FA Cup Review - Hazard hints at Chelsea resurgence
Manchester United win irrelevant as Glazers and Woodward gut the club
At most normal big clubs, had Louis van Gaal lost to Derby County on Friday night, it would have been the last of his games in charge, after a pathetically sorry showing for the last six months. However, with Edward Woodward protecting himself by protecting his manager, you would probably not be wrong to guess that Van Gaal could turn up to manage a game nude, use bodypaint to daub himself in universally blasphemous slogans, and urinate all over his players, and still not get sacked. As it turned out, Van Gaal was able to remain clothed and keep his job, with an ultimately simple 3-1 victory to bring them into the fifth round.
The FA Cup remains Van Gaal’s last serious option of silverware in his time at United, which most fans are eagerly counting down by the fraction of a second. With the Glazers imposing 15% cuts across the club as they look to sell up or pocket yet more unearned cash, they aren’t going to be challenging for anything more significant in the near future.
Benteke deserves support from his own fans
While Wayne Rooney’s rumoured lack of professionalism, embodied by pictures of cigarettes and late nights, made it easy to be unsympathetic to his dreadful form for the last three years, things aren’t the same for Christian Benteke. However, Rooney also appeared to suffer from a kind of yips, unable even to finish competently for most of 2015, and it now seems that Benteke is suffering from a similar condition.
Benteke has shown none of Rooney’s worst qualities, but has been rounded on by some Liverpool fans in a particularly obnoxious manner, treating him as if a criminal has wandered onto the pitch. That’s not especially odd for Liverpool fans, or indeed any other set of fans, as impatience increases hand-in-hand with cruelty on the sidelines.
Benteke has shown in his time at Aston Villa that he is far from a bad player, merely one whose style is not suited to Brendan Rodgers’ preferences then, or Jurgen Klopp’s now. However, it’s not just a lack of suitability that has held him back, but a struggle to finish to his usual standards when opportunities do eventually present themselves. While Benteke has work to do himself, those getting on his back might like to consider what they’re actually achieving.
Iheanacho’s emergence a rare bright spot for City
There’s been little to enjoy of Manuel Pellegrini’s valedictory season at Manchester City. Vincent Kompany seems like he needs a major intervention to overcome his frequent muscle injuries, Yaya Toure is counting down the hours until he can enjoy life at Inter Milan, and Raheem Sterling is yet to deliver on his promise. Even David Silva looks like he can’t be bothered. The one enjoyable development, though, is Kelechi Iheanacho’s progress. From making the odd appearance in the US pre-season friendlies, to demonstrating that he is a superior alternative to Wilfried Bony, it seems like they have a player who could build on his hat-trick to develop into something special under Pep Guardiola.
Crystal Palace arrest their slump
With just one win in their last seven, and none in their last three, Crystal Palace were enduring a miserable slump in form. At West Ham and Newcastle, Alan Pardew had overseen promising improvements when in charge only to later prove himself incapable of arresting alarming slumps expediently, or at all. They have made two important changes to give them a chance in the second half of the season.
Their victory against Stoke City might have been because Stoke made plenty of changes, weakening the first eleven, but it was by no means assured beforehand. Palace now have a win to lift spirits, and have proved to themselves a clean sheet is not beyond that. Further to that, they’ve also recruited Emmanuel Adebayor, who has made impressive starts to his time at each of his clubs. Palace have struggled for goals without a sufficiently talented striker to prove a focal point - Adebayor is a player who could change that.
Pochettino risks Spurs burnout
Mauricio Pochettino has so far achieved something special at Spurs. It’s not the run of form that is noticeable; that’s been achieved in the past under Andres Villas Boas and Harry Redknapp. It is that he has slowly started to build a squad, and a first team, that shows promise of improvement for years to come, and a cohesive plan that others can join at a later date.
Spurs might have been without Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, but they still started with Erik Lamela, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen in attack. With Pochettino sending out his Spurs side to close down opponents and contribute plenty of running, this is a risk. Spurs are in the middle of a credible attempt at Champions League qualification, but with a lack of transfer activity, they should not expose their best and most important players to action in an insignificant (to them) competition. Saido Berahino could join in the next 48 hours to lighten the load, but until they have serious reinforcements, they should focus on preserving their fitness.
Eden Hazard hints at Chelsea resurgence
In 2008/9, Guus Hiddink took over as a caretaker manager for Chelsea during a time of underachievement. Their failure has been even greater this season, but they are in with a chance of repeating their success of that season to win the FA Cup. The performance against MK Dons was against limited opposition, but is part of consistent improvements made by Chelsea under Hiddink.
They’ve had poor draws with Everton and West Brom, but they are also undefeated, and won again against Arsenal in a very funny performance, highlighting their old enemy’s usual foibles. Under Jose Mourinho last season, there were hints of fatigue when they lost at home to Bradford City, which ultimately translated into their barely concealed contempt for their manager in this campaign. Things are much different under Hiddink, so far.