The Premier League took a back seat this weekend as the FA Cup took center stage on Saturday and Sunday.
It’s a stellar line-up for the semi-finals after Manchester United needed extra time to get rid of Norwich, Arsenal won one last victory at Sheffield United, Chelsea sawing Leicester and Manchester City upgraded Newcastle.
In the only two top flight games of the weekend, wolves maintained his charge in the top four with a victory over his West Midland rivals Aston Villa, while Danny Ings won Watford – without their bad boys lock – with the sword.
Here are six talking points for action in both competitions …
1. The first season of Pepe
By Alex Smith
Ignore the club record of £ 72 million for a moment and ask yourself if Nicolas Pepe had a good first season at Arsenal?
Yes, the Ivorian winger took a little longer than Bruno Fernandes to adapt to the Premier League, but was he really a terrible signing?
The only stat that could be used to beat and support him is his involvement in the goal.
Pepe has now been involved with 16 goals this season, with only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang more prolific on offense with 21 entries.
According to this statistic, he is undoubtedly the second best attacker of the Gunners, but is it compared to a poor side?
Whichever way you lean, his penalty has been flatly canceled, and you wouldn’t have noticed Aubameyang’s lack for much of the match.
His involvement in the construction of real Madrid the winner of Loanee Ceballos was also noticeable.
2. Fernandes was born to lead
By Jake Polden
He’s only been at the club for five minutes in the grand scheme of things.
But one has the impression that Bruno Fernandes has been at Old Trafford for years, the way he leads head on.
Fernandes is never afraid to command the troops, shoot someone or advise a teammate on how he can improve.
Commenting on BBC Sport, Jermaine Jenas summed up perfectly what Fernandes brings to United: “For me, it’s more the presence he has on the field.
“Over the years, United has had two or three of these players on the field and for him to introduce himself and show that he is a pretty special player.”
United fans were confused as to why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did not rest Fernandes for the FA Cup quarter-final match, given that Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and co. were all named on the bench.
But it quickly became clear on the pitch when the Portuguese wore the captain’s armband, without actually wearing the armband.
3. Barkley: a future goal banker
By Alex Smith
It was Barkley’s fourth goal of the season, but that begs the question of why he doesn’t score more goals.
The movement and finish show that he has the ability to place himself more often on the scoresheet.
In fact, there was more than a hint of a Frank Lampard climax on how he made his way through the box and flew into the bottom corner.
Perhaps the duo who would stay a little after training could see the club record holder rub off on him.
4. City bidding for another triple
The Premier League may have disappeared, but Manchester City could still make a second hat-trick in two years if it played its cards right.
The Blues had already won the Carabao Cup before the forced mid-season break due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Pep Guardiola’s team is favorite to beat Real Madrid and advance to the bottom eight of the Champions League, and they would surely imagine themselves in the Lisbon one-way shootout in August.
They were paired with a seemingly fragile Arsenal team in the FA Cup semifinals after dominating Newcastle on Tyneside to maintain their driving record in the national cups.
Could they win all three?
5. Lockford’s Bad Boys
After a first return of the results under Nigel Pearson – Watford is again in difficulty.
A 3-1 home loss to Soythampton leaves them just one point outside the relegation zone – and they may have to spend the rest of the season without their bad boys.
Andre Gray held a suspected party for about 20 party people after their loss in Burnley last week, forward Domingos Quina and Nathaniel Chalobah were all kicked out of the day for the Saints’ setback to protect the rest of the players.
And Pearson refused to wonder if they would reappear throughout this campaign with six games remaining to save the Hornets’ skins.
6. Wolves Champions League on track
The Wolves have been among the most impressive teams since the return of football – and they have maintained their goal of beating the top four on track with a 1-0 victory over West Midlands rivals Aston Villa.
That leaves them in the place of the Champions League – if UEFA’s ban on Manchester City is confirmed – and just two points behind fourth place from Chelsea.
Even if City has a European reprieve – don’t bet against Molineux’s men sneaking into the top four ahead of the Blues or Leicester.