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

Foxes’ Wembley success is based on strong management, Alli’s revival, and Harrison’s future
FA Cup final and Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend

Leicester City's Wes Morgan (left) and Kasper Schmeichel celebrate with the FA Cup at Wembley Stadium. 

1) Leicester’s glory down to unity from top down 

Of all of the post-match scenes, as the emotion ran wild through the Leicester ranks, was anything more touching than when the club’s chairman, Top Srivaddhanaprabha, was led on to the Wembley pitch by Kasper Schmeichel to be presented with the FA Cup? Bouncing up and down with the players, Srivaddhanaprabha could savour a dream-come-true moment and the poignancy was obvious, given the tragic death in 2018 of his father, Vichai, the then Leicester owner. What shone through was the connection that Srivaddhanaprabha has with Brendan Rodgers and the squad. It is a truly powerful force that played its part in Leicester’s victory. The top-down togetherness has helped make Leicester a destination club. The final win was historic but the sense that the club’s journey will continue is inexorable.

David Hytner

2) Chelsea pay the price for Tuchel’s caution 

It was hard to work out how Chelsea planned to open Leicester up at Wembley. They had no edge and were not helped by some puzzling choices from Thomas Tuchel. He got it badly wrong by moving César Azpilicueta to right wing-back and dropping Reece James into the back three to mark Jamie Vardy. There was no need to be so wary of a striker with two goals since the turn of the year. Chelsea were too worried about Leicester’s strengths. They missed James in a more advanced role and their problems were exacerbated by the decision to use Marcos Alonso over Ben Chilwell on the left, leaving them without pace on either flank. It was too cautious from Tuchel, who now has a 4-3 career losing record in major finals. He must now respond to ensure that Chelsea do not miss out on a place in the Champions League.

Jacob Steinberg

3) Milner gives early indication of retirement plans 

James Milner missed out against West Brom because of injury but the 35-year-old was behind the dugout at the Hawthorns. He is one of the fittest players in the Premier League, despite his advancing years, but he still must have one eye on what he will do once his playing career comes to an end. The former England international was more vocal than most on the touchline throughout the 90 minutes, offering encouragement and advice to his Liverpool teammates. During his career, Milner has played under some of the best managers of recent decades, including Martin O’Neill, Bobby Robson and Jürgen Klopp, so he will have learned plenty from those mentors. Milner shows no sign of slowing down but when retirement does arrive, coaching would be a great option. Milner would be a great asset to keep in the game he has served so well on the pitch.

Will Unwin

4) Alli gives reminder of his international quality 

Tottenham Hotspur's Dele Alli in action against Wolves.
Tottenham Hotspur's Dele Alli in action against Wolves.

He couldn’t, could he? The answer is “probably not” but given Dele Alli put in such a convincing all-round performance in front of Gareth Southgate, one would be forgiven for wondering whether there is the slightest temptation to offer him an England recall. Nearly two years have passed since Alli’s most recent cap and England’s wealth of options for the No 10 position make selection for Euro 2020 an extremely long shot. But there is often one contender who ghosts into the reckoning late on and, given Alli knows exactly what it takes to help England into the latter stages of a major tournament, Southgate would at least be forgiven for letting the thought cross his mind. Alli operated against Wolves with an intensity he has rarely displayed over the past year, proving the size of the talent England are missing out on, though the revival seems to have come too late.

Nick Ames

5) Eagles blend of youth and experience get job done 

Crystal Palace are hardly flush with youth but the emergence of Tyrick Mitchell, scorer of their winner against Aston Villa, is a legacy Roy Hodgson can leave for the years ahead. At 21, Mitchell played on the left of a four-man defence where each of his colleagues was at least 10 years older. He and Eberechi Eze, 22, who supplied the cross for his goal, represent the next generation. The next youngest players in the starting XI were three 28-year-olds in Wilfried Zaha, Jeff Schlupp and Jack Butland, the latter making his first league appearance for Palace and a first in the top flight since May 2018. What Hodgson’s collection of grizzled veterans lack in youthfulness they make up for in resourcefulness, and their second-half comeback illustrated why the manager has been such a safe pair of hands the last four years.

John Brewin

6) Carson enjoys comeback after 10 years away 

Scott Carson admitted he was “a little nervous” before making his Manchester City debut in goal at Newcastle on Friday. It had been 10 years since he last played a Premier League game – coincidentally also at St James’ Park where, in May 2011, his West Brom side drew 3-3 – and just over two years since the loanee last played a first-team game for his parent club, Derby. Two years into his City stay the 35-year-old never expected to be named in a Pep Guardiola starting team, so there was a touch of Roy of the Rovers about his startling reappearance in a 4-3 City win featuring Ferran Torres’s sublime hat-trick. Granted, Carson conceded three goals but he still impressed, doing brilliantly to save Joe Willock’s penalty before the taker of the spot-kick lashed the rebound home. “I remembered how much I enjoyed playing,” said Carson. “I remembered why I love being a footballer.”

Louise Taylor

7) Jebbison adds cutting edge to Blades 

In a season devoid of hope and quality, it will have been a nice boost for Sheffield United fans to see Daniel Jebbison score at Everton. The 17-year-old has been linked with a move to Germany this week, with his performance at Goodison Park an indication of why Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have shown an interest in the striker. He was energetic from the start on his full Premier League debut, putting pressure on the Everton defence throughout the first half. Jebbison offered intelligent running and his movement was the key to his goal, reading where Jack Robinson would put his cross and earning himself yards of space to tap home. He almost got a second by anticipating a poor back-pass from Mason Holgate, but could not finish on that occasion. Despite being born and living the majority of his life in Canada, he has represented England at youth level and could be set for plenty more honours for club and country judging by his full senior debut.

Will Unwin

8) Rice return timely for England if not Hammers 

West Ham United's Declan Rice.
West Ham United's Declan Rice.

Declan Rice’s return to action after six weeks on the sidelines might have come too late to maintain West Ham’s brave challenge for Champions League football, but the midfielder’s performance at Brighton underlined his importance to David Moyes’s side. The Hammers enjoyed their best spell just before half-time when Rice and Tomas Soucek kept Graham Potter’s side penned in, but found things harder in the second half as their young captain tired. Having played every minute of last season, Rice admitted he was frustrated to have missed some important matches. “After playing so many games, you kind of feel like you’re going to be invincible and never pick up an injury,” he said. “I just had to stay positive, attack it and give everything in the gym to get myself back.” He now has a good chance of starting England’s opening game of Euro 2020 against Croatia.

Ed Aarons

9) Harrison needs to make permanent move 

Jack Harrison has made well over 100 appearances for Leeds in the past three seasons since joining from Manchester City. The fact he has been at Elland Road for so long means many will forget the winger is only on loan from the champions. At Turf Moor he showed once more what he can provide going forward as Leeds ripped apart the Burnley defence. Harrison is only 24 and is visibly improving each season, especially since Marcelo Bielsa took charge in Yorkshire. This could be the summer Leeds finally take the plunge to keep the skilful winger for the long term, even if he will cost far more than he would have at the start of the campaign. Harrison knows his role inside out and replacing him would be a complex business considering Bielsa’s tactics; failing to secure a permanent move would set Leeds back.

Will Unwin

10) Carvalho offers Fulham glimpse of hope 

Scott Parker looks to be using Fulham’s final Premier League games of a doomed campaign wisely by trying new things. Fabio Carvalho made his first league start for the club, scoring on his full debut. The teenage winger from Portugal spent time in the Benfica academy, following in the footsteps of many fine attackers who have gone before him. The 18-year-old has scored 11 goals in 13 games for the under-23s this term, so he has earned his chance. Carvalho showed great movement and composure to fire home what proved to be a consolation goal at St Mary’s. “He’s in the team because we’re searching for goals, we’re searching for someone to put the ball in the net and we’ve been searching for that for a little bit,” Parker said. The pressure is off now but this experience could help to make Carvalho a key part of the club’s promotion push next season.

Will Unwin

© Guardian News and Media 2021

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