• Monday, July 22, 2024
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FA Cup Review



Arsenal chase double

You could tell it was the FA Cup, because Premier League sides dropped first-team players, admitting that the league is now far more important to them than the cup will be. Unless anything serious changes, like a Champions League place for the winners, there is no compelling reason, beyond tradition, for the sides to try to win. The only reason Arsene Wenger did was desperation for a trophy after so long without one, and the fans were getting sick of him.

Arsene Wenger not only did the sensible thing for his team, but he also had some luck with it. Without Per Mertesacker and MesutOzil on the starting line-up, as well as the injured Alexis Sanchez, previous incarnations of Arsenal may have struggled. Nacho Monreal was also left on the bench in place of Kieran Gibbs, who has failed to justify early hype about him, of late. If there was a match for Arsenal to really be Arsenal, it would be this one.

Lens showed, as he had earlier this season, the kind of goal threat and pace that few others in the squad do, and Sam Allardyce should find room for him the Premier League. However, Arsenal had enough to come back and take victory, and even emerged without another injury.

It wasn’t that they edged past Sunderland, but that they equalised early through the improving Joel Campbell, a player who had earlier seemed scared of playing even at the Emirates. Aaron Ramsey came with another decisive goal, from the subs’ bench, and even football’s Ian Bell – Olivier Giroud – contributed a meaningless third. Alex Iwobi was another highlight, perhaps the best player on the pitch after Hector Bellerin, who was close to faultless at right back.

Arsenal have found success in the FA Cup of late, and there’s no decisive reason to think that they can’t win it for a third consecutive season. However, with this confidence and refusal to be beaten, there’s a growing possibility that it won’t be the only trophy they lift in 2016.

Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin believes Arsenal’s strength in depth means they can chase a third successive FA Cup win and Barclays Premier League glory.

The Gunners beat top-flight rivals Sunderland 3-1 on Saturday in their third-round FA Cup tie as they look to retain the trophy.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger made five changes for the game, with one eye clearly on Wednesday night’s tough Premier League trip to Liverpool.

But his side were still too strong for a Sunderland team also much-changed from their last league outing and full-back Bellerin, who set up goals for Ramsey and Giroud in an impressive display, feels there is enough quality in the Arsenal squad to chase double trophy this season.

“That is the goal of the whole team,” he said when asked about winning a third straight FA Cup.

“We love this competition and the fans love this competition so we need to try and do our best. We are trying to get the third in a row.

“The legs are fine and we have shown that we have very good players on the bench also and the rotation helps us get good results.

“We have a lot of games and they are all hard games, but we have to respond in the way we did today and I’m sure we will be fine.

“The team was up to the challenge. We didn’t rush the games and we knew we had to be patient. It is nice to get the three goals and that is confidence for the team as we had a difficult week ahead.”

While Arsenal made five alterations to rest key players such as MesutOzil for their title push, Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce made seven changes after complaining about the fixture pile-up.

Blues trimmed for FA Cup glory

Chelsea have been tipped as co-favourite for the FA Cup following Monday night’s fourth round draw.

The Blues, under the interim management of GuusHiddink, claimed a 2-0 victory over Scunthorpe in Sunday’s third round clash and their reward is a trip to play either MK Dons of the Sky Bet Championship or Sky Bet League Two’s Northampton Town, who are set to replay their tie next Tuesday after a 2-2 draw on Saturday.

Hiddink is out to repeat a feat he achieved back in 2009 when he lifted the FA Cup during his first short spell as stand-in manager at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea were clipped alongside Manchester City and holders Arsenal as fevourites.

The Gunners, bidding for a third straight success in the famous competition, play host to the Championship’s Burnley in round four, while City will travel to the winners of Wycombe’s replay with Aston Villa.

LVG: Fans have to be happy

Manchester United boss, Louis van Gaal,believes United fans should be happy their team are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup and suggested that traffic around Old Trafford – rather than apathy – was one of the reasons why many supporters left before the end of the 1-0 win over Sheffield United.

Thousands of fans streamed out of the stadium on Saturday evening before the end of the third round tie, which the hosts won thanks to a penalty three minutes into stoppage time from Wayne Rooney.

United did not register a shot on target against the Sky Bet League 1 side until the 69th minute and were booed off at half-time.

But Van Gaal insists supporters should be happy with the way their team have returned to winning ways in recent weeks following a run of eight matches without victory.

“You have to be happy as a Manchester United fan that we are in next round and we have won the last two games.”

When asked why many had left the stadium early, Van Gaal said: “They are not thinking that we would score, I think, and maybe also because of the traffic that they leave the stadium a few minutes early.

“There are many reasons.”

“I think the fans have supported our team. It is not an easy time now, so I think the fans were there also.

“How many stadiums were like our stadium, full, I think?

“You can mention how they leave, but you can also mention how they come to the stadium to watch this FA Cup match.”

Paul Scholes tore into Van Gaal after the final whistle, claiming the players and the manager looked “bored”.

Van Gaal refused to respond to the outspoken former United midfielder at his press conference on Monday.

The Dutchman said: “What do I have to do now? React to Paul Scholes? Do you want that?”