The FA Cup is really an anachronism—we’ll only care about it in four months if somehow we get through. But an unfavorable draw tomorrow and Poch will gladly sacrifice this particular ambition for the greater good of the Champions League and a possible league title.
So I had no qualms with today’s lineup. He is clearly now committed to a 3-5-2 approach—so Toby, Carter-Vickers and Wimmer all played with Dier and Winks pretty much guaranteeing Villa would never score. And if the two fullbacks combined with the three forwards were pretty much making the same guarantee, well fine—we had two difference-makers waiting in the wings to change all that. I thought Bruce actually had a good plan—surround Janssen knowing the Dutchman cannot break free or find the space necessary to cause a serious threat, and crowd Trippier so his crosses would be few and far between.
To score early we needed Son and Sissoko to produce something special, and while the latter had a couple of very good runs, neither were capable. The minute Dele came on the pitch turned—Janssen was sadly consigned to a bench spot he is growing far too familiar with but which is unlikely to change—and space was open and opportunities started to come. The addition of Nkoudou opened up the game ever further, and Poch smartly didn’t weaken the attack force but merely slid Dier back into Alderweireld’s spot. Davies made a smart header, and then Nkoudou swung the ball right where Trippier, Sissoko and Son actually made an excellent football play for the clincher.
It was 70 minutes of boredom followed by 20 minutes of fun—and folks, that’s the FA Cup. I fear a big-time matchup on the next round, because that has been our pattern as of late in domestic competitions—but if so, fine. Onward, upward, or back to the fight in the league. Pulis and Co next week, and only a churl would point out that Spurs have won just once in the last seven league games vs the Baggies. But this year is different and I think we march on to the Etihad the day after Trump takes the reins. World is changing.