6 talking points from weekend as Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea progress to FA Cup semi-finals

The Premier League took a back seat this weekend as the FA Cup took centre stage on Saturday and Sunday.

It’s a stellar line-up for the semi-finals after Manchester United needed extra-time to dump out Norwich, Arsenal snatched a last-gasp win at Sheffield United, Chelsea saw off Leicester and Manchester City outclassed Newcastle.

In the weekend’s only two top-flight fixtures, Wolves kept up their top-four charge with victory at West Midlands rivals Aston Villa while Danny Ings put Watford – without their lockdown bad boys – to the sword.

Here are six talking points from the action across both competitions…

1. Pepe’s debut season



Pepe was on target from the penalty spot at Bramall Lane

By Alex Smith

Ignore the club record £72million fee for a moment and ask yourself, has Nicolas Pepe had a good first season at Arsenal?

Yes, the Ivorian winger took slightly longer than the likes of Bruno Fernandes to adjust to the Premier League but has he really been an awful signing?

The one stat that could be used to both beat him and support him with is his goal involvement.

Pepe has now been involved with 16 goals this season, with only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang more prolific in attack with 21 involvements.

By that statistic he is undoubtedly the Gunners’ second best forward, but is that relative to a poor side?

Whichever way you lean, his penalty here was emphatically put away, and you wouldn’t have noticed the lack of Aubameyang for much of the match.

His involvement in the build up to Real Madrid loanee Ceballos’ winner was noticeable as well.

2. Fernandes was born to lead



Fernandes showed his leadership qualities at Norwich

By Jake Polden

He’s only been at the club five minutes in the grand scheme of things.

But it feels like Bruno Fernandes has been at Old Trafford for years, the way in which he leads from the front.

Fernandes is never afraid to command the troops, pull someone up on something, or advise a team-mate on how they can improve.

Providing commentary on BBC Sport, Jermaine Jenas summed up what Fernandes brings to United perfectly: “For me it’s more the presence he has on the pitch.

“Over the years United have had two or three of those players on the pitch and for him to just show up and have it shows he’s a pretty special player.”

United fans were confused as to why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer didn’t rest Fernandes for the FA Cup quarter-final clash, given the fact that Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and co. were all named on the bench.

But it quickly became clear on the pitch as the Portuguese wore the captain’s armband, without actually wearing the armband.

3. Barkley: a future goal banker



Barkley was on the scoresheet at Leicester

By Alex Smith

This was Barkley’s fourth goal of the season, but it begs the question why he doesn’t score more goals.

The movement and finish prove that he has the ability to place himself on the scoresheet more often.

In fact, there was more than a hint of a heyday Frank Lampard about the way he shadowed his way into the box and volleyed into the bottom corner.

Perhaps the duo sticking around for some one-to-one time after training could see the club’s record scorer rub off on him.

4. City bidding for another treble



Could City land another treble?

The Premier League might have gone – but Manchester City could still complete a second treble in two years if they play their cards right.

The Blues had already secured the Carabao Cup before the enforced mid-season break due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pep Guardiola’s side are favourites to beat Real Madrid and progress to the last eight of the Champions League, and they would surely fancy themselves in the one-leg Lisbon shootout in August.

They have been paired with a fragile-looking Arsenal side in the FA Cup semi-finals after dominating Newcastle on Tyneside to keep up their imperious record in the domestic cups.

Could they win all three?

5. Watford’s lockdown bad boys



Gray, Chalobah and Quina could yet miss the rest of the campaign

After an initial upturn in results under Nigel Pearson – Watford are bang in trouble again.

A 3-1 home defeat by Soythampton leaves them just a point outside the relegation zone – and they might have to go the rest of the season without their lockdown bad boys.

Andre Gray hosted an alleged party for around 20 revellers following their loss at Burnley last week, with the striker, Domingos Quina and Nathaniel Chalobah all left out of the matchday squad for the Saints reverse to protect the rest of the players.

And Pearson refused to be drawn on whether they would appear again at all this campaign with six games remaining to save the Hornets’ skins.

6. Wolves’ Champions League bid on course



Will Wolves gatecrash the top four?

Among the most impressive sides since football’s return has been Wolves – and they kept their bid to gatecrash the top four on course with a 1-0 win at West Midlands rivals Aston Villa.

Nuno’s men have won all three of their games since the action resumed, albeit against three relegation-threatened clubs in West Ham, Bournemouth and Villa.

It leaves them in a Champions League spot – should Manchester City’s ban by UEFA be upheld – and just two points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea.

Even if City are granted a European reprieve – don’t bet against the men from Molineux sneaking in to the top four ahead of the Blues or Leicester.

source.



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