talking points after the FA Cup weekend
Goodbye Morata, but what of Hudson-Odoi?
The documentation of the FA Cup’s demise sometimes threatens to overshadow the competition entirely. But one of the knock-on effects of the biggest clubs focusing their attentions on Premier League and Champions League is the opportunity it affords to young academy players. Joe Willock took his rare chance by scoring twice for Arsenal.
At Stamford Bridge, Callum Hudson-Odoi contributed two assists for Alvaro Morata.
Hudson-Odoi’s future is uncertain. Bayern Munich have submitted two significant bids to Chelsea to sign the winger on a permanent deal, and Hudson-Odoi is thought to be keen on the move. He is not the only young English player to consider that life away from the Premier League’s top six would be beneficial to his development. The arrival of Christian Pulisic for a fee of £58m is hardly likely to dissuade doubts about regular Chelsea starts.
If Hudson-Odoi presents Chelsea with a difficult decision, Morata looks a more simple conundrum. So drained is the Spaniard of confidence that even scoring twice against Nottingham Forest appeared to give him no joy. Morata is a husk of the striker Chelsea signed in 2017, and Sarri would surely be happy to sell him for anything over £30m. It would allow him to sign a centre-forward more suited to his style
Pochettino explains his use of star striker Kane
You do wonder quite why an England striker playing 15 minutes of a match should cause a controversy, but after Tottenham thrashed Tranmere on Friday night, Mauricio Pochettino was asked why he brought on Harry Kane with the match already won. Kane was introduced with the score at 6-0 and promptly scored. The club was — ridiculously — accused of being classless by inflicting further humiliation upon their League 2 opponents.
Pochettino’s explanation was simple. Tranmere supporters may not get many chances to watch England’s number one striker and World Cup Golden Boot winner in action. Having filled Prenton Park to see their team against some of the best players in the country, why not satisfy that desire?
Tottenham fans perturbed that Kane could have got injured during such an unnecessary appearance should stay calm too. Kane has always been a player more comfortable playing than given extended rest, and he will have been given Saturday (and possibly Sunday) off. Fifteen minutes against inferior opposition is akin to a light training drill.
Cardiff pay the price for weakened team
As the gap between English football’s haves and have-nots increases year on year, the chances of significant cup upsets are reduced. The 2019 FA Cup third round draw laid out a number of banana skins in the path of Premier League clubs, and most all were able to skip over them with ease.
But there were exceptions.
Yesterday League Two Oldham send Fulham crashing out before Newport County stunned Leicester 2-1.
Huddersfield Town’s miserable run continued with defeat at Championship Bristol City, while Gillingham provided the most notable shock on Saturday. Steve Lovell’s side are 19th in League One, a single point above the relegation zone. They squeezed past a Cardiff City team who had both eyes fixed on their own battle against the drop.
Neil Warnock used his post-match press conference to accuse Liverpool of lacking class over Nathaniel Clyne’s loan move to Bournemouth (he believed Cardiff had a deal in place), but that was an effective distraction tactic.
He also said that his side’s finishing was so poor, they “would not have scored in a million years”. It’s hardly what expensive summer signing Bobby Reid wants to hear. Reid has struggled for relevance in the Premier League, scoring two goals in 18 league and cup appearances, and missing out to Callum Paterson for regular starts.
Blackpool fans’ battle against owners gets high-profile platform
Were there a league table for English league football clubs that have been neglected or mistreated by their owners, the competition for European places would be fierce. But whilst Coventry City, Morecambe, Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United would all have reasonable claims, nobody matches Blackpool.
The brief potted recent history is this: In November 2017, owner Owen Oyston was found by a High Court judge to have ‘illegitimately stripped’ Blackpool and ordered to pay former director Valeri Belokon £25m. He failed to pay the fee, failed to accept any offer to sell the club, burned bridges with fans and left the club in limbo. The stands at Bloomfield Road are showing signs of rust, a perfect metaphor.
On Saturday, Blackpool fans stated their case on the biggest stage. Arsenal’s team coach was delayed after one Blackpool supporter staged a protest on its roof, while leaflets were handed out before the game urging all supporters not to spend their money in the ground. Most have been boycotting games for months.
Accrington and Coleman add another chapter to fairytale
Accrington boss John Coleman celebrated his 1,000th game as a manager last month, a career spanning tenures at Ashton, Rochdale, Southport and Sligo Rovers. Having left Stanley after 13 years in 2012, he returned in 2014 and led them to the League Two title last season.
On Saturday, they hammered another nail in Ipswich’s coffin. The contrasts were apparent: big vs small, former Premier League vs former non-league, everyone pulling together vs everything coming apart at the seams. The saddest indictment of Ipswich’s 2018/19 is that it barely registered as a shock. For Accrington and Coleman, it’s another feather in the cap. They show values like hard work, belief and togetherness can create something special.