Five things I learned from last weekend’s FA Cup ties

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We moved one step closer to finding out which team will lift the historic FA Cup trophy at Wembley last weekend with the fifth round ties.

On Saturday, the big game saw Manchester City beat Premier League title rivals Chelsea 2-0 with goals from Stevan Jovetic and Samir Nasri two weeks after losing to the Blues in the league.

Sunderland, City’s opponents in the Capital One Cup final, also progressed after Craig Gardner’s superb strike gave them a 1-0 win over Southampton.

The shock of the round saw last year’s winners Wigan Athletic progress at Cardiff City, Ben Watson scoring the winner just as he did at Wembley last May.

On Sunday, we saw three more ties, starting with the early kick-off at Goodison Park where Everton defeated Swansea City 2-1.

Sheffield United continued their fantastic run in this year’s competition as they came from behind to beat Nottingham

Forest 3-1, whilst Arsenal were 2-1 winners over Liverpool as they took revenge for the Reds beating them 5-1 in the league last weekend.

The two remaining ties see Brighton and Hove Albion face Hull City on Monday night and Charlton visit Sheffield Wednesday next week after their game was called off on Saturday because of a waterlogged pitch.

Read below to find out five things I learned from last weekend’s FA Cup ties.

1. If Eden Hazard doesn’t perform, Chelsea don’t perform

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Having got more goals and more assists than any other Chelsea player this season, it is no doubt that Eden Hazard is crucial in the Blues’ line-up.

Most of the time this season, the Belgian has played superbly and Chelsea usually get a result when he is at the top of his game.

One example of this was when Jose Mourinho’s side visited Manchester City in the league earlier this month, and Hazard’s man of the match display helped his side to a 1-0 win.

The twinkle-toed Belgium playmaker at times had City petrified to even make a tackle his dribbling was so mesmeric, while he was at the centre of all of Chelsea’s most dangerous moments with his inventive attacking play.

Returning to the Etihad in the cup on Saturday however, he could not find the space he needed to truly affect the game and only flickered as an attacking threat with his neat footwork. As a result, Chelsea also underperformed and were knocked out of the FA Cup.

2. The FA Cup really is Ben Watson’s competition

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Last season Wigan midfielder Ben Watson became a Latics hero when he headed home Shaun Maloney’s cross in the 91st minute of the FA Cup final against Manchester City to win the Greater Manchester club’s first major trophy in their 81 year history.

He’s been at it again this season and scored the winner against Premier League strugglers Cardiff City with a 25 yard pile driver free-kick on Saturday to set his side up with a quarter-final with Manchester City next month.

The goal was the third in the last four FA Cup games for Watson, who also scored against Crystal Palace in a round four to set Wigan off on a 2-1 win over the Eagles.

Strangely though, the 28 year old has only scored three times in the league in the past two seasons, so seems to love the FA Cup.

So after his heroics last season, he could easily become a cup hero once again if Wigan continue their run further into the competition.

3. Lower-league sides have plenty of hope of reaching Wembley

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As well as Championship’s Wigan’s win, Sheffield United of League One also progressed at the weekend, with the chance of two more lower-league sides getting into the quarter-finals.

Championship side Brighton and Hove Albion also have a chance to make the final eight if they take down Hull City on Monday at home.

Furthermore, Charlton Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday who also both play in England’s second division go head to head next week after their game was called off on Saturday because of a waterlogged pitch.

If Brighton pulls out a victory, there will be as many lower-league sides as top-flight teams in the final eight, which is a storyline that will give us plenty to talk about.

And after the  quarter-final draw on Sunday, we know that at least one non-Premier League team will be at Wembley for the semis.

Sheffield Wednesday or Charlton will face Sheffield United in the only tie with no top division teams in it. But don’t write off Brighton against Sunderland if they can get past Hull either.

4. Everton continue to fly under the radar

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With two massive clashes between top-flight teams this weekend, no one cared to mention what Everton were up to in the FA Cup.

Roberto Martinez, who led Wigan to the FA Cup last season, guided his Everton side to a 3-1 victory over Swansea City in the other all-Premier League showdown last weekend at Goodison Park.

With all of the attention being directed toward the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal for their victories this weekend, it is worth remembering that the Toffees have a decent chance of winning the competition as well with no European commitments to think of.

However, the Toffees will be no longer be under the radar when the quarter-finals begin, because they have to travel to the Emirates Stadium for what should be the marquee clash of the final eight.

They managed to get a 1-1 draw in North London in the league in December, so they will be no push over for Arsenal who swept aside their Merseyside rivals at the weekend.

5. Daniel Sturridge picked the wrong day to misfire

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Going into Sunday’s big match at the Emirates Stadium, Daniel Sturridge had an impressive milestone to achieve: If he scored against Arsenal, he’d become the first ever Liverpool player to score in nine or more consecutive games.

Sadly for him, his teammates, managers and fans, he wasn’t to break the record in North London, as the Reds fell to a 2-1 defeat.

And not only that: Sturridge failed to bring his shooting boots for such a grand occasion, as he missed two early chances on his right foot and later squandered at least a couple more.

Alongside him upfront, Luis Suarez also suffered a rare off-day, as the prolific SAS strike pair failed to hit a barn door. The Reds actually had more shots than the Gunners overall, but couldn’t take their chances as they did against Arsene Wenger’s side last weekend.

Liverpool fans will be hoping that Sturridge will be saving his goals to aid their Premier League top-four push.

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This article is also being published on Touchline Talk, the website I write for. You can look at previous pieces of mine here:

http://www.touchlinetalk.com/author/olly-allen/

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