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Conte's last stand, trophy-hunter Mourinho on prowl

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Nottingham Forest shock Arsenal, Coventry loss spells the end for Hughes

The first major FA Cup weekend of the season did not disappoint, as there were upsets, brilliant goals, derby heroics and even a managerial change. Nick Miller recaps everything from the weekend, highlighting the biggest performances and storylines from the FA Cup's third round.

Performance of the weekend

A week ago Nottingham Forest lost to Sunderland, that palace of infinite sadness who were relegated from the Premier League last season and just kept falling. That did it for manager Mark Warburton, whose position was in doubt before that, but defeat to Sunderland simply couldn't be countenanced.

To say a victory over Arsenal -- even a severely weakened Arsenal -- was unexpected would be an understatement to rank alongside "Arsene Wenger's best years are behind him and he should have gone some time ago." There was very little in their last few performances to suggest they had this in them.

But perhaps because they're without a permanent manager, and perhaps because this was thought of as a "free hit" of a game within the squad, and perhaps because nobody thought they could win, they attacked an Arsenal side they knew was fragile, not just surviving against them but beating them. Beating them comfortably too.

"We were not good enough -- not at the front, the middle or the back," said Wenger afterwards. "We paid for it. They looked sharper, they had more chances, and that's all I can say. It was an outstanding performance by Forest."

Goal of the weekend

Eric Lichaj has never before scored two goals in a game. He's never scored more than two goals in an entire season before this one. That changed when he chested down a half-clearance just before half-time of Forest's 4-2 win over Arsenal, and launched a phenomenal volley into the top corner. Even he -- especially he -- couldn't believe it, tumbling over as he wheeled away to celebrate.

The American full-back said afterwards that his wife had promised they could get a dog if he scored a hat trick this season. He fell just short of his treble and the hound, but perhaps Kathryn Lichaj will look at the strike and relent.

Assist of the weekend

If you're going to feel sorry for any footballer, Ilkay Gundogan is probably the most deserving. A player who has suffered more injury problems than most, it's a heartwarming sight to see him back in the Manchester City team. And if he can continue doing things like the sensational back-heeled assist to set up Sergio Aguero's first goal in Manchester City's 4-1 win over Burnley, then all the better.

Crushing inevitability of the week 

Mark Hughes' dismissal as Stoke City manager will be familiar for anyone who ever played games like Street Fighter, way back when such forms of entertainment were two-dimensional. A character who was on the way to defeat would see their power bar gradually drop down and down, but often they would require one final big punch to finally kill them off.

Mark Hughes did not survive Stoke's FA Cup loss to Coventry City.
Stoke's FA Cup loss to Coventry City spelled the end for Mark Hughes as manager.

That big punch for Hughes came in the form of the FA Cup defeat to League Two side Coventry City, a team who have endured more than their own share of hefty blows over the years. Hughes' own power bar had been inching down and down for some time, he probably wouldn't have lasted too much longer anyway, but the grim afternoon in the Midlands finished him off.

Hughes seems to have gone with everyone's best wishes: most recognised that he did a good job for the first three years but by this season, probably even a little before, things had got away from him. He was apparently told of the decision when the team coach arrived back in Stoke after the game, and accepted it. Everyone seems to have escaped with something approaching dignity. Imagine that.

Generations old schadenfreude of the week

Leeds United remain an unpopular club with the general football populous. But what's slightly unusual is that the reason for their unpopularity is about 45 years old. Speak to some supporters and they'll still refer to the team in white as "dirty Leeds", because of their rather robust style and reputation under Don Revie.

Thus, illogical as it might be, schadenfreude was plentiful after they were beaten 2-1 by Newport County, a result sealed by a late header from Shawn McCoulsky, on loan from another of this season's cup giant-killers, Bristol City.

"We're in the fourth round now and, being a Liverpool fan, I'd love to get them at Anfield," said Newport manager Michael Flynn, showing his romantic before quickly switching to pragmatism. "But I'll take whatever makes the club the most money."

'Can't win' winner of the week

Bad news for Mauricio Pellegrino: the Southampton fans have apparently reached such a stage of disillusionment that they will even jeer him after a victory. James Ward-Prowse sealed their win over Fulham, but even then, the travelling support couldn't stop from booing and singing "You don't know what you're doing." We think he's lost them -- just a hunch.

Prediction of the week

Perhaps, just perhaps, "Little Man" will replace "The Special One" as the go-to press moniker for Jose Mourinho. Mourinho's spat with Antonio Conte is both highly undignified and highly entertaining, but there's little doubt the Chelsea manager had the better jibe.

Maybe it will stick. Maybe "Little Man" will follow Mourinho around wherever he goes now. Maybe he will no longer be "The Special One". If nothing else that will delight pedants who will recall that Mourinho never actually said "I am The Special One", but "I think I am a special one." The definite article is important. Especially if you're super cool and care about this sort of thing, like your correspondent.

One to watch next week

This weekend Virgil van Dijk started his Liverpool career in perfect style by scoring the goal that beat Everton on Friday night, but next Sunday he'll be asked to do what they paid £75 million for, and defend. Not just against anyone either: they're playing Manchester City, with their absurd coterie of attackers who have managed 64 league goals at an average of almost three a game. The real work starts there. 

Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.

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