FA Cup

The FA Cup is Manchester United’s Holy Grail

It may not be the ultimate prize in English football, but for Manchester United, the FA Cup might just lead to bigger and brighter things in the next era of the club.

The Red Devils are the highest ranked team left in the prestigious cup competition, following the shock exits of Chelsea and Manchester City to Bradford City and Middlesbrough respectively.

It should lead to a relatively easy route to Wembley for United, who have so far bumped off League One Yeovil Town 2-0 at Huish Park and League Two Cambridge United 3-0 in an Old Trafford replay and will face a second League One side, Preston North End, in round five.

Darren Fletcher’s deadline day move to West Bromwich Albion made him the last member of the 2004 winning FA Cup squad to leave Carrington, meaning not one member of the current team has won an FA Cup while at Manchester United.

Absent: It is 11 years since Manchester United lifted the FA Cup

Absent: It is 11 years since Manchester United lifted the FA Cup

None of the current class have won a trophy at the club since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, with David Moyes enduring an awful solemn season at Old Trafford, finishing seventh, but Louis van Gaal has started the rebuilding process.

Unlike teams such as Arsenal and Liverpool, Manchester United have not struggled to attract the global stars during their decline with Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao being just four of the nine high profile arrivals since Ferguson’s farewell.

Although United are doing well in third, they seem out of the title race and were unceremoniously dumped out of the Capital One Cup 4-0 by Milton Keynes Dons as well as being out of continental competition due to last season’s lowly league standing.

Which means the FA Cup is the only competition they are fighting for this season, and fight they should do, as it could give the trophy-less dressing room the catalyst it needs to become a great again.

 

 

League Cup Quarter Final Draw

Chelsea have been drawn against lower league opposition for the third round in a row in the Quarter Finals of the League Cup.

The Premier League leaders will have to travel to Derby County in the next stage as they attempt to win the competition for the first time since 2007.

Elsewhere Liverpool will have to overcome Bournemouth at the Goldsands Arena in a repeat of a fourth round tie in the FA Cup earlier this year.

Liverpool won 0-2 in Bournemouth on that occasion thanks to goals from Victor Moses and Daniel Sturridge.

Draw in Full:

Derby County vs Chelsea
Bournemouth vs Liverpool
Sheffield United vs Southampton
Tottenham vs Newcastle

Ties are due to be played during the week commencing 15 December.

Why Arsenal need to change their philosophy to progress

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Arsenal are well known for their patient passing play but eight, possibly nine barren seasons without a trophy needs changing. Fast. It could all improve if they ditch their modern tactics.

Following Wednesday’s 0-2 defeat to reigning European Champions Bayern Munich, the Gunners look all but out of this season’s competition which would see them fail to get past the last 16 for the fourth successive time. They haven’t got past the quarters in five years.

What was highlighted most on Wednesday was how Arsenal were completely played off the park at their own game, at home, with Bayern having an astonishing 79% possession statistic. This wasn’t helped of course by Wojciech Szczesny’s dismissal on 37 minutes which forced Arsene Wenger to replace Spanish play-maker Santi Cazorla but Arsenal looked second best even before that.

England’s best “Spanish Footballer” comes in the shape of Jack Wilshere but he was non-existent for the full 90 minutes while Mesut Ozil was his usual “passenger” self, looking uninterested for the whole game, even his crucial penalty was incredibly lazy. He missed.

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Ozil’s dip in form should have him looking over his shoulder.

This is not the first time Arsenal have been beaten by their own game, Barcelona did the same to them in 2011.

One of the most worrying aspects of the modern Arsenal is Wenger’s decreasing tactical knowledge. Following Szczesny’s sending off, the Frenchman brought off Cazorla while the consistently average Ozil was kept on. Even worse, when 0-1 down with 15 minutes to play, Arsenal’s main, possibly only, attacking threat Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was hauled off for the defensive minded Tomas Rosicky.

Holding onto a narrow loss at home is embarrassing enough, even when a man down. What’s more embarrassing however is when it doesn’t work, Thomas Muller made it 0-2 with two minutes remaining.

Should Wenger have kept “The Ox” and Cazorla on, Arsenal would have possibly created more chances with Cazorla’s passing followed by Oxlade-Chamberlain’s powerful jinking runs, but there was none of that, Arsenal stepped off Bayern and allowed them to pass them to death.

The argument that this would have left Arsenal more open defensively is a valid one, however Chelsea proved in 2012 that it can be done when they earned their hugely impressive 2-2 draw over Barcelona at the Nou Camp, and that was with ten men following John Terry’s clumsy challenge.

Wenger’s tactical failings also apply to his forward line. Promising striker Yaya Sanogo looked isolated for large periods of the Munich match however he won most, if not every header. This suggests that the France Under 21 International would benefit from a striking partner, something Arsenal don’t use. Sanogo could use his strength and heading ability to knock balls down to his partner, possibly Olivier Giroud or a new acquisition, and even grab the odd goal himself as he does get in the right areas but lacks the decisive finishing touch at this stage.

Where Chelsea’s formation, which is exactly the same as Arsenal’s, succeeds is that they have better goal scoring midfielders in the shape of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian, formerly Juan Mata and occasionally Ramires. These get on the score sheet enough times that the limited scoring ability of Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba isn’t too much of a problem. Whereas Cazorla, Ozil, and Oxlade-Chamberlain have 10 league goals between them, Hazard boasts 12 on his own.

This season has been a lot better for Arsenal, the double is still realistically on the cards in theory. Where they struggle however is overcoming the big teams. Their league results against last season’s top four are a 6-3 away loss to Manchester City, a 0-0 draw at home to Chelsea, and an away loss and home draw against a below par Manchester United team. Not forgetting a 5-1 thumping away to Liverpool.

The Gunners have a tough end to March with Tottenham away followed by a trip to Chelsea before finishing at Manchester City at home. February’s fixture list has been cruel to Arsenal with that Liverpool loss and the home draw against Manchester United joining an FA Cup and Champions League tie. If they end March where they are now they will still be in the title race but given this season’s record against the top sides it looks doubtful.

The FA Cup is realistic after they eliminated Liverpool to reach the quarters but they meet Everton which is not an easy prospect. Arsenal will be boosted by Chelsea and Man United’s elimination but Man City are clear favourites to lift the trophy and carry on Arsenal’s long wait for silverware where it all looked so promising just few months ago.