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Friday, October 7, 2022

Premier League and FA Cup: 10 talking points from the weekend | FA Cup

1) Forest take heart from defeat by old rivals

Liverpool may have been under full strength but even in defeat it was a test emphatically passed by Steve Cooper’s burgeoning Nottingham Forest side. The hosts displayed impressive defensive discipline and shape to keep Liverpool out for 78 minutes, and arguably should have had a penalty soon after conceding. They almost certainly would have been awarded a spot-kick had Ryan Yates altered his direction slightly and aimed to draw more significant contact from Alisson, the kind of trick pulled so often by Premier League forwards for the benefit of the video assistant referee. The VAR decision to rule Diogo Jota onside for the winner was also very tight. Forest caused Jürgen Klopp’s men problems and had the chances to win the match outright but a lack of ruthlessness with the opportunities they created left Cooper’s side to ponder a couple of marginal decisions that could easily have gone the other way. As Joe Worrall said, Forest went “toe to toe with one of the best teams in the world”. Plenty of positives to take from that. Luke McLaughlin

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2) Virtuoso Eze makes it look easy

Eberechi Eze’s fine first season at Crystal Palace was soundtracked by the fond, paternal shouts of Ray Lewington, who seemed in some games to be present purely for the purpose of in-game coaching Palace’s left-sided attacker. Hopefully Lewington had a Sunday off to shout fondly at his television screen as Eze produced a fine, bold, effective display in the 4-0 FA Cup defeat of Everton. This was significant: Eze’s second start against Premier League opponents since May 2021; an assertive showing after a season struggling with the aftershocks of an achilles injury; and more simply a reminder of what an excellent player he is, so easy on the ball, so progressive in his movement and passing. Palace have a core of high-grade attacking players. Eze against Everton was a reminder that he might just end up the best of that group. Mainly he is just a rare pleasure to watch. Barney Ronay

3) Gerrard tells Saka to toughen up

Bukayo Saka made a point of telling the referee, Robert Madley, he needed more protection after feeling he had received rough treatment during Arsenal’s win at Aston Villa, but he was given short shrift by Steven Gerrard when his concerns were fed through. “It’s part of the game,” Gerrard said. “The last time I checked, it wasn’t a no-contact sport. I think tackles are allowed, physicality is allowed. He’s a good player, an outstanding talent. I love him. But he can’t complain about that side of it, that’s football. I’m sitting here now with screws in my hips. I’ve had about 16 operations. I’m struggling to go to the gym at the moment. That’s all on the back of earning a living in English football. He’ll learn and he’ll learn quick.” In fairness to Saka, he routinely gets up, dusts himself down and carries on; Gerrard was right that Villa had done little wrong, despite rancour over a fair tackle by Tyrone Mings, and the sense was that the England forward was expressing a longer-term frustration. Nick Ames

Steven Gerrard (right) was unimpressed with complaints from Mikel Arteta’s forward.
Steven Gerrard (right) was unimpressed with complaints from Mikel Arteta’s forward. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

4) Wolves’ flakiness alarms Lage

Whatever madness ensued at Molineux, Wolves allowed themselves to wobble, self-destructing in the wake of Raúl Jiménez’s controversial sending off. It was a decision that stung Bruno Lage but more so his players. Wolves were chasing a third goal that would surely have put the game to bed but Leeds exposed their frailty to devastating effect and Lage was critical of his team’s mentality, accusing his players of being too concerned about the injured Stuart Dallas; they wilted under pressure. Friday night was the first time they have conceded three goals this season. “We created a lot of chances to score more goals and this is how we need to grow up, we need to kill the game,” said the Wolves head coach. “It happened against Manchester United at home [when they conceded a late winner in August] and it’s happened again. These are the little things and we need to grow up as a team.” Ben Fisher

5) Boro lay down their top-tier credentials

At times it may have looked simple for Chelsea but Thomas Tuchel begged to disagree. According to the visiting manager, beating Middlesbrough 2-0 to reach the FA Cup semi finals took a “huge effort” from his players. It involved Tuchel adjusting his formation to 4-1-4-1 in order to combat Chris Wilder’s clever pressing game and, as Boro’s manager pointed out, the Championship side were never overrun by opponents who could afford to lose £900,000 a week under Roman Abramovich’s out-going ownership. If such losses explain why Chelsea’s sale may not be that straightforward they also highlight the excellence of the job Wilder has done on an infinitely tighter budget since succeeding Neil Warnock in November. After beating Manchester United and Tottenham in earlier rounds Boro can now concentrate on securing a play-off place. They and Wilder would grace the Premier League. Louise Taylor

Middlesbrough’s Isaiah Jones challenges Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic
Middlesbrough’s Isaiah Jones challenges Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic Photograph: MI News/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

6) Ipswich are going places in women’s game

Two years ago, Manchester City scored 10 against Ipswich Town to reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. This season, in a 1-0 FA Cup quarter-final defeat to West Ham, a team that has already achieved its best-ever WSL points tally, Joe Sheehan’s team showed how far they has come. “We’re such a young squad,” said Ipswich forward Natasha Jones. “Looking back two years ago, we played Man City and they beat us 10-0. We just know we’ve done that little bit better. Look at the scoreline: we’ve played our hearts out, we’ve given everything on the pitch, so we’re really happy with that. It was a great atmosphere and great to be involved in that.” Jones works 40 hours a week as a personal trainer. An impressive 10 players are on professional contracts and the club has some of the best talent in the country. With a top-level academy licence, the signs of progress keep coming. “They’re in the middle of the WSL table and yes, there was a difference there, but we know we can keep on closing that gap.” Suzanne Wrack

7) A dose of Women’s FA Cup reality for battling Coventry

Coventry United’s fairytale journey from being within eight minutes of going into administration to reaching an FA Cup quarter-final was ended by four goals from 14-time FA Cup winners Arsenal. The resilience of Jay Bradford’s players was on show at Meadow Park as they held the Women’s Champions League quarter-finalists at bay for 38 minutes before Stina Blackstenius opened the scoring. The gap between the WSL leaders Arsenal and the Championship’s bottom side is a big one, but a sturdy first half should give Coventry plenty of positives as they look to climb off the bottom after suffering a 10-point deduction for their financial difficulties at Christmas. The team have clawed back five points since then and sit nine points behind Watford – the team they face on the last game of the season. Suzanne Wrack

Vivianne Miedema (right) scores Arsenal’s fourth.
Vivianne Miedema (right) scores Arsenal’s fourth. Photograph: Kevin Hodgson/SPP/Shutterstock

8) Bednarek’s absence costs Southampton

It was a surprise to see Jan Bednarek omitted from the Southampton lineup for the FA Cup visit of Manchester City – and indeed the match day squad. Had the first-choice centre-back picked up an injury? It turned out it was something else, as Ralph Hassenhüttl would explain after the 4-1 loss. “Bednarek has a big game for Poland next week and it seemed to me he is not 100% with his mind for us here today,” the manager said. “I didn’t want to take the risk that he doesn’t make the last step to hurt himself.” It is certainly a big game for Poland. Bednarek’s team will face either Sweden or the Czech Republic on Tuesday week in a play-off for the World Cup finals. Hasenhüttl did not sound overly pleased with Bednarek and maybe it was because his replacement, Jack Stephens, had an uncomfortable afternoon, making errors, including a bad one for Raheem Sterling’s opening goal. David Hytner

9) Rare end-of-season optimism at Leicester

After the final international break of the season, Leicester could suddenly have so much competition for places that, with three games in hand on the teams in seventh and eighth place whom they trail by nine points, they could set themselves up for a barnstorming finish in the Premier League and continue chasing glory in Europe. With PSV Eindhoven to come in the quarter-final of the Europa Conference League and Jamie Vardy, Jonny Evans, Timothy Castagne and Wes Fofana all nearing full fitness – and none of the current top four left to play in the league – Leicester could benefit from the opposite sense of momentum that cost them in the past two seasons. Peter Lansley

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10) Moyes is right to manage West Ham expectations

“You would never see West Ham being a top-four side,” said David Moyes after his team’s attempt at Champions League qualification suffered probably a terminal blow in Sunday’s 3-1 loss against Spurs. “I am a bit annoyed that I am getting asked it, but also I’m quite pleased because it’s telling me we were seen as a side that was getting seen for top four. It should be put as – how well have West Ham done to stay in the race until the last part of season.” Defeatism or realism from Moyes? Surely it was the latter: he is correct that West Ham have been punching above their weight, and his attempt to manage expectation is entirely understandable. It was also predictable that there would be a hangover from Thursday’s memorable Europa League win against Sevilla. Happily for the Hammers, they would get the best of both worlds if they can win the Europa League, booking themselves a place in next season’s Champions League via a different route. Luke McLaughlin

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