FA Cup third round: Man City set up Tottenham tie as Arsenal crash out

Football Tuesday January 16, 2024 By: Harry Howes

The FA Cup third round is arguably the biggest weekend in the English football calendar. While the cup may have lost some of its magic in recent years, football fans up and down the country would have spent last week dreaming of seeing their side triumph in the final at Wembley in May.

Manchester City are looking to defend their crown having beaten rivals Manchester United last season on their way to an historic treble. But after beating Huddersfield, they face a tough test in the next round, which could open up the competition for everybody else.

Arsenal fall at the first hurdle

Having won the competition a record 14 times, Arsenal were targeting their first major trophy since 2020 in this year’s FA Cup. But they faced a hard task at home to Liverpool in the third round.

In a cruel twist of fate, the draw meant that one of the big hitters had to see their journey end before it began. And at half-time of this clash, you’d have been forgiven for condemning Liverpool to an early exit, with Arsenal dominating the tie.

Yet an own goal from Jakub Kiwior followed by a late Luis Diaz strike saw the Gunners bow out in the third round for the second time in three years. Liverpool last won the competition in 2022 and they’ll fancy their chances of going all the way after being dealt a home tie against Norwich or Bristol Rovers in the next round.

Elsewhere, Newcastle travelled to fierce rivals Sunderland in one of the most-anticipated ties of the weekend. The pair have endured differing fortunes in recent years. Sunderland spent several years languishing in League One while Newcastle have tasted Champions League football this season following their takeover.

But despite the anticipation, it was a routine 3-0 win for Newcastle, with Sunderland unable to lay a glove on them. The Magpies face Fulham in the next round and after narrowly missing out in last season’s Carabao Cup final, they’ll be desperate to secure their first piece of silverware of the new era.

While the FA Cup third round famously throws up giant-killings, there weren’t many shock results over the weekend. Championship side Bristol City will be confident of knocking West Ham out after forcing a replay following their 1-1 draw at the London Stadium.

Meanwhile, Premier League sides Nottingham Forest and Luton Town will also have to try again having drawn with lower league opposition.

FA Cup Hospitality

Opportunity knocks in the fourth round

The fourth round draw has been made and with Arsenal already out, we’re set to see another couple of the tournament’s big sides exit the competition, which is welcome news to any side that has ambitions of going all the way.

Manchester City continued where they left off last season by strolling past Huddersfield in a 5-0 thrashing. Pep Guardiola’s side were rewarded with a trip to Tottenham Hotspur in the fourth round after the north London outfit saw off Burnley.

Meanwhile, eight-time winners Chelsea also face a tough test as they welcome Premier League surprise package Aston Villa to Stamford Bridge. The Blues put on a second-half masterclass to ease past Preston 4-0, while Unai Emery’s Villa just about edged past Middlesbrough.

Newport and Eastleigh will lock horns again in a replay following a 1-1 draw and both sides will be desperate to progress. The winner of the tie faces a mouth-watering clash at home to Manchester United, who survived a potential banana skin to see off Wigan Athletic on Monday night.

Maidstone United are the lowest-ranked team left in the competition and they face a tricky test away at Championship high-flyers Ipswich Town. And media darlings Wrexham will need to find another big performance in order to win at Blackburn Rovers.

We need to talk about replays

While there will be no replays in this season’s FA Cup from the fifth round, teams that draw in the third and fourth round have to meet again to determine who progresses. In fact, eight of the ties from last weekend are set to be replayed next week.

Replays are a great tradition of the competition and there’s no doubt that they’re incredible money-spinners for smaller sides. Should Newport or Eastleigh manage to draw with United later this month, the gate receipts from a return game at Old Trafford would transform the club.

Yet with a fixture schedule that’s already bursting at the seams, it’s about time there was some realism when it comes to forcing teams to play extra matches. One realistic option would be to give clubs a choice prior to the game what their preference would be should the game finish level.

It’s beneficial financially for smaller clubs to want a replay and that’s completely fine. But there are many instances where some clubs may prefer to settle the tie on the day. Crystal Palace travel to Everton next week, while Wolves face Brentford, and if you asked the players, coaches and fans of each club, it’s likely that the majority of them would rather not have the extra fixture.

Brentford boss Thomas Frank has faced criticism this week for complaining about fixture congestion ahead of his side’s trip to Molineux. But it’s a fair point and in a season that has seen an unusually high number of injuries across the board, having extra matches just for the sake of it hardly seems worth it.

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