FA Cup Team of the Week
Tim Howard was superb again for Everton as they beat Blackpool 2-0. The Championship side sought to fight back from an early two-goal deficit and had six shots on target while looking capable of scoring throughout. Howard, however, remained alert and made several impressive saves when the concession of a goal would have invited further pressure. In a team of unsung heroes, the goalkeeper continues to be overlooked as one of the Premier League's most consistent.
Playing opposite the pacey, energetic duo of Gareth Bale and Danny Rose during Stevenage's impressive 0-0 draw at home to Tottenham, Lawrie Wilson impressed for the minnows and refused to be intimidated by what would have been a daunting challenge. Though Rose was Tottenham's greatest threat, Wilson showed the necessary stamina to track both men throughout and even experienced success when attacking. A similar performance in the cup replay may prompt interest from a higher level.
Tim Ream made his Bolton debut in central defence and gave manager Owen Coyle a reason to believe the USA international can replace Gary Cahill. Bolton won 2-0 away at Millwall to advance to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup but the home side were never out of the tie and posed a genuine threat. Ream impressed throughout and was key to Bolton's clean sheet; he could provide much-needed stability between now and the end of the season.
Now at Birmingham, Curtis Davies was once a promising Premier League defender for both West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa. His career may have stalled since joining Villa but he showed against Chelsea, and a woeful Fernando Torres, that he's more than capable of returning to play at that level. One perfectly-timed, crucial challenge prevented a likely goal that would have given Chelsea victory instead of a 1-1 draw. Birmingham's midfield worked very hard in front of him but Davies looked composed and assured and will be important in the replay.
David Moyes is no stranger to making great signings (Tim Cahill; Phil Jagielka; Leighton Baines) and Royston Drenthe appears to have been another. The on-loan Real Madrid winger/defender was Everton's biggest threat against Blackpool, scoring in the opening minute and remaining lively throughout. His talent has never been in question, though failing to truly settle anywhere since joining Real in 2007 has inhibited his progress; the renewed optimism around Goodison Park since the January transfer window could be just what the Dutchman needs.
Tottenham may have been unimpressive as they laboured at Stevenage but Danny Rose was determined to grab his chance and was his side's best player. He set up Louis Saha for a goal that was disallowed due to Scott Parker being offside, but he played with real purpose and can't be held responsible for Saha and Jermain Defoe's inability to convert the chances he created. The young winger hugged the touchline, got behind the full-back and got his delivery away. However, with Bale remaining, a run in the side still seems unlikely.
On-loan Ryo Miyaichi seems to be another good signing by Coyle, who has also nurtured the likes of Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge since managing Bolton. The Japanese winger provided a rare note of optimism for fans of parent-club Arsenal as he scored one and was Bolton's best player during a morale-boosting victory. "I saw when Arsenal brought him in and then watched him on loan at Feyenoord last year, and he always caught my eye," said Coyle of the winger, who no doubt would have impressed more than just his temporary manager with his performance.
Criticism directed towards Stewart Downing has increased in recent weeks but he showed his ability for Liverpool in their 6-1 home victory over Brighton. Downing provided pace and width whenever Liverpool attacked, while his delivery proved a constant threat. The winger assisted Andy Carroll's goal, constantly unsettled opposing right-back Inigo Calderon and was always an attacking option.
Carroll's goal, meanwhile, was easily his most convincing for Liverpool since his 2011 debut against Manchester United and his confidence may finally be boosted. Aided in part by the withdrawal of Adam El-Abd, Carroll put in a commanding aerial performance and deserved his goal which ultimately put the game to bed. He'll have to do more to justify his £35 million price tag but this performance showed progress, if nothing else.
David Nugent is best remembered for scoring a cheeky goal on his only ever England appearance during Steve McClaren's ill-fated reign as well as a disastrous transfer to Portsmouth but, before that, he had been a lethal Championship striker. Now back at that level, Nugent's confidence has returned and his winning goal for Leicester away to Norwich sealed the shock result of the weekend and a potential quarter-final away to Chelsea.
Arsenal's players received far more criticism in their 2-0 away defeat to Sunderland than Martin O'Neill's team received praise, but Stephane Sessegnon's performance as a lone striker shouldn't be overlooked. Never a natural out-and-out striker, Sessegnon adapted and worked hard throughout to give his side a focal point and ensure Arsenal's defence failed to settle. Sunderland's constant pressing was key to their victory and Sessegnon led by example in that respect.
Birmingham's tactics were exactly what was required to stifle Chelsea and the credit for that should go to this week's manager of the week, Chris Hughton. His ability as a manager was still in question despite earning promotion with Newcastle United but Hughton, now with an inferior squad, continues to impress. Birmingham adopted a 4-5-1, utilising a particularly hard-working midfield to disrupt any Chelsea rhythm. The Premier League side looked ponderous and uninspired throughout and, at one point, looked set for a defeat that may have led to the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas. For all of Chelsea's troubles, Hughton got the very best out of his side and he should receive the necessary credit for that.