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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK

Premier League and FA Cup: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action

André Onana, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ollie Watkins
André Onana, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ollie Watkins. Composite: Getty/Action Images/PA

United ride out Wembley whirlwind

Jammy, jammy Man United. To be fair, they did find a new way to be hopeless. Instead of the usual mayhem, they were in total control for 70 minutes, barely letting Coventry have a shot. But then, somehow, they snatched chaos from the jaws of serenity. ITV, and all their teatime viewers, couldn’t believe their luck as a cakewalk turned into a classic. United threw away a 3-0 lead, and for a minute, right at the end of extra time, they were 4-3 down – only for the VAR to come to their rescue, after he had failed to when they conceded a penalty. We were witnessing history, comedy, tragedy, the lot. Casemiro took the first penalty and missed. Destiny was surely calling to Coventry, but André Onana rose to the occasion, flying to his right to paw away one penalty, craftily engineering a miss from another, and saving Erik ten Hag’s job. For now, anyway. Tim de Lisle

Rollercoaster afternoon for Robins

It was billed as the Mark Robins derby. The man himself wasn’t having that: “It’s not about me,” he said firmly beforehand. But as this semi-final unfolded, it actually was about him. His decision to switch to a back five went horribly wrong, giving Diogo Dalot the space to run the show. Manchester United were transformed, taking control and even looking, as Harry Maguire put it, “very professional”. At half-time Robins made the obvious change, reverting to a back four. It made a big difference, allowing Coventry to get shots away and compete on level terms, but they still didn’t score and even conceded a third. Robins kept the faith, made astute substitutions, and his luck turned: two goals in 10 minutes, one more in the 95th. The fairytale was on – until the VAR put a stop to all that. Coventry lost the penalty shootout but won the hearts of millions with their spirit. That is what the FA Cup is about. TdL

Jackson lacks belief when it matters

At Chelsea, queues form for the right to take penalties awarded when the score is 4-0. The ability to take responsibility is harder to detect when the stakes are higher. For instance, none of Cole Palmer’s teammates were perturbed by him taking an equalising spot-kick in added time against Manchester United. Nerve in the big moments remains elusive. It did not matter that Chelsea did a lot of good things in their FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City. City were below their best but had enough knowhow. Chelsea, by contrast, found a way to lose late again, which was largely down to Nicolas Jackson failing to show why he thought it was a good idea to try to take a penalty off Palmer in the 6-0 win over Everton. Where was this conviction against City? Jackson had some great chances and fluffed them all. If only Palmer could pass to Palmer. Jacob Steinberg

City’s challengers back on track

Crisis, what crisis? Like Arsenal, Liverpool simply had to win this weekend, and they did, by two clear goals. Jürgen Klopp rang the changes and reaped the benefit as Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ryan Gravenberch and Diogo Jota all scored at Craven Cottage. The result, combined with Arsenal’s, leaves the title race in a curious position. Most assume Manchester City have got it in the bag. The Opta computer agrees, giving City a 62% chance of yet another title, with Arsenal on 22% and Liverpool on 16%. Yet City are third, with the same number of wins as Liverpool and one fewer than Arsenal. The next two fixtures for City’s weary superstars are on the road, the first against Brighton, who hardly ever lose at home. We think it’s all over … it isn’t now. TdL

Arsenal’s defence holds firm again

Arsenal are on the hunt for a forward this summer – Alexander Isak and Ivan Toney are among those linked – but their defence may hold the key to sustaining their title challenge. Mikel Arteta’s side made it six away clean sheets in a row with victory at Wolves on Saturday and a shutout at home to Chelsea on Tuesday – a team that has plundered 19 goals across their past six matches – would represent another fine result. Ben White was excellent going forward at Molineux and the entire defence were hardly ruffled. Chelsea and Tottenham, with the latter hosting their rivals on Sunday, will prove sterner tests. “If we want to put pressure on, we have to win, to win and keep going like this,” said William Saliba. “We know it will be hard but we are prepared. We have to push and give everything we have.” Ben Fisher

Clash of heads shows culture shift

There was a delay in injury time when Beto and Morgan Gibbs-White suffered a clash of heads, leaving the Everton striker unconscious on the pitch. A team of medical personnel rushed to the aid of the two players and took their time to assess the severity of the situation. Gibbs-White was able to return to his feet but Beto clearly needed the more urgent care. In a relegation battle results are seen as the most important thing but the health of players must always take priority. The sport has progressed over the years when it comes to medical treatment for head injuries and, after taking every precaution, delaying the match by eight minutes in the process, Beto was put on to a stretcher and carried away, mercifully giving a thumbs up to the fans as he departed and headed to hospital as a precaution. He will, most likely, need to go through the concussion protocol and could miss some crucial games, but it is a sign that football sometimes gets its priorities right. Will Unwin

Berge deepens South Yorkshire pain

When Sheffield United sold Sander Berge to Burnley for £12m last summer many Bramall Lane regulars began fearing an immediate return to the Championship. It was all but confirmed by Saturday’s demoralising 4-1 home defeat to Vincent Kompany’s renascent side and, exacerbating the South Yorkshire pain, Berge was the best player on the pitch, frequently dictating midfield. Even so Burnley could also be heading back to the second tier. Granted they are close to safety and have lost only one of their last seven games but an unkind fixture list leaves them facing Manchester United, Newcastle United, Tottenham and Nottingham Forest in their final four matches. “Hopefully we can take things to the end,” said the realistic Kompany. Should the worst happen, the hope is Burnley’s board will keep faith with the Belgian while also resisting all offers for Norway’s Berge. Louise Taylor

Watkins and Solanke state their case

If the match at Villa Park was an audition to be Harry Kane’s understudy at the Euros, Ollie Watkins and Dominic Solanke both showcased what they could offer Gareth Southgate. While Ivan Toney was left out of the Brentford squad for their match at Luton, both Watkins and Solanke impressed in Aston Villa’s 3-1 victory over Bournemouth. Watkins produced a man of the match display, setting up Moussa Diaby and Leon Bailey. In the process, he became the leading goal provider in the Premier League this season. Solanke was given little service but kept his cool to score from the spot against Emiliano Martínez, a goalkeeper renowned for saving penalties, and net his 18th goal of the campaign. If Toney is dropping down the pecking order, Southgate has serious firepower to still call upon. Pete Lansley

Moyes continues to suffer for his art

This week a West Ham social media post commemorated the late John Lyall, the previous Hammers manager to win a trophy, to a universally warm reception. Perhaps in the future, David Moyes will be remembered as fondly even if the hardcore have never been fully convinced. Perhaps that’s down to Moyes’ outward flintiness. Behind the scenes he can be warm, clubbable even, but refrains from giving much away in public. Equally, his style of football does not fit the template of whatever the West Ham Way is supposed to be. Despite huge talent within his team – Lucas Paquetá and Edson Álvarez were both poor at Selhurst Park – he can often seem most satisfied with performances in which the only discernible quality is the keeping of defensive shape. “No idea,” Moyes said, shaping to leave when asked if he would receive a respectful send-off should he leave this summer. It may take some time to receive his deserved recognition. John Brewin

Wissa and Mbeumo a deadly duo

While Yoane Wissa emerged from Brentford’s dominant win at Kenilworth Road with much of the credit, having set the visitors on the way to victory with two well-taken goals, Bryan Mbeumo gave a similarly devastating performance. He would have ended with a hat-trick of assists were it not for Reece Burke’s flailing last touch on the cross which set up Wissa’s second, while he also smashed the crossbar in the first half and played a crucial role in the build-up to Kevin Schade’s late strike. Wissa has tallied a career-best 10 Premier League goals this term, while Mbeumo is one away from matching the nine he netted last season; both deserve credit for picking up the slack during Ivan Toney’s absences. Against Luton, though, it was Mbeumo who really stood out in open play, scampering between the lines, isolating defenders and rattling off killer passes. “My front three were all fantastic today,” Thomas Frank said afterwards, also singling out Keane Lewis-Potter, who was more scattergun but just as energised. Will Magee

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Arsenal 33 51 74
2 Liverpool 33 43 74
3 Man City 32 44 73
4 Aston Villa 34 21 66
5 Tottenham Hotspur 32 16 60
6 Newcastle 32 17 50
7 Man Utd 32 -1 50
8 West Ham 34 -9 48
9 Chelsea 31 9 47
10 Brighton 32 2 44
11 Wolverhampton 33 -7 43
12 Fulham 34 -4 42
13 AFC Bournemouth 33 -12 42
14 Crystal Palace 33 -14 36
15 Brentford 34 -7 35
16 Everton 33 -14 30
17 Nottm Forest 34 -18 26
18 Luton 34 -28 25
19 Burnley 34 -32 23
20 Sheff Utd 33 -57 16
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