I am holding my hands up early today. I am terrible at predictions. I’m almost as bad as Paul Merson, though I do know that Thierry Henry is from France and is not, in fact, really Terry Henry the North London taxi driver.
Anyway, I’m digressing already. Somewhere, it may have even been here last week, I have tipped Leicester to win the FA Cup. I know, I know nothing about this game. You can imagine my lack of surprise as they trailed 1-0 to Everton on Saturday.
But I do know something. I know that Ahmed Musa has a very sweet tooth and he fancied chomping on some Toffees. Leicester’s supposed flop started to pay back some of that transfer fee and singlehandedly kept my bet alive by scoring twice to send Claudio, FIFPro Coach of the Year no less, through to the fourth Round. Derby and Steve Mc, a man that will never win FIFPro Coach of the Year, await them.
One reason I would like Arsene Wenger to win something substantial before he calls it a day is to get Piers ‘Tubs’ Morgan to shut the hell up. Social media would be a far better place for his absence and his constant Wenger sniping is as far wide of the mark as most of John Jensen’s long range shooting was for the Gunners back in the 90’s. Yeah, we can do retro here too.
Anyway, it was a captain’s performance from Olivier Giroud that saw Arsenal navigate that tricky tie at Preston. A captain’s performance from Giroud. There’s a phrase I didn’t expect to be typing. Staying with Arsenal, the club appear to be the mark in a hustle by two con men from the Highbury area. It is rumoured that Mesut Ozil will not sign a new deal unless it is guaranteed Wenger is staying. Clever, Arsene. Very clever. You can imagine Ozil’s eyes bulging out when Arsene told him his grand plan: “Mesut, you will get the £350k-a-week you want, but I just need you to read out this statement in public…”
Tell you what I am not going to miss – TV cameras panning to Sir Bobby Charlton every time Rooney scores, misses or does anything vaguely suggesting a goal for Manchester United. Wayne is now level with Sir Bob for goals scored and needs one more to break the record. Yes, that’s normally how these things work. Considering the next time Wazza is likely to get 90 minutes is the in the next round against Wigan, I suggest Sir Bobby stays at home until then.
United eased past Jaap Stam’s Reading 4-0 courtesy of some marvellous goalkeeping by Al-Habsi. Apparently Manchester United will not be signing another centre back in the January window, despite the fact that they have Marcos Rojo. Sorry, I misread the copy. Despite the fact they have an injured Marcos Rojo.
This strikes me as a risky decision by United for a few reasons. What if Phil Jones reverts to type and picks a six month knock? Eric Bailly has a full African Cup of Nations ahead of him and anything could happen out there. Then any further issues could mean José has a choice between dropping Carrick into the back four, playing Blind there, choosing Smalling, sticking Zlatan at the back or even putting Sergio Romero in the defence before looking at any of the academy kids who might be quite good.
Pep is an honest man, so honest he has admitted mistakes have been made since taking over at City. No, he is not referring to the trendy gear he has forced Brian Kidd to wear when travelling to matches, or even the flat cap Pep donned himself at Anfield the other day. I am not even sure he is suggesting that choosing Bravo over Hart was a mistake. Still, City made no mistake at the London Stadium, beating West Ham so convincingly that even John Stones looked secure and got on the score sheet. Maybe West Ham can console themselves by making a stupidly low bid for another player that won’t join them? It’s ok though, I am sure the ‘Insider’ will give us in the scoop.
I spent Sunday night at my sewing machine knocking up some “Hughes Out!” banners. The entrepreneur in me is convinced that there is about to be a rush on them at the Bet 365 Stadium. In fact, I’d put money on it. Mark Hughes is slowly removing any sense of identity at Stoke City. Long gone is the old adage about “being able to do it at Stoke on a wet Tuesday night.” Most teams are rocking up, knocking it about a bit and going home happy. Still, at least Crouchy got a new contract.
One of my team over at Tales from the Top Flight had suggested in passing that he felt West Brom could go far in the FA Cup this season. How did that turn out then? Maybe Tony Pulis can concentrate on getting into the Europa League spots another way now. Derby winning was worth it, thought, just to see Paul Ince’s completely unbiased celebration on BT Sport when he heard his lad’s free kick had gone in.
Big Sam may soon be back on the pints of wine as he must be suffering some kind of pain having not seen Palace win under his stewardship. A 0-0 draw up at Bolton must have been nostalgic for the Trotters fans who must have been delighted to see how Allardyce’s tactics have evolved since his time at the Reebok.
Kloppo sent out the youngest side in Liverpool’s history in their game against Plymouth. Despite Steve McManaman’s criticism, or was it Robbie Savage? – I mean, they are equally terrible co-commentators – Plymouth refused to rock up on Merseyside and play an open, expansive game that would have led to a 6-0 drubbing. No, they dug in and defended properly which is, admittedly, not something you see too often at Anfield these days. Fair play to them and their post-match celebrations. If it’s good enough for Jose and all that.
Antonio Conte is clearly an astute man manager. He knows that to keep the dressing room ticking over nicely he has to keep John Terry sweet. JT got to start in the match with Peterborough, but he didn’t get to finish it courtesy of picking up a last man red card. Conte has said he will appeal the decision, knowing full well that will please his club captain. Conte also knows full well, as do we, that there is much chance of that being turned over as there is of Michy Batshuyai becoming first choice at Stamford Bridge. Still, well played Antonio. [Ed: The appeal was unsuccessful. Still, well played Antonio!]
Spurs eased past Villa at White Hart Lane. It was just like last season for Aston Villa, being unable to win away from home against a Premier League side.
Jose Fonte is risking his relationship with the Southampton fans. It’s all very well wanting a move to a bigger club, or more likely China at the rate they are hoovering up D-rate players, but to turn down the chance to captain the team you are club captain of in a League Cup semi-final is an unwise move. If I was a manager thinking of buying him, he would not be the kind of character I would want in my dressing room. Turning down a cup semi-final for Southampton? Matt Le Tissier would be turning in his grave if he wasn’t alive and well.
Finally, Robert Firmino has had his house burgled whilst at training. Well, if you move to Merseyside and make it pretty clear when you are out at the weekends… Tempting fate really, wasn’t it?
There is a new FM book out on sale, edited by the supremely talented Alex Stewart and has a foreword from his arch enemy (in the FM sense only) Iain Macintosh – it is an anthology of all kinds of FM writing with contributions from some of our very own FootballFanCast writers (Lee Scott and myself) as well as excellent pieces from others too. 10% of all the sales goes to the mental health charity CALM, which is doing fantastic work. Anyway, if you like James’ FM updates on here then you will love this as much. Go and spend £4 on it which, as I understand it, is less than a large coffee in Costa now. You can get it here.