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5 things we learned from this weekend's FA Cup action

Featuring our thoughts on Manchester United’s draw with West Ham, Luis Suarez’s handball and more

Van Persie celebrates scoring the equaliser against West Ham yesterday.
Van Persie celebrates scoring the equaliser against West Ham yesterday.

1. Arsenal need another striker

Despite showing some signs of promise at times this season, both Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud put in disappointing displays as Arsenal drew with Swansea this afternoon.

Therefore, while they’ve been linked with a move for James McCarthy, the club are perhaps in more urgent need of an additional player up front.

Despite scoring two goals late on today, and hitting seven at Newcastle recently, the suspicion remains they have thus far failed in the admittedly difficult task of replacing Robin van Persie.

Their defence is hardly without its flaws either though, with both Per Mertesacker getting beaten all too easily by Michu for Swansea’s first goal and Danny Graham unmarked for the hosts’ late equaliser.

Therefore, fans of the Gunners will surely be hoping it’ll be a busy month in the transfer market for the club.

2. Moneyball-inspired transfer policy paying off for Big Sam as Giggs shows he’s still got it

Yesterday’s FA Cup tie between Manchester United and West Ham was defined by the contribution of two veteran Premier League players in Ryan Giggs and Joe Cole.

Cole, in particular, looked excellent, providing the assists for both the Hammers’ goals.

Sam Allardyce spoke recently about how his transfer policy was inspired by the famous ‘Moneyball’ philosophy that originally emanated from baseball, which involves taking calculated risks in signing players, many of whom are regarded as injury prone or past their sell-by date, and who have been written off in some quarters.

Cole fits the above description well, and based on yesterday’s game at least, he appears to be one of Big Sam’s more astute acquisitions.

Giggs, meanwhile, showed that age is no barrier to class, and was calmness personified as he provided a perfectly judged pass for Van Persie’s late equaliser, thereby demonstrating the temperament that has enabled him to thrive at the highest level for so many years.

3. Luis Suarez reverts to pantomime villain stereotype once again

The phrase ‘the magic of the FA Cup’ is uttered all too often these days, and today’s match between Liverpool and Mansfield demonstrated why such proclamations invariably tend to ring hollow.

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The game was marked not by romanticism, but by an action of a more cynical nature.

After a spell of heavy Mansfield pressure, Liverpool grabbed a decisive second goal that ultimately proved the difference between the teams.

The illegal manner in which it was scored was disappointing, though hardly surprising, given that it was converted by Luis Suarez, who has continually done his best to imitate a pantomime villain since joining Liverpool.

Suarez is one of the most talented players in the Premier League, but his ostensible belief that his prowess on the field gives him license to behave badly on a regular basis renders him an increasingly tiresome presence.

The Henry-esque handball may not have been the most unsavoury incident to ever take place on a football pitch, but it was certainly avoidable.

Either refraining from handballing in the first place or owning up to the incident would have done much to repair the Uruguayan’s unwholesome image, but instead, he chose to ruthlessly revert to type once again.

4. Demba Ba could make the difference for Chelsea

With a solid defence and a midfield that has a decent blend of creativity and commitment, the one vital ingredient missing from Chelsea’s side in recent months has been the presence of a truly top class Premier League striker.

For all Fernando Torres’ endeavour, the £50 million man has been patently overshadowed by a number of other Premier League strikers in recent times.

Chelsea needed a more confident and consistent striker than the Spaniard, and on the evidence of Saturday’s FA Cup tie with Southampton, they appear to have found one in Demba Ba.

The Senegalese player, recently signed from Newcastle, scored a brace on his debut, producing two opportunistic finishes and demonstrating the type of sharpness that has generally been missing from Torres’ game since his move from Liverpool.

5. Unstoppable Bale one of the few genuinely deserving of ‘world class’ label

Following his performance in the FA Cup yesterday, Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert hailed Shay Given as “world class”.

The claim, however, seemed more than a little outrageous, given how rarely Lambert selects the Irishman to start games these days.

If anything, the suggestion was a prime example of the level of hype perpetually afflicting the Premier League, whereby players’ and teams’ abilities are often wildly exaggerated by managers and pundits.

However, one of the few footballers who is genuinely deserving of such acclaim is Gareth Bale – the Welshman had an integral role in proceedings for the umpteenth time this season on Saturday, scoring one goal and setting up the other two as Spurs coasted to a win over Coventry.

Many commentators have intimated that English football has declined drastically in recent times, but in Bale at least, the league has a player worthy of gracing any stage.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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