who almost never lose at home. We thought it was over…but not yet. tL



5

Arsenal’s defense solid again

Arsenal are in the market for a striker this summer – with Alexander Isak and Ivan Toney among them – but their defense could be key to sustaining their title challenge. Mikel Arteta’s side kept a clean sheet on the road for six straight games against Wolves on Saturday and beat Chelsea at home on Tuesday – a team that has scored in their last six games 19 goals – that would represent another good result. Ben White performed well up front at Molineux and the entire defense was barely disturbed. A tougher test will come for Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, who face their rivals on Sunday. “If we want to apply pressure, we have to win, win and keep going like this,” William Saliba said. “We know it’s going to be difficult but we’re ready. We have to push and give what we have everything of. Ben Fisher


William Saliba wins the aerial duel. Photography: Kieran McManus/Shutterstock

6

Clash of minds shows cultural shifts

In injury time, Beto and Morgan Gibbs-White clashed heads, leaving the Everton striker unconscious on the pitch. A team of medical personnel arrived to attend to both players and took time to assess the seriousness of the situation. Gibbs White was able to stand, but Beto clearly needed more urgent care. In a relegation battle, results are seen as the most important thing, but the health of the players must always come first. The sport has made advances over the years in the medical treatment of head injuries and with all precautions taken, the fight was delayed for eight minutes and Berto was taken away on a stretcher, giving a merciful thumbs up as precautions, fans as he left and headed to the hospital. He will likely need concussion treatment and may miss some key games, but it shows that football sometimes gets its priorities right. Will Unwin



7

Burger adds to South Yorkshire’s misery

When Sheffield United sold Sander Berg to Burnley for £12m last summer, many Bramall Lane regulars began to fear an immediate return to the Championship. Saturday’s 4-1 home defeat to Vincent Kompany’s freshman side all but confirmed that and added to South Yorkshire’s pain, with Berger the best player on the pitch, often dictating the midfield . Even so, Burnley could return to the second tier. Although they are close to safety and have lost just one of their last seven games, an unfriendly schedule sees them face Manchester United, Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and Nottingham Forest in their final four games . “Hopefully we can see it through to the end,” said a realistic Kompany. If the worst happens, hopefully the Burnley board will keep their faith in the Belgian while rejecting all offers for Norwegian Berg. Louise Taylor



8

Watkins and Solanke set out their views

If the game at Villa Park was an audition for Harry Kane’s replacement at the Euros, then both Ollie Watkins and Dominic Solanke showed what they can offer Gareth Southgate. While Ivan Toney was not included in Brentford’s squad against Luton, Watkins and Solanke both impressed in Aston Villa’s 3-1 win over Bournemouth A deep impression. Watkins produced Man of the Match, setting the stage for Moussa Diaby and Leon Bailey. In the process, he became the Premier League’s leading goalscorer this season. Solanke received little help but kept his cool and converted a penalty kick against Emiliano Martinez, a goalkeeper known for his penalty saves, to score his 18th goal of the season. If Toney drops down the rankings, Southgate still has plenty of firepower. Pete Lansley


Ollie Watkins felt the love after setting up Leon Bailey to make it 3-1. Photo: Danehouse Photography Ltd/Getty Images

9

Moyes continues to suffer for his art

West Ham United posted a tribute to late former Hammers manager John Lyall on social media this week, which was met with universal enthusiasm. Perhaps in the future David Moyes will be remembered fondly, even if the hardcore are never entirely convinced. Perhaps that’s down to Moyes’ outward ruthlessness. Behind the scenes, he can be enthusiastic, even enthusiastic, but doesn’t reveal much in public. Likewise, his style of football doesn’t fit West Ham’s style. Despite the talent in his side – both Lucas Paqueta and Edson Alvarez had poor performances at Selhurst Park – he often seemed happiest with performances, the only discernible His quality is to stay on the defensive. “I don’t know,” Moyes said as he prepared to leave when asked whether he would be given a respectful send-off if he left this summer. It may take some time to get the recognition he deserves. john brewin



10

Visa and Mbemo are a deadly duo

Yoane Wissa was instrumental in Brentford’s emphatic win at Kenilworth Road, with two superb goals to put the visitors on the winning side while Brentford Bryan Mbeumo put in an equally devastating performance. He would have had a hat-trick but for Risbourg’s late touch from the cross that set up Visa’s second goal, and he also played a key role in the game in the first half by smashing the crossbar. Vin Shedd’s late goal. Visa has scored a career-high 10 Premier League goals this season, while Mbemo is one step away from last season’s nine goals; the two deserve praise for filling the void during Ivan Toni’s absence. However, it was against Luton that Mbemo really shined in the air, running between the lines, isolating defenders and delivering a succession of lethal passes. “My three forwards all performed well today,” Thomas Frank said after the game, singling out Kean-Lewis Porter, who was more spread out but equally dynamic. Will Magee




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