I’m the sort of person who goes into every game against a so-called weaker team expecting to struggle. This comes mostly from the 2013/14 season when we did the double over Manchester City and Liverpool, and went unbeaten against Arsenal and Manchester United, but finished third because we kept failing to beat teams in the bottom half. Today’s match was against a much weaker Man City side than normal, but I still expected us to have a very difficult game.
To see Manuel Pellegrini put out a weakened team was slightly disappointing, as I think it stopped there being any chance of a competitive game. I know he’s prioritising the Champions League and Premier League over the FA Cup but let’s be honest, they have a lot of work to do to win the Premier League, and they are realistically not going to win the Champions League this season. It was also unfair on the youngsters, as it is difficult to get over the hammering they got.
In contrast, Guus Hiddink has decided it seems that he is going to go all out to win the FA Cup this season and I have no problem with that. I would have preferred however to see him put out one or two young players, Ruben Loftus-Cheek in particular given that everyone knew that City were going to field a weakened team. Hopefully that because we are playing such a strong side in the FA Cup we can give a couple of younger players a chance in the league as we can’t expect to achieve much more in that anymore.
In terms of the game itself I thought we were excellent in the final third, and were almost back to where we were last season in terms of some of our football. Cesc Fabregas was absolutely superb and he linked up well with Pedro and Eden Hazard, and although this didn’t lead to a goal when he put Pedro through to hit the post, it did work when he played a clever ball to put Hazard in behind, and he put in a good ball that meant Diego Costa couldn’t miss. The fact we played so well made it that bit more disappointing when we conceded an equaliser just minutes later, when a loss of concentration at the back lead to David Faupala bundling home from a yard.
When it came to the all important second goal for the Blues, it was only ever going to be Willian to get it. It was another very good piece of attacking football, and it was a well weighted pass from Hazard that put the Brazilian through, and it was a calm finish. If Gary Cahill wasn’t as good at defending as he is, he would probably make a decent striker. This showed again today, and even though Willy Caballero should have kept it out, Cahill hit it well and did well to keep the ball down.
I can’t really be sure what to say about Eden Hazard. There have been so many games this season where he has been really poor and had no influence on the game, and others where he has done very well. Today was another one of those games where he did really well. He looked happy to be on the pitch and put in a performance that wouldn’t have looked out of place if he’d put it in during the second half of last season. He took the free-kick well, picking his spot and hitting it well, but again it’s a shot Caballero should save.
I did agree with Cesc Fabregas at the end when he said that Eden Hazard should have taken the penalty. Oscar has been in good form recently, and it is really Hazard who needs to be getting goals to get his confidence back up. In the end Oscar’s penalty was really poor as there was just never enough power behind it. Bertrand Traore is making a habit of coming on in the second half of games and grabbing the fifth goal of a 5-1 win. Today it was a looping header, and I’m not quite sure he was actually going for goal, but it was another blinding error from Caballero who had a shocking game.
I think we can go on to win the FA Cup now, even though we have a tricky tie away at Everton to negotiate in the quarter-final. We seem to be improving week by week, and I think we have just beaten the best squad left in the competition, even though the team that City put out today was much weaker than normal. This could be our year to win the FA Cup again.