FA Cup: 10 talking points from the weekend’s fourth-round action


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1) Middlesbrough exit damages Rangnick’s standing

Barring a Thomas Tuchel-style Champions League triumph that seems about as likely as Bryan Robson mounting a comeback in Manchester United’s midfield, Ralf Rangnick’s candidacy for the full-time manager’s role is probably at an end after exiting the FA Cup to Middlesbrough. Should he even want it but a flaw in the plan is becoming apparent. Rangnick was reported at the weekend to have taken on a PR advisor for his six months as interim manager before a two-year consultancy role that will involve working with the next, “permanent” boss. That Rangnick has been unable to arrest much of the slide that occurred under Ole Gunnar Solskjær does his credibility in that future role little good. Though a few leading football men can say that after involvement with United in recent years. The FA Cup may have lost its former importance but five years without a trophy is significant, a key indicator that the slump is long past a blip. John Brewin

2) Lucky Hammers show class at Kidderminster

West Ham were fortunate to avoid what would have been a famous upset at Kidderminster but their exit from Aggborough was dignified. After the game West Ham’s players, including Declan Rice, showered with Kidderminster’s to make use of the roomier facilities in the home dressing room, while Russell Penn and his assistant, Jimmy O’Connor, shared a post-match beer with David Moyes in his manager’s office. Several players swapped shirts and after heading out of the tunnel Rice, escorted along the main stand by a burly security guard, stopped to sign countless autographs and pose for photos with young Kidderminster fans. “I was sat on the floor and their striker came and picked me up and said, ‘don’t be down, you’ve done unbelievable,’” said the Kidderminster defender Matt Preston. “Rice came in afterwards and said: ‘You deserved more from that game.’ They were all very nice – they weren’t massive time at all, which you sometimes get.” Ben Fisher

3) Time for Tuchel to revisit Lukaku conundrum

Chelsea’s players flew straight off to Abu Dhabi for the Club World Cup after their tight, slightly fortunate extra-time defeat of League One Plymouth, which feels like an extended oxymoron in itself. They departed without Thomas Tuchel, who now faces a battle with his own immune system plusthe endless rigmarole of PCR tests to have any hope of joining them. Tuchel will miss the chance to work with his players, but it seems unlikely the problems with Chelsea’s attack are down to a lack of attent,ion on the training field. Romelu Lukaku was again a vague meandering figure, and looks like man simply in the wrong place. The manager’s period of self-isolation will no doubt be spent poring over his options, but it will soon be time to question Tuchel’s own capacity to draw more from that portfolio of diverse creative talent. Barney Ronay

4) More than a game for Palace and Hartlepool

Michael Olise may have stolen the show again for Crystal Palace with a goal and an assist, but Patrick Vieira reserved his highest praise for the club’s supporters. After Palace donated £1,000 to the JustGiving page of the Hartlepool manager Graeme Lee’s wife following her brain cancer diagnosis, fans’ donations mean it has now surpassed the £60,000 target. “I would like to pay tribute to all the Palace fans who have helped support Graeme Lee, his wife and family by making donations,” Vieira wrote on Twitter. “What you have done in the last couple of days has made me very proud. This shows a really good side of the game and is what our club is all about.” Lee added: “The last time I looked before the game it was about a year’s supply of medication for my wife and knowing that is absolutely unbelievable to know that we’ve got our medication there for another year.” Ed Aarons

Patrick Vieira and Graeme Leevshake hands before the match.
Patrick Vieira and Graeme Leevshake hands before the match. Photograph: Micah Crook/PPAUK/REX/Shutterstock

5) Lampard gains early platform to build on

Frank Lampard drew a line in Everton’s season at his first press conference as manager, purposely emphasising the quality at his disposal and refusing to dwell on inherited problems on and off the pitch. The clean slate approach reaped rewards as Brentford were dominated in the FA Cup and the 43-year-old basked in the biggest win of any Everton manager on their competitive debut. It was not only young talent such as Anthony Gordon who benefited – “He’s got all the attributes to do what he wants in this game,” said Lampard – but the likes of André Gomes and Mason Holgate thrived on the palpable release of tension and negativity that had afflicted the club under Rafael Benítez. The trick will be to repeat the performance at Newcastle. As Holgate admitted: “When people like the boss and Ashley (Cole) come in you are a little bit in awe of them really. The boss told us he believed in the quality of the squad and we showed we have got that in us, but we have got to keep working on what we are going to do.” Andy Hunter

6) Guardiola hopeful on Delap’s prospects

Liam Delap made a first appearance of the season following a long run of injuries, the 18-year-old entering for Jack Grealish on 77 minutes in Manchester City’s 4-1 win over Fulham. Pep Guardiola said the striker has to force himself into the manager’s long-term plans. There is a confidence the son of former Stoke and Republic of Ireland midfielder, Rory, has the requisite temperament. “He will dictate to me,” said Guardiola. “It depends on his behaviour and his performance. Now he is a player who is training every day with us and you cannot imagine the improvement from him. Today there are a lot of distractions off the pitch – I can control what happens on the pitch, but to be a top player you have to be [exemplary] on and off it. With Liam, his father works at Stoke [as a coach] and has come from the world of football so he knows exactly what he has to do. But we are not guards here, we cannot control players. It depends on them.” Jamie Jackson

Liam Delap had the ball in the net but it was disallowed for offside.
Liam Delap had the ball in the net but it was disallowed for offside. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images/Reuters

7) Morison’s refreshing outlook on officiating

Given football’s culture of complaining, there is something admirable about a manager who endorses a refereeing decision that goes against his team. When Caoimhin Kelleher hacked down Mark Harris, Cardiff were drawing at Anfield and there were two reasons to argue the card should be red, not the yellow Andy Madley showed. The goalkeeper was a long way out, but perhaps it was a clear scoring opportunity. Maybe it was serious foul play. Both the referee and VAR decided not and, rather than looking for a hard luck story, Steve Morison agreed. “I don’t think it was a sending off, there were too many players around,” he said, instead finding fault with his forward. “I was more disappointed Mark Harris didn’t take the ball around the goalie and put it in the goal.” It was a laudable stance, even if the temptation is to think it will never catch on when others play the blame game. Richard Jolly

'A proper fairytale': Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp on Harvey Elliott's goalscoring return – video
‘A proper fairytale’: Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp on Harvey Elliott’s goalscoring return – video

8) Forest academy deserves praise for current success

Much has been made of Nottingham Forest’s shrewd recruitment since they changed transfer policy in the summer to focus on younger players but it should be noted the number of talents coming up through the academy. Joe Worrall captained the side, while Brennan Johnson and Ryan Yates also played key roles in the win over Leicester. In years gone by, Matty Cash and Patrick Bamford started their careers at Forest, proving how much success they have at youth level. Johnson and Worrall have attracted interest from the Premier League and many scouts will be watching the versatile Yates. Forest, however, will be hoping all three on show in the FA Cup triumph will stay at the club next season, whether they make it up or not. On the upside, should they leave, it will make the club plenty of money. Will Unwin

9) Hatters’ workload rewarded with Chelsea tie

The manner of Luton’s victory dampened the Cup fever at Cambridge’s Abbey Stadium, where a marquee with bar and pumping PA system had been set up behind the main stand. Both managers’ selections bore the evidence of an EFL schedule that would have certain Premier League bosses squealing in outrage. Luton have played eight matches in 2022, Cambridge have played 10. Nathan Jones, the Luton manager, made eight changes while Mark Bonner was without two heroes of victory at Newcastle, goalscorer Joe Ironside and defender Jack Iredale. Luton’s push for a Championship play-off spot sees them host Barnsley on Tuesday while Cambridge’s League One assignment is a trip to Gillingham, a relentless workload. Carlos Mendes Gomes, talking after a first Luton goal, got his post-match wish of Chelsea in the fifth round draw. After struggling with Plymouth, Thomas Tuchel’s men face an organised and tough opponent who exhibited their depth and quality at Cambridge. JB

10) Seagulls show Conte what he is lacking

For those who measure happiness in wing-backs, shooting envious glances at Graham Potter is the norm. And despite Tottenham’s Saturday night intensity, the sense that Antonio Conte’s sextet of options bring him little joy lingers. Conte’s suggestion that Dejan Kulusevski – a natural No 10 – could fill the role is telling. For now, Potter has arguably the Premier League’s best pairing in Tariq Lampteyand Marc Cucurella. Emerson Royal had an excellent cup tie but summer change is afoot at Spurs. Should Conte fancy a Lamptey reunion – the player was in the academy during his time managing Chelsea – at least a zero will need adding to the £4 million he supposedly cost Brighton. Sam Dalling

Match report: Tottenham 3-1 Brighton

10.1) And finally … some romance

There was something cruel about the way Kidderminster’s hopes were crushed – twice – by West Ham at Aggborough on Saturday. Victory for the Harriers would have been a bona-fide shock for the ages against a supremely strong Premier League team – one that could have merited a place for replays of Alex Penny’s goal alongside those of Sutton United’s Matthew Hanlan and Wrexham’s Mickey Thomas when FA Cup giant killings were discussed in the future. Over at Stamford Bridge, the European champions took an extra 30 minutes to avoid what would have been an almighty shock against Plymouth, who led early in the game and then missed a penalty in extra-time that would have taken the match to spot-kicks. So we have to be thankful to non-league Boreham Wood for injecting the fourth round with some more romance late on Sunday as the 37-year-old Mark Ricketts’ goal secured a dream victory at Bournemouth to secure a fifth-round tie for the first time in the club’s history. That it is at Everton, where Wood’s impressive young manager Luke Garrard will get the chance to lock horns with Frank Lampard, only adds to the allure of the tie.

Match report: Bournemouth 0-1 Boreham Wood


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