The Diary Takes On The FA Cup...

...and suggests that actual 'tactics' might be needed against Arsenal while wondering just how pompous Brendan Rodgers will be if he gets to Wembley. It's frightening...

Last Updated: 06/01/14 at 15:57 Post Comment

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In which our brave and noble Premier League diarists step out of their comfort zone and consider something called 'The FA Cup', which sometimes features teams that 'aren't from the Premier League', wherever the hell that might be. Probably up north somewhere.

Camembert 2 - 0 Mild Cheddar
Strong, French cheese had its moment against mild English simplicity on Saturday night. While Arsene Wenger couldn't call on the focus of Olivier Giroud, he did have football's Stuart Broad, Theo Walcott, to lead the line. Thomas Vermaelen was picked and then subbed at half-time, possibly injury, possibly common sense. Despite a weakened team fielded by Arsenal, Spurs gave them a hand by being managed by Tim Sherwood. Tim Sherwood is no disadvantage against the smaller teams managed by more limited managers, like David Moyes' Manchester United, but Wenger has an advantage.

The advantage is an old thing called 'tactics', which is roughly translated as 'telling your players where to stand, where to move and where to kick the ball'. It wasn't that Arsenal had more constructive tactics than Spurs, it was that Arsenal had tactics, the same as ever really, and Spurs elected to forego them. The result was free jazz. If Tim Sherwood was Ornette Coleman, that would be fine. Tim Sherwood is not Ornette Coleman.

Sunderland 3-1 Carlisle United
In some ways, 3-1 is the perfect score for cross-division cup games like this. Sunderland, who aren't very good, still win by virtue of being significantly more expensive, but concede in the process, which reinforces the wider vulnerability that has seen them suffer in the Premier League. So well done everybody. The thing that should happen, happened.

Derby 0-2 Chelsea
Will Hughes was so busy wondering about whether he should be on the pitch or the Headhunters in the Chelsea end that he forgot to play football. Beyond that, rubbish game, who cares?

Manchester United 1-2 Swansea City
David Moyes has tactics, they're just not very good. Put the ball out wide and cross is simple, but it doesn't have to be rotten. For it, you need two strong strikers, two wingers, and crucially, two central midfielders able to move the ball quickly and cover ground almost as fast. Antonio Valencia and Shinji Kagawa are both out of form, and Kagawa isn't even a winger, so it's an esoteric choice, at best. In midfield, Darren Fletcher seems fine, but is recovering from major illness and surgery, so shouldn't be teamed with Tom Cleverley, who isn't recovering from major illness and surgery, he just plays like he is. Javier Hernandez is best suited to making the most of half-chances, which weren't really created, but he's out of form too. Danny Welbeck is just bloody lovely, but he's not mature enough to carry a bad side.

Swansea had a lantern-jawed manager, and that was quite nice. But he won because United aren't very good these days. Still, playing poor teams hasn't stopped David Moyes from losing, so well done Michael Laudrup for the routine competence that eludes Manchester United.

Newcastle United 1-2 Cardiff City
In which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer managed to set aside the controversy surrounding his appointment, move beyond the disappointment that has flowed from any number of grown adults that should know better than to believe that anybody involved in football has anything that might resemble a principle, and take the first step on the short road that sees him installed as third favourite for the Manchester United job over the summer. He's started buying players represented by his favoured agents, too, which will be a great help.

????????? ?-? Manchester City
Ah, Blackburn! That was it. Feels like it was a draw, but it could have been a City win. Either way, regardless of replay or non-replay, City will be optimistic of progressing to the next round. Good to see Paul Robinson out and about, mind. We've missed his unique brand of fraught flapping and gigantic kicks from hand.

Everton 4-0 Queen's Park Rangers
A game so limp and one-sided that Joey Barton couldn't even get sent off.

Aston Villa 1-2 Sheffield United
A little tip for Paul Lambert. It is entirely acceptable, in this broken day and age, not to care about the FA Cup. It may even be necessary, given the pressures of the Premier League, the motivations of football club owners, and the precarious employment security enjoyed by you and your fellow managers. But you must never, ever say so. That just looks gauche in the extreme. And apart from anything else, as motivational tactics go, it's only slightly more inspiring than turning up in your dressing gown and slippers, then falling asleep halfway through your own team talk.

Liverpool 2-0 Oldham
If you think Brendan Rodgers cuts a ridiculously pompous and self-regarding figure now, just wait 'til he gets to pontificate on the magic of Wembley, and what is means for a club like Liverpool Football Club. Liverpool Football Club has a special tradition and it's up to Brendan Rodgers to represent that fine tradition and use this journey that he is on, with regards to advancing the project, going forward, which speaks to his belief that the Anfield crowd are the most knowledgeable in the game and that will be cascaded down to the Oldham fans who will have felt so lucky to be in attendance and witness such a remarkable skillset-delivery from his charges, Iago Aspas delivered precisely the task that was set down for him in his gantt chart upon him joining this spiritual and special team bonding metaphor that is Aspas himself, Brendan himself and Liverpool Football Club themselves.

Middlesbrough 0-2 Hull City
We could write anything here and you wouldn't know, would you? But we won't. We respect you more than that. And we didn't see any of the game, so can't confirm whether Tom Huddlestone actually did that to a pigeon. But he definitely did.

Norwich City 1-1 Fulham
Oh man. Oh man. Oh man.

Stoke City 2-1 Leicester City
Send help. Or booze. Send helpful booze.

West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Crystal Palace
Well, what do you expect when an eagle, all talons and claws and weird American patriotic montages, takes on a song thrush? Blood and feathers, folks. Blood and feathers.

Nottingham Forest 5-0 West Ham United
Congratulations to plucky West Ham United for containing the score to something that wouldn't quite get into Wisden. Coming to an in-form side when your players so obviously don't care, half of them are rubbish and you've given up before you even get to the ground is never easy, so to just have huge rather than total humiliation is the best that they could do. It showed real courage of Sam Allardyce and his board to insult the fans so explicitly, and they deserve a pat on the back for showing absolutely no regard for the whole club and its future. The magic of the cup.

Andi Thomas and Alexander Netherton

You can follow Andi on Twitter here, Alexander on Twitter here, and buy last season's Diary here.

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Readers' Comments


may well get slated by other United fans for this, but out of the three contenders, I'd far prefer Liverpool to win the title. Yes some elements of their fanbase can be a bit OTT, yes they're our biggest rivals and yes it will make our poor season feel even more like the end of an era (Fergie's gone, Liverpool are back on top). However I just have to applaud Brendan Rodgers and the way he's turned Liverpool around in just a couple of seasons. It...

Please Stop Telling Us What To Think


ooray! We are all excited now, we beat a very mediocre team! With all due respect to WHU supporters, not winning that game shouldn't even be a consideration. This is the problem, there is no winning mentality at the Emirates - we're all congratulating ourselves beating a team that we have a winning record against.

Wenger hails important win


s this meant to be an aspiration for United supporters? Moyes mediocrity strikes again. I see the Bayern boys don't want to sign for him, and his reputation amongst the senior European coaches make other key signings unlikely.

De Gea's Europa League target

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