It was FA Cup 5th round in England last weekend, but the famous old competition didn’t bring a change in the fortunes of London clubs Arsenal and Chelsea. Arsenal, who lost 4-0 to AC Milan in the Champions League last Wednesday, travelled to the Stadium of Light on Saturday, but lost again, this time 2-0 to Sunderland in the cup.
These latest results are increasing pressure on Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger to stand down at the end of the season.
The 62-year-old Frenchman is now in his 16th year with the North London club, but the Gunners have not won a trophy since 2005. The speculation is that Wenger will be offered a job upstairs in the boardroom.
Meanwhile, 34-year-old Andre Villas-Boas is only in his first season as Chelsea manager, but it could be his first and last with the Blues.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has been seen regularly at Chelsea training sessions recently and his young Portuguese manager admitted last week that he may have lost support of some of the Chelsea players in the dressing room. On Saturday the man known as AVB watched as his team of expensive stars could only draw 1-1 at Stamford Bridge with Championship side Birmingham City in the Cup. It was a great result for Birmingham’s Irish manager Chris Hughton, who must now fancy his team’s chances in the replay at St. Andrews on March 6. Irish defender Sean St Ledger scored with a header for Leicester City after nine minutes as the championship side beat Premier League Norwich 2-1 at Carrow Road on Saturday.
Stoke City, who went all the way to the FA Cup Final last year, are through the quarterfinals this year after a 2-1 over Crawley Town on Sunday. Irish striker Jonathan Walters got Stoke’s opener from the penalty spot.
The FA Cup 6th Round (quarterfinal) draw is: Everton vs. Sunderland; Chelsea or Birmingham vs. Leicester; Liverpool vs. Stoke; and Stevenage or Spurs vs. Bolton. The games will be played on the weekend of March 17/18.
McClean, Green are in
Sunderland winger James McClean and Derby County midfielder Paul Green have been called into the Irish squad for next Wednesday’s friendly against the Czech Republic at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
McClean was a surprise omission when manager Giovanni Trapattoni announced his 24-man squad earlier this month, but now it looks like the Italian has had a change of mind. Richard Dunne is the only player to have pulled out so far and he was replaced by Everton’s Shane Duffy last week.
Duffy, who has recently made the breakthrough to the Everton first team, is lucky to be alive. He was involved in a serious collision with a goalkeeper in a training game involving the Irish senior team and the Irish amateur team in the Malahide two years ago and only for quick action by the squad’s medical team he could have died on route to hospital.