As the English football season entered injury time, we were actually given a week full of shocks and surprises. Honestly, we were. Did you expect Arsenal to get through that week with two wins in the book? No, you didn’t.
Could it be that Mikel Arteta is on to something at the Emirates? After all, taking out both Liverpool and City in less than seven days is not something the recent Arsenal would have done. So that has to be an element of improvement, for sure. Even more impressively, they did this with David Luiz starting both matches. I know, who’d have believed that?
Arsenal’s win over the champions surely finishes off any chat around Liverpool being a ‘great’ side, no? Very good, yes. Great, no. Don’t forget, the club that beat them on Thursday night has won a top-flight without losing a single match as well as lifting a title having lost only one match. Their closest rivals, Man City, have won it with 100 points. Their longest-term rivals, United, created a title-winning dynasty to rival that of the actually-great Liverpool teams of the past. So today, they are not great – be patient Liverpool fans, that might achieve that one day. And when they are there, they are probably not losing 2-1 to Arsenal having been in the lead.
Was Arsenal’s second scalp even more surprising? You’d have to say so. Don’t forget, Liverpool have the title in the bag and there wasn’t anything more to play for than getting to 100 points. Pep and City really wanted to win the FA Cup. Not that you could have told based on Pep’s attire. Ripped jeans, Pep? At the home of football? I’m not so sure. That’s almost as bad as a referee having personalised boots. Yes, you Jon Moss. You.
Arsenal were full value for their win and will return to Wembley to play Chelsea with both teams making a complete mockery of my prematch all-Manchester FA Cup Final prediction.
Now, I’ve spent a lot of time sticking up for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and this morning I am sitting here feeling a little bit let down by the former-blue-eyed-boy. Ole, you are the one telling us over and over how United are a club of traditions. A club that demands silverware. A club with a proud tradition in the FA Cup. Then why, why oh why, why on Earth did you pick that starting XI against Chelsea?
United have been flying recently – really flying. That front line of Rashford, Martial and Greenwood have been electric. Pogno have gelled in the middle of the park. They’ve hardly conceded a goal.
So OGS decided to rip all that up and put a very random selection out in an FA Cup semi final.
And, as a result, Chelsea took the lead through Olivier Giroud (of course, does he ever really not score in a big one?) after nearly an hour of play – yet the goal was still in the first-half. Eh? Eric Bailly, never one to avoid an injury, suffered quite the head injury causing the delay. That must have been the reason David de Gea threw another two into the back of the net, right? The irony is, for all the grief I am giving Solskjaer for changing his regular Premier League side he also dropped his regular FA Cup keeper to stick De Gea back in the firing line. Not a good day for the Norwegian, or the Spaniard.
Watford appointed Nigel Pearson to keep them in the Premier League. West Ham appointed Moyseh to do the same. Friday night’s relegation six-pointer saw one of the two clubs all but secure their Premier League status for next season and saw t’other get rid of their firefighter by the time second semi-final got underway at Wembley.
Michail Antonio could probably score off his backside with his eyes closed at the moment, but it was Declan Rice’s finish that got the virtual crowd off their seats and secured the victory and an empty Athletics Stadium. When Rice does that, you know the Hammers are having a good day.
Watford have put their fate in the hands of Hayden Mullins, once more. It’s simple, Hayden – you just have to get a point out of either City or Arsenal, there’s a good lad.
Norwich City were relegated last weekend, so were able to approach the home match with Burnley free of worry. They could throw off the shackles, play without fear. They could put in a performance for the gaffer, show the fans what great character they have and how committed they are to the club even though they’ve finished bottom of the table.
Yeah, that. 35 minutes were on the clock and the game already looked like it was fizzling into a dull end-of-season-nothing-matters affair. Ten minutes later, Norwich were down to nine-men and Chris Wood had shinned in an overhead that Tim Krul should have saved. When you are down, you are down. If you thought it couldn’t have got any worse, then check out Ben Godfrey’s OG towards the end. It was the kind of classy, assured finish that Teemu Pukki used to be known for.
Leicester are hurtling towards the Europa League faster than you can say ‘Brendan’s bottled it again’. I don’t know what happened to Harry Kane in his early-career loan spell with the Foxes, but it must have really left him wanting cold-hearted revenge. Kane now was 16 in 14 against his former club, and he even ran 80-yards to score his first in this 3-0 win. I think Dejan Lovren could relate to how Jonny Evans must have been feeling when he slipped Hazza the elbow, but how the Leicester defender avoided a second yellow for that is beyond me. Especially given Buendia getting his marching orders the day before. Anyway, imagine sending Wes Morgan out to battle with all that pace buzzing around him. Madness. And the kind of madness that sees Leicester likely to find a way of ending up in Europe’s second rate hassle of a tournament next season.
I’m not sure how you even begin to understand the feeling of VAR ripping out Bournemouth’s barely-beating Premier League heart deep into injury-time at the Vitality. The Cherries were trailing to Southampton and already had one round of resuscitation when Danny Ings gently passed his penalty back to the keeper.
Youngster Sam Surridge had come off the bench and bought his club a last-match ticket, a goal that would keep their destiny slightly more in their own hands given the farcical goings-on at Watford.
And then VAR got involved. Rightly, but unromantically.
Callum Wilson was offside, but the look on Eddie Howe’s face said it all. Broken. How do you bounce back from that? Well, you hope City stick eight past Watford, Arsenal take their final game seriously and pray that your team can do their bit against an Everton side already on their summer holidays, I guess.