Greetings loyal reader. You know doubt remember my piece on England’s FA Cup a few weeks back and have been wondering how things have been shaping up. Well you’re in luck, this past weekend saw round 5 of the tournament played and in case you missed it (admit it, you did) I’ve got a wrap up for you.
First off the heavyweight matchups, and as a Manchester City fan I’ve elected to talk about them first. City played at home to Chelsea, a team that recently beat them at home in league play. It was City’s first home loss of the season and the first time they’d been shut out at home since my son was exactly one week old (he’s now old enough to ask me things like “Dad, was our house built during the Cold War). Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho (who will be the subject of his own article here later this week, brace yourself) was credited with a “tactical masterpiece” as a result of his team winning the match. In truth the reason Chelsea won was because City had five of their best players injured and had to start a 33 year old defender in midfield (33 is old in soccer years). And yet even missing five players Chelsea was only able to eek out a 1-0 win on a defender’s rebound put back. Not a tactical masterpiece in this writer’s eyes, but what do I know? Saturday’s FA Cup match saw 3 of the 5 back in action and City won 2-0. I guess you can only be a tactical genius every now and then.
The other heavyweight matchup was Arsenal v Liverpool. These teams played each other in the league last Saturday and Liverpool was up 3-0 inside the first twenty minutes and ultimately won the match 5-1. But the 5-1 thrashing was in Liverpool and this Sunday’s FA Cup match was in London. Different game, different tournament, different result. Arsenal won 2-1, albeit largely due to “England’s best referee” Howard Webb not awarding Liverpool a penalty kick despite having an unobstructed view of the foul from about 15 feet away. Perhaps Mr Webb is uncomfortable with his number one status and is trying to fall a few places down the pecking order. Blowing easy calls like that is a great way to do it.
I’m not going to even pretend that you’re reading this for my analysis of Sheffield United v Nottingham Forest or even Sunderland v Southampton so I’m going to skip ahead to the next round of games and try to sell you on why you should watch all of the games available in your area. First off, the games are available in your area. They’ll be on FoxSports (recently rebranded as FoxSports1 and FoxSports2, you’ll have double the viewing opportunities), which will be just south of the ESPNs and NBCSports and BigTen Networks and all that jazz on your cable viewing guide. The matches will take place the weekend of March 8th and 9th.
You’ll want to watch City try and exact a bit of revenge on Wigan, the team that beat them in the FA Cup final last May. You can sell yourself on the idea of watching Arsenal v Everton by way of either cheering for Everton, a working class less successful neighbor and archrival of Liverpool, or cheering for Arsenal to get further and further into the tournament so that the heartbreak will ultimately be that much greater when they are eliminated (Arsenal were the dominant team of the turn of the century but haven’t won anything since 2005). You could hope that Sheffield Wednesday win their math tomorrow so that you’ll get to see a “Steel City Derby” (a Derby is a match between two local rivals, Yankees/Mets and Cubs/White Sox would be derbies, Yankees/RedSox would not) and pick whether you like the term Wednesday or United better before you throw your rooting interest behind Sheffield Wednesday or Sheffield United. And in all honesty you’ll probably have almost zero interest in the final match Brighton v Sunderland, I’m at a loss for why anyone would be interested.
Only four of the remaining 8 teams are from the Premier League and two will be playing each other so there’s a lot of reason to believe that a lower league team or two will make the semi final. Once we have the semi finals set I’ll try to cook up some story lines beyond the usual David v Goliath template that’s been used a hundred times. And if any of you out there in reader land really want me to talk about Brighton or Sunderland or whoever, just leave a comment below. I try to give the people what they want.