FA Cup roundup: Everton, Arsenal move on and Sheffield United leaves it late again

1 Comment

The FA Cup quarterfinals are nearly set, as two top-six teams advanced past Premier League opponents.

Even more intriguing is Sheffield United’s charge through the FA Cup despite sitting in the League One relegation zone.

Everton advanced with a convincing win over Garry Monk’s Swansea, marking the new manager’s first loss in charge of the Welsh club.

Meanwhile, Arsenal hung on to join Manchester City in exacting FA Cup revenge over recent Premier League losses to title-contending foes.

Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain continued his in-form return from injury, and Olivier Giroud wasn’t needed as Arsenal nudged Liverpool out of the FA Cup in an enticing affair.

Liverpool brought their usual attacking force, but on a day referee Howard Webb would probably like to forget, they were given a penalty and denied another and could only get the one goal.

The Reds nearly repeated the stunning start to their Premier League fixture in the opening minutes, but Daniel Sturridge couldn’t convert a pair of early chances.

Mathieu Flamini took control in the midfield buildup from there, and Arsenal withstood a flurry of Liverpool counters while Oxlade-Chamberlain captained the attack.

source: Getty Images
Leighton Baines (L) and Steven Naismith provided the winning fireworks for Everton.

Everton 3-1 Swansea City

It was a comprehensive win for the Toffees, despite their winning goal coming on an obvious defensive mistake.

Debutant Lacina Traore scored just five minutes into his first Everton appearance with a brilliant backheel flick that clipped a defender and settled into the back of the net.

Swansea missed a few great chances early, and while they would equalize before halftime through Jonathan de Guzman, but they were thoroughly dominated in the second half. Substitute Steven Naismith provided the winning goal when Neil Taylor’s back-pass went awry, and the Scottish international won a penalty  for Leighton Baines to slot home and wrap things up.

Sheffield United 3-1 Nottingham Forest

Despite sitting in 22nd in the League One (English third tier) table – 41 places below their opponents today – Sheffield United have brought their flair to the FA Cup.

After beating Fulham with a very late goal in the previous round, a pair of extra-time goals from Chris Porter downed Premier League hopefuls Nottingham Forest and secured a place in the quarterfinals for the Blades.

Having already defeated two Premier League sides en route to the quarterfinals, the win sets up a possible derby match with hated rivals Sheffield Wednesday should they get past Charlton Athletic. Those two were scheduled to play yesterday but the match was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

FIFTH ROUND DRAW:

Man City v Wigan
Arsenal v Everton
Sunderland v Brighton/Hull
Sheffield United v Sheffield Wednesday/Charlton Athletic

Cavani ‘will go to Atletico Madrid’ if PSG let him leave

Photo by Jeroen Meuwsen/Soccrates/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Edinson Cavani has made up his mind and knows which club he will join this month — if Paris Saint-Germain agree to sell, that is — according to the Uruguayan striker’s father.

[ MORE: Chelsea admit they miss Christian Pulisic ]

Cavani has standing offers to join multiple clubs during the January transfer window, most notably from Atletico Madrid and Chelsea, but the most difficult hurdle appears to be convincing PSG to let him go. According to the player’s father, Luis, Atleti is the 32-year-old’s preferred destination — quotes from Sky Sports:

“He wants to join another club in Europe. That would please me that he plays here (at Atletico), yes. (Diego) Simeone wants him now (in January). The head coach of Paris Saint-Germain has also said he needs him to help compete in the Champions League.

“But PSG do not want him to go to Atletico Madrid if he finds an agreement. I think there is a strong chance he will go to Atletico, the option to join the club (Atletico) always remains in June.

“There are lots of other clubs but when you give your word to a team, you respect it. If tomorrow, if he is available and Atletico still want him, I think he will sign. He is a player who needs time to play, and today he only plays four or six minutes per game. PSG are treating him unfairly.”

Chelsea’s desire to acquire a goalscorer of Cavani’s caliber will have only increased following the ankle injury suffered by Tammy Abraham, the Blues’ only consistent option at the position, during Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal. The severity of Abraham’s injury is not yet known.

DC United acquires Julian Gressel from Atlanta

Atlanta United trades for Julian Gressel
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

How much is Major League Soccer’s best assist man worth?

About $750,000.

DC United paid Atlanta United that fee in allocation money for the rights to Julian Gressel, who had been at a contract impasse with the club who drafted him in 2017.

That fee could hit $1.1 million in incentives, and even so could be a bargain.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Gressel was due to make around $133,000 this season and wanted an improved deal from Atlanta given his massive production since becoming the eighth overall pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.

That salary is less than hundreds of players, most of them nowhere near Gressel’s impact. Nineteen Atlanta United players made more than him last season, so it’s understandable that the 26-year-old wanted to get paid.

We don’t know what he was asking, or why Atlanta wouldn’t get there. From MLSSoccer.com:

“If we really wanted to, we could have had him play on $130,000 this season, extend him a bona fide offer at the end of the season and (we’d still own his MLS rights),” said Atlanta United vice president Carlos Bocanegra. “We’re also trying to do the right thing for a guy who has given so much to the club and is really just a good kid all around.”

It’s a weird one, given what the club’s been paying others.

Gressel arrived at Providence College from Eintracht Bamberg and immediately started delivering for the Big East side. He finished his four years with 30 goals and 26 assists and All-American status.

There was some adapting to MLS, but he’s gotten better with every season. He scored 10 goals with 13 assists in all competitions last season.

Spurs chairman reportedly met with Real Madrid about Gareth Bale

AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
Leave a comment

As a neutral, the idea of Gareth Bale rejoining Tottenham Hotspur would be a delight to our Premier League matchday viewing.

Obviously this applies to Spurs fans to the nth degree, especially after a dull 0-0 with Watford at the weekend.

In the short-term, Bale would be a terrific stopgap as Spurs struggle to find themselves without Harry Kane in both the PL and Champions League.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

In the long-term, Bale and Heung-Min Son on the wings of Harry Kane would be enough to make any PL power trio blush (unless Liverpool really does add Timo Werner).

A report out of Spain says Real Madrid president Florentino Perez met with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy about several things including the availability of Bale.

The Welsh star has been long admired by Jose Mourinho, and of course knows Spurs well having become a superstar after arriving from Southampton.

Bale is 30 and his wages would easily top Spurs’ pay list. His 21 goals and nine assists in the 2012/13 Premier League season join his 19 and 11 in 2015 La Liga as his top league seasons.

Spurs host Norwich City on Wednesday (Watch live at 2:30 p.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).

Guardiola praises Laporte, “the best left central defender in the world”

Pep Guardiola praises Aymeric Laporte
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester City kept its first clean sheet of 2020 on Tuesday, posting a 1-0 win over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.

It took the two-time reigning Premier League champions six tries to get there, the previous zero coming against this same Blades side at the Etihad Stadium.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

City manager Pep Guardiola was quick to give credit to a returning hero, as center back Aymeric Laporte returned to the fold for the first time since Aug. 31.

The club was 3W-1D at that point. They went 12W-2D-5L without him.

Here’s Guardiola, from the Manchester Evening News:

“It’s incredible,” Guardola said. “We have missed him a lot, he’s the best left central defender in the world. Imagine the best teams in the world lose their best central defender. We miss him a lot because he’s a specialist left foot where our buildup. He is fast, strong in the air.”

“He has something that we don’t have in the squad. His left foot and many actions to build up to make it quicker and better – we don’t have it, not because the other ones are not good but he has the only left foot as a central defender and for the way we want to play that is so important. His character and mentality and winning, he has all the attributes. For me, when he is fit he is the best left central defender in the world.”

If you read that as a little bit of an explanation for City being 13 points off Liverpool, you’ve similar eyes to us.

Pep is asking how Liverpool would look without Virgil Van Dijk, how Real Madrid appears when Sergio Ramos is out.

It’s not the be-all, end-all, but as I wrote when Laporte went down, this is the key piece to their defending efforts as well as where they begin possession.

We’re also grateful that Guardiola didn’t drop some sort of, “He’s like a January transfer addition,” statement (at least as far as we’ve read.