5 talking points from all the weekend's FA Cup action so far

We look back on Liverpool’s routine win, Aiden McGeady’s full debut for Everton and much more.

Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge celebrates after he scores his side's second goal.
Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge celebrates after he scores his side's second goal.

1. City pretenders fail to impress

Manuel Pellegrini would be forgiven for being overly confident ahead of today’s FA Cup tie with Watford, given how imperious his side have looked on all fronts lately.

It was no surprise, therefore, that Pellegrini opted to give some players on the fringes of the side a run-out.

What was a surprise though, was the extremely casual manner with which City approached the first half, as Watford took a deserved 2-0 lead in at the break.

Nevertheless, the City boss’ response at half-time was as intriguing as it was telling — taking off two of the reserve players he had initially placed faith in, Jack Rodwell and Micah Richards, and replacing them with experienced defenders in Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany.

Consequently, Pellegrini’s eccentric substitutions clearly worked, as they went on to give the type of emphatic display that they have routinely been producing in the Premier League.

2. Are Liverpool set to stick with 4-4-2?

Many commentators last week criticised Liverpool for how open they looked while playing the 4-4-2 formation, managing only a 2-2 draw with Aston Villa in the process.

Today, however, they retained the same system in a relatively uneventful 2-0 defeat of Bournemouth.

The benefits of this strategy were highlighted, as the two strikers, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, linked up intelligently for the second goal.

And as Gary Neville pointed out recently, a team’s formation is rarely an issue provided they have the personnel available to back up the style.

Yet with an ageing Steven Gerrard in midfield, this attack-minded approach may be a little overly ambitious against many of the bigger upcoming challenges they face in the Premier League.

Consequently, Brendan Rodgers will surely have to consider employing an extra body in midfield on occasion.

3. Promising start for Aiden McGeady

YouTube credit: direc tlymatch

The Ireland international gave Everton fans a taste of what to expect today.

McGeady had a comfortable full debut with Everton, as they ran out 4-0 winners over Stevenage.

The winger set up the first goal and managed to complete a full 90 minutes — an impressive feat given that he hadn’t played for months with Spartak Moscow before moving to Everton.

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However, the Scottish-born player faces far more daunting tests than Stevenage ahead.

It may be a while yet before McGeady is at his best, with manager Roberto Martinez hinting at as much during the week, saying: “We need to provide a warm environment to enable him to get his sharpness back, his match fitness, and then we’ll see the real Aiden McGeady.”

4. James McClean-inspired Wigan upset Palace

Witnessing James McClean’s decline in recent times has been one of Irish football’s more deflating sights.

Still only 24, he has gone from being touted as one of the Premier League’s most impressive wingers to a seemingly average Championship player.

Yet one of McClean’s most distinguishing features has always been his attitude as illustrated by his relentless persistence in retrieving the ball from hopeless situations.

And the Derry-born player showed his resilience again this afternoon, as he set up one and scored another as Wigan caused an upset against Premier League side Crystal Palace, having been left out of the side recently.

It is thus a timely boost to a player hoping to recapture the form he showed at Sunderland under Martin O’Neill for club and country alike.

He hasn’t always started under recently appointed Latics coach Uwe Rosler, but perhaps today’s match-winning display will rectify this problem.

5. Podolski reminds Arsenal fans of his worth

Many Arsenal fans, perhaps still disappointed that the club missed out on Luis Suarez over the summer, have been calling for the club to sign a big-name striker in the January transfer window.

Yet the Gunners already have at least one clinical finisher at their disposal.

Lukas Podolski starred, scoring twice, as Arsene Wenger’s men easily beat Coventry 4-0.

And tellingly, it was just the player’s second start since August, making an impressive comeback alongside another long-standing injury victim — Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Although they came up against highly inferior opposition yesterday, the duo’s eye-catching displays suggest that Arsenal possess the strength in depth to launch a sustained title challenge irrespective of whether or not they invest heavily in the next few days.

Emile Heskey missed an absolute sitter today>

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Paul Fennessy

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