Five more FA Cup ties to bring you up to speed with from Saturday, with two Premier League sides progressing to the fourth round, another two bowing out at the hands of lower-league opposition – and one top-flight club facing the dreaded midweek replay in between Gameweeks 22 and 23.
The key Fantasy talking points, manager quotes and injury updates are all covered in our latest Scout Notes article.
Blackpool 0-3 Arsenal
Another match and another defensive injury for Arsenal, who lost Laurent Koscielny (£5.4m) to a back injury ahead of their fairly comfortable 3-0 victory over Blackpool.
Koscielny limped out of the Gunners’ side during the pre-match warm-up and manager Unai Emery said:
Yes [it’s a back problem]. I hope it’s not bad. He has one week to rest and to work, thinking about the next match against West Ham. I hope he’s going to be OK for the next matches but before the match, he felt some pain in his back. We decided it was better for him to not play.
At the moment, with our problems at centre-back, it meant we were able to look at different players in different positions. Today that was Lichtsteiner, who played with very good commitment and concentration to help us at centre back with Sokratis.
Arsenal’s injury problems and performances at centre-half in general will certainly give encouragement to the owners of Marko Arnautovic (£6.9m) and Felipe Anderson (£7.4m) ahead of Arsenal’s trip to West Ham in Gameweek 22, with the Gunners not looking particularly at ease even against League One opposition: Armand Gnanduillet and Nathan Delfouneso among those having decent chances for the hosts.
Sead Kolasinac (£4.9m) was one of four players to keep their place in the Arsenal starting XI following the win over Fulham, with the Bosnian left-back being withdrawn on 83 minutes while on a booking.
Kolasinac was noticeably more subdued in an attacking sense, having been deployed as an orthodox left-back as Emery switched to a back four.
Sokratis (£5.1m), the impressive Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£4.4m) and Alex Iwobi (£5.4m) were the other three players to retain their starts, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.4m) handed the evening off and Alexandre Lacazette (£9.4m) limited to a 26-minute cameo off the bench.
Eddie Nketiah (£5.0m) led the line instead but wasted three excellent goalscoring opportunities on a rare start, with Joe Willock (£4.5m) stealing his thunder somewhat with two strikes in the first half.
We mixed the experienced players in the squad and in the first 11 with some young players like Willock, like Eddie Nketiah and also Ainsley and I think it’s a good combination because they can show us they are progressing with the team.
The most important is with the passions, they work hard and be concentrated when they need to help again today.
And then, I am very happy with Willock and also with Eddie. Eddie had three good chances to score, but the most important is to create these chances. Willock scored and I think it’s good for them and for us.
Aaron Ramsey (£7.2m) impressed in central midfield, claiming “Fantasy assists” for two of Arsenal’s goals with thwarted shots that were followed in by Willock and Iwobi.
The Welshman appears set for a move away from north London but Emery said:
For me, the best thing about Aaron Ramsey is his commitment today and his performance is the most important thing for me.
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Cech; Jenkinson, Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Kolasinac; Elneny, Ramsey; Maitland-Niles, Willock, Iwobi (Saka 84′); Nketiah (Lacazette 64′).
Crystal Palace 1-0 Grimsby Town
Crystal Palace made heavy work of beating Grimsby Town, despite playing for almost all of the game with a man advantage over their League Two opponents.
Wilfried Zaha (£6.7m) and Andros Townsend (£5.8m) were the only two players to keep their places in Roy Hodgson’s starting XI as he made wholesale changes for this third-round tie, but goalscoring once again proved problematic for the Eagles on home turf: no top-flight club has scored fewer Premier League goals at home than Hodgson’s troops in 2018/19.
Alexander Sorloth (£4.8m) failed another audition in the striker’s role and Palace were indebted to a late header from substitute Jordan Ayew (£5.7m) to progress to the fourth round.
The Palace boss said of Sorloth’s display:
He’s a much better player than he’s been able to show in the games and the chances he’s had because we see it every day in training.
For goalscorers and centre-forwards confidence does play a big part and the last thing you want as a centre-forward is to find yourself with the opposing team with all 10 players back behind the ball so when the ball arrives in your area you have a guy marking you and two others around you just waiting to nick it off you if your control doesn’t happen to be quite right.
I think he was unlucky. In the very first minute – a very good attack – good cross from Andros [Townsend] he headed it very well to the far post but it was cleared off the line.
Hodgson said a striker was a priority in the January transfer window:
It’s obviously something we would like because as we’ve seen once again today we can’t do much more in terms of dominating games, we can’t do much more in our movement, our tactical approach and our domination of the ball, so it’s pretty obvious if we had that person who could score goals from nothing or from the half chances we’d be a lot higher up the league table and we’d have won this game a lot earlier.
Wilf today, for example, was a constant threat because he has that ability in those areas. He was unlucky that he didn’t wriggle his way through on about seven or eight occasions.
Zaha found himself frustrated as he was consistently crowded out by a swarm of black and white shirts, a familiar experience for the Ivorian who hasn’t scored in the Premier League since Gameweek 5.
Palace meanwhile lost Pape Souare (£4.2m) to injury in the first half, with Hodgson saying:
I’m really disappointed. I’ve worked with him now for over a year and he’s done so well to get back from an horrendous injury caused by an accident. For the last year to be frank, from the first moment I came in he’s been out there every day in training trying his best, getting better and better I think.
Always showing me ‘look at me I’m a good player, why don’t you choose me?’ as it turns out he’s found a guy like Patrick van Aanholt in front of him and I’ve made the decision to keep Patrick in and to keep him [Souare] out.
But today was the day I was really hoping he would get on the field of play and show what he shows us in training and he would come off the field victorious and happy.
To get injured like that with his shoulder, that was a bitter blow and it was one of those unfortunate things where he was bundled over and of course falling awkwardly and it’s a shoulder injury.
I’m very disappointed for him and I can only hope that he recovers quickly but it’s not a minor injury, it could keep him out for weeks.
Crystal Palace XI (4-3-3): Hennessey; Ward, Dann, Kelly, Souare (Kouyate 36′); Meyer, Schlupp, Riedewald (Ayew 68′); Townsend, Zaha, Sorloth (Wickham 61).
Newcastle United 1-1 Blackburn Rovers
Newcastle United joined Southampton in earning a dreaded third-round replay in between Gameweeks 22 and 23, with the Magpies facing Chelsea and Cardiff City either side of the trip to Ewood Park.
Given the magnitude of that “six-pointer” against the Bluebirds in a fortnight’s time, we can surely expect to see another weakened Newcastle side for the rematch with Rovers.
Rafael Benitez made eight changes to his line-up for this encounter, with Isaac Hayden (£4.3m), Matt Ritchie (£5.8m) and Fabian Schar (£4.6m) the only players to keep their places.
Salomon Rondon (£5.8m), Ayoze Perez (£6.1m) and Christian Atsu (£5.1m) dropped to the bench and United’s second-string proved as limited as the first-team in creating clear goalscoring chances, though David Raya had a decent game in the visiting goal to repel the shots that came his way.
Only Huddersfield Town have scored fewer Premier League goals than the Magpies this season and the hosts had to rely on a late penalty to spare their blushes, with Ritchie converting after substitute Perez had been felled in the box.
Kenedy (£4.8m), Jacob Murphy (£4.7m) and Joselu (£4.8m) did little to suggest they will threaten Perez, Atsu and Rondon in the United attack in the short-term, meanwhile.
One other feature of this season has been Newcastle’s weaknesses at set pieces and this was again in evidence at St. James’ Park on Saturday, with Bradley Dack’s headed goal coming from an indirect free-kick and Rovers going close on two other occasions from dead-ball situations.
Florian Lejeune (£4.4m) was handed his first start of the season after recovering from a knee injury and Benitez said:
We didn’t want another game – we wanted to win – but, after losing, we needed to react, and the reaction of the team in the final minutes was quite good. It’s a pity we have to play another game but it’s better than to lose.
I think the fans know that if we go through, it has to be with the squad. We have two or three players away, and some with (injury) problems, so we had to pick a team that we think could compete against a Championship team.
The positives are the reaction of the team, some players playing that were not playing, especially (Florian) Lejeune, who has been out for four and a half months with the operations. It’s really good news because it means that we have another body.
Those are the positives, but it’s disappointing, as we have to play another game. We didn’t play at the level I was expecting, but the reaction was good.
It’s another game, another situation that you have to manage. More minutes, more players, more risk.
Newcastle United XI (4-2-3-1): Woodman; Sterry, Schar, Lejeune, Manquillo; Hayden (Shelvey 57), Longstaff (Perez 80); Murphy (Atsu 75′), Kenedy, Ritchie, Joselu.
Bristol City 1-0 Huddersfield Town
Finding the back of the net has been Huddersfield’s chief problem this season and the Terriers’ shortcomings in attack were once again in evidence at Ashton Gate as David Wagner’s side slumped to their ninth straight defeat to bow out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle.
Wagner made eight changes to his side as his squad players were given a chance to impress, but it wasn’t until the half-time introduction of Steve Mounie (£5.8m) and Alex Pritchard (£4.8m) that the visitors began to exert any kind of pressure on the City goal.
Mounie, Pritchard and Chris Lowe (£4.4m) had decent opportunities to break the deadlock after the break, with Laurent Depoitre (£5.1m) wasting the Terriers’ only real sight of goal in the opening 45 minutes from six yards out.
One shot on target in the whole 90 minutes told its own story, however.
It was a tight game where we maybe had better opportunities in the box from different positions where we didn’t hit the target – this is our biggest problem, we didn’t give the goalkeeper some work to do
This is a problem we have had more or less the whole season.
We have seen when you hit the target what can happen when they scored, which wasn’t a position where you have to score – and this went wrong in the game where there was not a lot between the teams.
Huddersfield were undone by a 72nd-minute Josh Brownhill goal, with Ben Hamer (£4.0m) perhaps culpable for that strike after being beaten at his near post.
Jason Puncheon (£4.2m) made his Town debut in central midfield after joining on loan from Crystal Palace and impressed Wagner with his display:
Jason Puncheon looked composed on the ball and is able to take care of the ball. It was important for him to play 90 minutes, and his fitness looks good.
Huddersfield Town XI (4-2-3-1): Hamer; Durm, Stankovic, Jorgensen, Lowe; Hogg, Puncheon; Kachunga, Bacuna (Pritchard 45′), Diakhaby (Mbenza 72′); Depoitre (Mounie 45′).
Gillingham 1-0 Cardiff City
Huddersfield next face a must-win game against Cardiff City, who also bowed out of the FA Cup to lower-league opposition on Saturday.
Neil Warnock made seven changes to his starting XI for the trip to Priestfield, but only Nathaniel Mendez-Laing (£4.8m) emerged from the defeat with any credit – the winger offering plenty of direct running down the flank and striking the bar with one curling effort after the break.
“Out of position” midfielder Callum Paterson (£5.1m) turned in an anonymous showing up front and while the Bluebirds had plenty of efforts blocked by last-ditch Gillingham tackles, they only made home goalkeeper Tomas Holy work on four occasions.
While Cardiff enjoyed the better of the possession and chances, the Gills had gone close twice before they took the lead on 81 minutes and struck the bar themselves after opening the scoring.
Warnock had no quibbles about his side’s work rate but acknowledged a lack of quality in the final third:
I know we made a lot of changes but I thought we played well, I thought the attitude was good today, I’ve no complaints about the attitude.
I think you need a bit of luck in the cup, but I don’t think we’d have scored if we’d been playing until now. We had so many chances but it seemed like nobody wanted to score – whether they thought we should be out of the cup and concentrate on the league, I don’t know!
I’ve never seen so many chances, delayed shots and things like that.
Gary Madine (£4.4m) is set for a loan move to Sheffield United, with that transfer and Cardiff’s ongoing injury problems up front at the forefront of Warnock’s thoughts:
It’s getting strikers in January. You look at some of the players we’re looking at and the figures are astronomical.
It’s going to be one of those jobs late in the window again when somebody decides to let someone go. Look at the Premier League, Abraham for £18million. It’s alright me saying ‘we’ve got to keep calm’, but it is disappointing at times.
I think a lot of teams want the strikers they’ve got to go permanent now and if they’re not the right one for us, do we spend money on a permanent striker for the sake of four months?
It’s a difficult one, we haven’t got the answer yet. Time will tell over the next three or four weeks. Nothing concrete.
Cardiff also picked up injuries to Kadeem Harris (£4.5m) and Danny Ward (£4.3m), with Warnock providing an update after full-time:
Well, you’ve got to play 11 v 11. I only left four in from the other day, luckily those four are ok. I didn’t really want to play Morrison if I’m honest but you saw their team, if we hadn’t had played Morrison we’d have got bullied out of it altogether.
Kadeem is having an x-ray and Danny is having a scan on his cheekbone I think it is. He was headbutted in his cheekbone as he’s gone to flick it on, which is just typical bad luck for him, just coming back today.
We’re hoping Kadeem is alright. it’s just his shoulder. It was pointless leaving him on and they’ve decided just to take him to the hospital.
Cardiff City XI (4-4-1-1): Smithies; Peltier, Morrison, Ecuele Manga, Bennett; Mendez-Laing, Damour (Hoilett 90+3′), Ralls, Harris (Murphy 53′); Decordova-Reid (Ward 73′); Paterson.
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