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FA Cup Fourth Round: Wrexham magic, Arsenal out and a Liverpool disaster-class

The Fourth Round of the FA Cup promised us a set of fascinating fixtures. Spurs took a trip up to Preston, Manchester United hosted Championship side Reading while Liverpool took on Roberto De Zerbi’s Brighton. All eyes were on Arsenal as the Premier League leaders faced Manchester City for the first time this season. Perhaps the most fascinating tie of all was National League side Wrexham hosting Sheffield United, a promising outfit in the race for the Championship. Following a weekend of footballing upsets and FA Cup drama, here is my round-up of the FA Cup Fourth Round.

Where else can we start but Wrexham’s 3-3 draw against Sheffield United? Despite being 70 league positions lower than their opposition, Wrexham showed terrific character in a well-fought stalemate. An early set-piece saw an unmarked Oli McBurnie deliver an early blow to the home side. Despite this setback, the game remained open for both sides, and Wrexham slowly began to grow into the game. A quick double in the second half saw Wrexham briefly go 2-1 up, until Oliver Norwood coolly delivered at the second attempt to level up the scoring. Shortly afterwards, the Blades were down to ten men as forward Daniel Jebbison saw red for an off-the-ball incident. Wrexham truly began to shine as Ollie Palmer emphatically rifled the ball off the woodwork. The home side rallied on as striker Paul Mullin remarkably stepped up to score what was surely the winner. But in heart-breaking fashion, John Egan finished off a last-minute corner to snatch a draw in injury time.

Although the Wrexham players will be kicking themselves, it was a performance to be proud of. The win was there for the taking, but the players can hold their heads up high as they head to Bramall Lane for the replay. Following this whirlwind of a match, the Wrexham story lives on – a story that makes football fans truly believe in the magic of The FA Cup.

Up in Manchester, Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal faced the challenging task of overcoming a strong Manchester City side. City were by no means at their best but managed to get over the line, thanks to a right-footed shot in the bottom-right corner from Nathan Aké. Despite looking relatively lacklustre for City’s standards, their 1-0 victory surely makes them the favourites to be this year’s winners. The game also saw Leandro Trossard make his starting debut for the Gunners, which in turn saw Brazilian starlet Gabriel Martinelli take to the bench. The Belgian winger was an absolute handful for 66 minutes. With the return of Gabriel Jesus inbound, Arteta’s frontmen are finally beginning to match the quality of their contenders. While they fell short this time, Arsenal are beginning to compete for silverware and are a side that only seem to be getting better. Having brought in reinforcements to bolster their squad, Arsenal fans undoubtedly have a lot to look forward to.

With the current holders and the Premier League leaders both out of the running, the FA Cup is truly there for the taking

On the South Coast, Liverpool were once again undone by an electric Brighton side. Since Potter’s exit, Brighton were expected to drop off, however a 3-3 draw at Anfield under De Zerbi’s first game in charge gave Brighton fans plenty of reassurance. If anything, Brighton have been on the up. They sit comfortably in sixth place in the Premier League and are genuine contenders for silverware. Liverpool on the other hand have completely fallen off. They find themselves mid-table and are faced with a tough Champions League draw against Real Madrid. The reds look increasingly unlikely to win any silverware this year, having exited the Carabao Cup in December and now the FA Cup, following a 2-1 defeat to the Seagulls. Klopp’s men are severely missing Sadio Mané, as replacement Darwin Núñez has struggled to hit the ground running. The likes of Salah, Alexander-Arnold and even new signing Cody Gakpo all seem to be missing the mark. The team looks out of balance, leggy, and too tired to commit to the gegenpress. Take nothing away from Brighton’s performance. The Seagulls were resilient and well-drilled, showing all the qualities of a team challenging for European football. The star man was undeniably Kaoru Mitoma, who delivered the final blow in stoppage time to knock Liverpool out. Mitoma used tremendous skill to take a touch and clinically convert from Estupiñán’s cross. He was Brighton’s hero and chose the ideal time to step up, following Trossard’s exit to Arsenal. Brighton are a team to keep an eye on this campaign, and it will be interesting to see just how far they can go in their FA Cup run.

Elsewhere, Casemiro’s brace helped Manchester United secure a comfortable 3-1 win over Reading. West Ham eased past Derby County which will see them play United in the Fifth Round, away from home. Danjuma netted after coming off the bench to score a debut goal for Spurs, whilst Bristol City beat West Brom 3-0. The win will see them host Manchester City at Ashton Gate for the Fifth Round.

With the current holders and the Premier League leaders both out of the running, the FA Cup is truly there for the taking. There are bound to be plenty of surprises along the way, but the door is certainly open for the team that wants it most.


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