So, I’ve spent most of my time since Friday night trying to work out whether Arsenal are bottling it because they’ve forgotten how to win or showing great bottle because they refuse to be beaten even when it looks like they’ve utterly screwed it up.
I mean, let’s be honest – Arsenal are not playing that well at the moment. If you play crazy football, you will probably get crazy results. Up until a few games ago, they were controlling this Premier League season then they seem to have realised that all they need to do to win the damn thing is keeping doing what they have been doing all season – and that’s completely freaked them out.
Of course, it does not help having Man City relentlessly winning but three draws in a row has meant that the title is no longer truly in Arteta’s grip – a City win on Wednesday means the gap is two points with City still having two games in hand. If Arsenal get a draw, you’d still expect City to win their two-in-hand and move ahead. Now, if Arsenal win – yeah, that’s just crazy talk.
Southampton gave Arsenal a proper fright, not befitting a team bottom of the Premier League and definitely going down. They led 1-0, 2-0, 3-1 and yet could not hold on to three points that might have given them a glimmer of hope. But that wasn’t the story – the story was the Gunners dropping six points in 13 days having barely missed a beat all season.
Meanwhile, Man City finally remembered how to win an FA Cup semi-final – albeit given a helping hand as they were playing Sheffield United and nobody that good, really.
Riyad Mahrez scored the first FA Cup semi hattrick since god knows when and the first one since they’ve been playing the thing at Wembley. United might have thought that if they could stop Erling Haaland adding to his 100+ goals this season then they might do well – the theory being logical, the execution being just that little bit tougher when you see what else City can throw at you.
After the game, Pep told Man United fans not to be too scared about them potentially matching the Red Devils’ 98/99 treble – that was the talk of a manager who now believes it is entirely possible.
United went into their FA Cup semi against Brighton having been utterly humiliated in Seville on Thursday night. Having contrived to gift Sevilla two goals at Old Trafford to make the second leg more tricky than needed, Erik ten Hag’s side literally raised the gun to their collective temple and pulled the trigger – Harry Maguire finding the most Harry Maguire way to end his unbeaten run in the team.
Naturally, Maguire gained many of the non-plaudits post-match and was joined by David de Gea on the footballing naughty step. There’s talk of ETH looking to ship out up to 15 players he doesn’t believe in this summer.
All of this meant that Roberto de Zerbi’s side went to Wembley slight favourites to book a return trip. Brighton played like favourites. Brighton were the better side. Brighton deserved to win. All of which meant as soon as it went to penalties you knew what was coming. And, as is written in football law, it’s the local lad who has to miss the decisive kick – this time, poor Solly March.
It’s the first-ever all Manchester FA Cup Final and you know what? It might be a good one.
Tottenham needed that emergency alarm broadcast to go off a bit earlier than 3pm UK. It might have woken them up or at least let them know the game had started. They were 5-0 down at Newcastle within 20 minutes – the only team who scored five quicker than Eddie Howe’s team were City a few years ago against Watford. It is worth pointing out they were playing Watford. Not alleged Champions League qualification rivals. Watford.
It’s safe to say Tottenham’s four-at-the-back experiment failed – so much so they abandoned it after the fifth went in and sent on poor Davinson Sanchez. Booed last week, sent on to try and stop Newcastle getting double figures this. He’s had a better fortnight, I am sure.
Hugo Lloris was then hooked at half-time – injured, apparently. Play the other one, Stellini – we’ve heard it before. Credit to Spurs though, they managed to score and only let Newcastle get a sixth so maybe it was all Hugo’s fault? Both he and Stellini did apologise after the game though – that makes it alright in the modern age and certainly softened the blow of the long trip back to London from the North East for the fans who paid to watch that garbage.
Ultimately, it cost Stellini the caretaker gig as he was fired on Monday. Levy said in a statement: “Sunday’s performance against Newcastle was wholly unacceptable. It was devastating to see. We can look at many reasons why it happened and whilst myself, the board, the coaches and players must all take collective responsibility, ultimately the responsibility is mine. But instead of sacking myself, I am taking the easy/obvious/lazy road of asking Cristian to pack his bags and bugger off to wherever Antonio is hiding out”. Stellini will be replaced by Ryan Mason, heading to the stalls for his second round of having tomatoes chucked at his head.
Are Liverpool back? God, if a 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest begs that question how bad has the season been? In a season of bleakness, a rare bright spot is seeing Diogo Jota back on the pitch and remembering how to score. It will have almost made up for the sheer panic seen every time Forest got a throw-in.
Maybe I judged Dean Smith too quickly. Leicester City beat Wolves 2-1 without James Maddison. That’s nudged the survival door ajar for at least a few days.
With said door now ajar, Leeds seem to be doing all they can to squeeze through it. They lost 2-1 to Fulham (who now, curiously, seem to be making a late dash to qualify for Europe the fools). Granted, 2-1 is better than 5-1 and 6-1 but based on the current trajectory you have to think that Leeds will be one of the three to wave goodbye – will Victor Orta stop preaching if that does happen?
Another football law is that when the media suddenly notice that a team has become quite good (Aston Villa) then the winning streak that has alerted attention will come to an end. Unai Emery’s side drew 1-1 with Brentford who managed to stop Ollie Watkins scoring whilst aiding Ivan Toney to add to his season’s total.
Roy Hodgson correctly called it – Palace’s 0-0 draw with Everton won’t go down in the annals of time. It was an important point for Everton who, frankly, need more of them. Dominic Calvert-Lewin managed to get on the pitch and there’s no reports of him being injured yet so that might be positive as well.
There’s a distinct lack of mockery aimed at Chelsea so far – that’s probably because they didn’t actually play in the Premier League this weekend. They did turn out in Europe, however – Frank’s cunning plan to overturn a 2-0 deficit including only picking one of the 50 attackers the club have signed. Will he make it to the end of the season?
One man who definitely won’t be bailing him out is Julian Nagelsmann – he has decided life on the Kings Road is not for him and who can blame him? The Poch seems to be the last man really standing – unless you think Vinny Kompany is daft enough to leave a good thing at Burnley for that circus.