Weekend Roundup

Hello, dear reader(s). Don’t be put off by the new name. Think of it when Sunderland signed most of the old Everton team. You’re going to get exactly the same rubbish as before, just wearing a different shirt.

And with that, we get underway with the very important football of the last weekend – the FA Cup. When you are Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte, Mauricio Pochettino and, er, Mark Hughes and the FA Cup is the only trophy you are able to win then you start to take the semi-finals very, very seriously indeed.

But, no matter how seriously you take them, Tottenham Hotspur are, after all, still Tottenham Hotspur. And Tottenham Hotspur just do not win FA Cup Semi-Finals, even if they are played at home now.

Dele Alli put Spurs ahead early in the first half and from that moment onwards you just knew it was a matter of time before Manchester United woke up and Spurs went all Spurs. And, courtesy of Alexis Sanchez’s best performance so far for United (although that really isn’t saying much at all), United did what United would expect to do a lot more of in the future – kill the hopes of some young pretenders. However, a few questions did arise from the game. Firstly, if Harry Kane is that good, how on earth did he end up in the pockets of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. I mean, they are supposed to be rubbish, aren’t they? Mind you, it’s OK for me to point this out but it would have been wiser for the official FA Cup Twitter account not to have said anything, what with a World Cup coming up and team harmony being pretty important to the national side. And secondly, if this Tottenham team are to be remembered in the future as actually being better than the teams of 90s and the majority of the 80s, they actually have to win matches like this, don’t they?

Still, Jose was borderline happy after the win but still used it as an opportunity to remind his players of a few things. “They need to approach every match with the same mentality,” he said, reminding his players that they had managed to get beaten by West Bromwich Albion last week, a fact that could only have been more laughable if WBA were still managed by Alan Pardew. “The players need to educate themselves,” he continued, possibly forgetting that he is paid a hell of a lot of money to be their coach, teacher and mentor.

Antonio Conte “doesn’t play to enjoy,” he “plays to win” even though the “FA Cup is harder to win this year”. Yes, Antonio, it is. Especially when your team isn’t as good as last season. But, when you have Southampton in the semi-final the chances of getting to the final have to be dramatically increased. Olivier Giroud scored moments after the whistle for the second half, slaloming his way past seven players in Southampton’s six-yard box and poking home. Alvaro Morata had been on the pitch just over a minute before his marker inexplicably ducked to allow him a free header for 2-0. Southampton had chances, namely Shane Long (naturally) failing to take his and Charlie Austin hitting the post from a tight angle. Conte had said to his players to play with “fire in their eyes” and despite the pain of this suggestion, they seemed to manage it. The best thing to happen to Southampton all afternoon was the knowledge that Swansea City were already 2-0 at City by the time the final whistle went at Wembley.

The week just gone was the week that Arsenal FanTV have been dreaming of for nearly a decade. No, not Arsenal putting West Ham United to bed in convincing manner but the fact that after over two decades of steering the ship, Arsene Wenger is to leave Arsenal Football Club at the end of the season. Yes, this season. Not an unnamed season, this actual season. Even if they win the Europa League. Yes, Arsene is going. Is this good? Is this bad? Who is even #arseneout or #arsenein anymore? If Sky Sports needed any further reasons to be hanging their heads in shame over football news coverage, their completely unbiased solo use off Arsenal FanTV to provide the live ‘reaction’ was almost on the same level of the BBC coverage of Brexit for only putting one point of view across. Whisper it quietly, but BT do provide the better coverage.

Of course, the right thing for the Arsenal players to do in the first game at the Emirates since the big news broke would have been to put on a Lord Mayor’s Show of a performance against West Ham. But Arsenal had their minds elsewhere, probably on Atletico Madrid in their upcoming Europa League game. Nacho Monreal scored a goal that Joe Hart probably should have saved and it was Nacho’s 6th of the season – the same number as a certain Paul Pogba. Who says Arsene cannot get the most out of players anymore? West Ham threatened briefly to be party poopers before Joe Hart stepped up his campaign to get a proper summer holiday this year. David Moyes showed his ability to work with young players, blaming Declan Rice for the important second Arsenal goal saying, “we were in it and then a poor mistake from a young player cost us the game”. Way to go Moyseh, keep those man management tools sharp. 4-1 was the first fitting farewell in Arsene’s tour.

I think we can all agree that after Mohamed Salah put Liverpool 2-0 up against West Bromwich Albion that he and his teammates started to think about Tuesday night’s Champions League showdown with Roma. Liverpool were cruising and WBA, considering they needed to win to even have a sniff of survival, were nowhere to be seen. And then we caught a little glimpse of the ‘old Liverpool’ who forgot they had to play the full 90 minutes and saw West Brom score twice, meaning Darren Moore has not been beaten by Jose or Jurgen Klopp in his managerial career. I said it last week, I will say it again. Retire at the end of the season, Darren!

There must be something about Wilfried Zaha and Watford. In the past, there was the bust-up with the mascot and on Saturday, depending on your point of view, Zaha could have had two penalties or been sent off. Or both. Either way, Watford certainly enjoyed spending a lot of time kicking him. There was one particular incident, where Zaha ended up being booked, that was certainly a case of his reputation, unfair in the eyes of this particular writer here, coming before him as he was clearly taken down by at least three players in one go. That penalty, likely converted by Luka Milivojevic, would have given Palace three points instead of one. However, that one point left Roy Hodgson’s Palace six points ahead of Southampton, albeit having played one game more. It would be surprising to say the least to see them go down.

Stoke really needed to win against Burnley to have any hope of staying up. Mind you, that was the same last Monday when they led against West Ham and failed to hold on. They led against Burnley too, before Ashley Barnes scored yet again to bring the Europa League qualifying hopefuls level. If James Tarkowski is good enough for Gareth Southgate then I’d hope Barnesy is.

Did anyone realistically think that Swansea City might cause an upset away to the newly crowned champions? No, nobody here did either. City raced into a 2-0 lead after 15 minutes with even Raheem Sterling managing to convert from half a yard rather than fluffling it completely. Gabby Jesus tried hard to score one himself, even missing a penalty, before needing old Uncle Yaya to come on as sub and put one on a plate for him. You can’t criticise Swansea too harshly, some of those goals were rather good.

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