‘Devils Sneak Past Saints’ 5 Things I Noticed – Southampton v United

4. Opposition One2Watch: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Well I must say the one thing I love about the FA Cup is the platform it provides to talented players in the lower reaches of the Football League and assessing whether or not the hyped up potential star of the future is capable of mixing it with the big boys. As we’ve seen with our own keeper, it also allows the big teams to gamble with untested hungry young players or new signings and give us all a fresh glimpse of the future.

Anyway so Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been linked with every top English Premier League under and yesterday provided him with the perfect stage to showcase his ability and demonstrate why he merits being labelled the new ‘Walcott or Bale’. Considering he’s only 17, I think its safe to say this kid has more natural footballing intelligence than Walcott has shown in his entire career thus far.. he has a natural intuitiveness of when to release the ball, can spread the play and knows how much weight to put on a pass. Where this kid has quite a bit to go is how to harness that searing speed he possesses into more precise dribbling, not run into dead ends and utilise more skills in tight spaces. Another issue will possibly be his tactical awareness, i.e. he loves to drift over the pitch and any club looking to sign him may have work to do in terms of finding the best position for him to strut his stuff. The vibe I get of this kid though is very good, he seems a naturally confident lad and I don’t sense weakness or any mental fragility, though I don’t know enough about his work ethic. Definitely good enough for the Premiership, question is how far can this kid go?

5. FA Cup 4th Round: Final Word

So no big team looks to be in terrific form and the weekend was littered with rubbish displays. If anything this weekend isn’t telling us the FA Cup is dead as some would have you believe, but that the top teams in just ain’t as good as we think they are. Yes you get Cup upsets now and again, but its been the quality of certain displays which have been worrying and reveal a lot about the current state of the English game at the elite level.

I haven’t got round to watching the Spurs result against Fulham yet, but Manchester City’s display against Notts County was alarmingly bad. The fact they’re third in the premiership, tells you all you need to know about the competition have been subjected to this year. They were ponderous, short of ideas, tactically inept and lacked any coherent team work and spirit, I would be sincerely worried as a Eastlands fan and would be demanding the removal of Mancini as manager. He’s a limited manager and overly defensive, I would be very surprised if he leads City to a Premier League title whilst Fergie remains at the helm. Dzeko just reminds me of another Shevchenko (during his Chelsea phase), vastly overpriced but still a decent player who is good enough to keep them challenging for the title but doesn’t possess enough about him to be as influential as Tevez. How Mancini believes Milner is good enough to play at left wing is also beyond me, either use him centrally or keep him on the bench, anyway enough ranting about City and as things stand probably look the best bet to be a challenge to us lifting the FA Cup.. unless of course get their act together.

Conclusion:

Another dodgy display brought about by unnecessary formation tinkering, this has to stop. It undermines the confidence of our backup players, the likes of Gibson, and Obertan can hardly be expected to put in great performances when the team is not set up to play to their strengths and it only serves as to give further ammunition to their critics. Changing personnel is fine, but must ensure that the players brought in are deployed in a system that is capable of playing good football and not just rely on winning ugly, it doesn’t do anyone a favour and will lead to more games like that dreaded night at Upton Park, which we have fortunately avoided in a number of occasions since.

FA Cup 4th Round – Match Facts
Score: 1-2 Venue: St Mary’s Date: Saturday 30th January Kick-off: 1715 GMT

Man Utd: Lindegaard, O’Shea, Smalling, Evans, Fabio, Anderson, Scholes, Gibson, Obertan, Owen, Hernandez. Subs: Giggs, Nani, Brown.

Southampton: Bialkowski, Harding, Fonte, Butterfield, Seaborne, Schneiderlin, Guly, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Chaplow, Lambert, Barnard Subs: N’Guessan, Gobern, Dickson.

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Written By Raees Mahmood: Follow me @ www.twitter.com/raem89