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FA Cup fourth round: 10 things to look out for this weekend | FA Cup

Solly March beats Allison in Brighton’s victory over Liverpool earlier this month.
Written by Usdng

1) Saddlers out to prove point

The Walsall manager, Michael Flynn, was very unhappy about the news that his side’s clash with Leicester would not be aired on a main UK channel. “I think it is a disgrace our game hasn’t been chosen, it is what the FA Cup is all about,” he said. His argument is more than a fair one when Manchester United v Reading will be available on Saturday night. League Two clubs such as Walsall heavily rely on TV money from cup runs to help with finances, more than the likes of United topping up their coffers. It is up to Flynn and his squad to prove TV bosses wrong by pulling off an upset inside a packed Bescot Stadium on Saturday. TV companies need to acknowledge what the FA Cup is about. Will Unwin

2) Reds’ return to Brighton

Jürgen Klopp was adamant that progress was being made following Liverpool’s drab goalless draw at home to Chelsea, but a truer test awaits the holders on their return to the Amex Stadium. Brighton ripped through Liverpool in the Premier League a fortnight ago, when Klopp described his team’s 3-0 defeat as one of the worst displays of his managerial career. Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Joël Matip and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were all withdrawn in a quadruple substitution midway through the second half against Roberto De Zerbi’s polished side. None have started in the two matches since. Eighteen-year-old Stefan Bajcetic has seized his chance in central midfield, injecting an energy and bite that was previously lacking, while Ibrahima Konaté and Joe Gomez have benefited from the improvement in front of them. Both managers should go strong with no midweek fixtures to concern them. Klopp must hope De Zerbi finds Liverpool unrecognisable. Andy Hunter

Solly March beats Allison in Brighton’s victory over Liverpool earlier this month.
Solly March beats Allison in Brighton’s victory over Liverpool earlier this month. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

3) Cup no distraction for Wrexham

The focus at Wrexham in recent times has been off the field, which is unsurprising due to the Hollywood status of Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. On the pitch they were unlucky to miss out on promotion last season, coming second to Stockport in the league. Things have been slowly building in north Wales due to the investment of the owners, who know the National League is the hardest division to get out of and to do so they need goals, hence why Paul Mullin was brought in a great expense. Some might think the Cup is a distraction from the all-important battle for promotion but no one in a Wrexham shirt on Sunday will. Instead it will be an opportunity for players to show they are capable of competing with a Sheffield United team three leagues higher, as they already proved at Coventry in the last round. They will be desperate to show that result was not a fluke. WU

4) Untimely Hammers blows

David Moyes is still in a job after beating Everton last week but this has not been an entirely positive week for the West Ham manager. Victory came at a cost. As if losing Danny Ings for a few weeks was bad enough after the new signing suffered a debut knee injury after his introduction from the bench, West Ham have also discovered Kurt Zouma will be missing for a couple of games. Once again Moyes will be forced into a reshuffle at centre-back. He had welcomed Zouma back from knee surgery and could have done without the defender hurting himself. West Ham’s options are limited following Craig Dawson’s move to Wolves and they will need to take care when they visit Derby. The surging League One side – unbeaten in 14 games – will certainly take heart from the absence of Ings, who was signed to solve West Ham’s goalscoring issues. With Zouma missing, it could be an uncomfortable evening for Moyes. Jacob Steinberg

5) Does Kane need a rest?

Playing against a team in the league below could be the perfect opportunity for Harry Kane to surpass Jimmy Greaves’s Tottenham goalscoring record. The Spurs No 9 drew level with the club legend in Monday’s win over Fulham, meaning his next strike will make history in north London. Antonio Conte, however, needs to perform a balancing act with Kane, who is irreplaceable in the Spurs lineup – in the league at least – and rarely gets a chance to be rested. He has scored three times as many goals this season as Son Heung-min, who is second in the club charts. Richarlison, who needs minutes on the pitch, led the line impressively for Brazil at the World Cup and would be a fine option for Conte to start at Deepdale if he decides Kane cannot play every minute of every game. WU

Richarlison and Harry Kane.
Richarlison could be in line to take the load off Harry Kane. Photograph: Kieran McManus/Shutterstock

6) Weghorst in the spotlight

The latest evidence of Erik ten Hag’s apparent Midas touch came in Wout Weghorst’s strike in Manchester United’s 3-0 dismantling of Nottingham Forest – as this was his first goal in only a third appearance since joining temporarily. The 6ft 5in marksman is supposedly solely a deputy to Anthony Martial at No 9 for those games where Marcus Rashford’s pace is not needed to replace the serially-injured Frenchman down the middle. But here lies the great unknown as the second half of the season unfolds: when he is in the XI, will Weghorst’s sluggish pace cost Ten Hag’s team Champions League qualification points and progression in the knockout competitions? If so, this would shine a light on how in the current window United’s owners, the Glazers, failed to back the manager in the same manner Arsenal’s owners did Mikel Arteta. It would cast Weghorst as a sticking-plaster addition unless, of course, the manager can conjure a consistent contribution from the 30-year-old. A further clue will be offered if Weghorst starts (as is expected) against Reading at Old Trafford. Jamie Jackson

7) Bamford back for Leeds?

Patrick Bamford has not started for Leeds since the 2-0 defeat at Leicester in October. An injury kept him sidelined from the end of that month until the loss to Aston Villa in mid-January, when he came off the bench to score a consolation goal. Leeds’s goalless draw against Brentford last weekend showed that Jesse Marsch’s side were lacking a true No 9. Despite this, the head coach kept Bamford and the new record signing, Georginio Rutter, back. Bamford came on for 10 minutes, while Rutter remained unused. Saturday’s trip to Accrington seems a perfect opportunity to get as many minutes under Bamford’s belt as possible and move him closer to full match fitness, because he will be very important to Leeds in the run-in if they want to avoid a relegation battle. Rodrigo has done well down the middle but greater variety in forward roles would be a useful asset for Marsch. WU

8) Mariners to call on nomad

The Grimsby striker Danilo Orsi-Dadomo has had a nomadic career; he started in London at Cockfosters before moving to the US to play football for a college. Eventually he returned home for a collection of non-league stints in the south-east with East Thurrock United, Hungerford Town and Hampton & Richmond, before a fine season with Maidenhead led to him being snapped up by Harrogate Town in 2021. Since then, however, he has struggled to find the net and was allowed to join Grimsby last summer. Once again he is not a regular, having started three times for the Mariners without scoring, but Paul Hurst has a striker crisis due to injury and ineligibility, and will need to call on Orsi for the trip to Luton. Orsi’s tale is one of an underdog and the FA Cup loves a storyline. WU

Danilo Orsi-Dadomo of Grimsby Town.
Danilo Orsi-Dadomo of Grimsby Town. Photograph: Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

9) Solomon’s Fulham chance

Fulham need a response after a couple of narrow defeats against Newcastle and Tottenham. They have not been playing badly and have not had much luck. Aleksandar Mitrovic’s penalty blunder proved costly against Newcastle and there was a lot to like about Fulham’s general play against Spurs. Where Marco Silva’s side have been lacking, though, is in the final third. They did not make enough chances against Spurs, though Manor Solomon’s cameo off the bench was a positive. The Israel winger was bright after coming on, going close with a bending shot, and will hope to be given a chance against Sunderland. Solomon, who joined from Shakhtar Donetsk last summer, needs games. He had a long spell on the sidelines after suffering a knee injury on the opening day of the season and has been restricted to four substitute appearances. Could this be the moment for Silva to unleash him from the start? JS

10) Apprentice challenges master

Under the Etihad Stadium lights this clash can be billed as a potentially titanic master-versus-apprentice clash. Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City take on Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal in a tie that acts as primer for the two Premier League games in February and April between the champions and leaders. The intent of the Arsenal board to end a 19-year title drought is underlined by the €50m January outlay on Leonardo Trossard and Jakob Kiwior, in a move that underlines, too, how thrilled the hierarchy is at how Arteta, once Guardiola’s assistant, has constructed a team worthy of a five-point advantage over his former employers. But the Catalan, now his sporting adversary, is a man driven to win and, despite the gap in the Premier League and recent criticism of his players, Guardiola’s men start as favourites. But, only just – which is the mark of how impressive Arteta and his side are this term. JJ