Premier League and FA Cup: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action | Soccer

1) Have Barkley’s best years been wasted?

Chelsea’s Abramovich era has catapulted the careers of many promising footballers into the stratosphere. It has also stopped some in their tracks. Steve Sidwell, Scott Parker and Danny Drinkwater all left clubs where they were in hot demand to sign for Chelsea, where they spent different parts of their prime watching blankly from the dugout. To that list we can add Ross Barkley, who was trusted to take a penalty on Saturday by a coach he’s played 428 minutes for this season, but no more. Five years on from his move to west London, Barkley has started fewer league games for Chelsea than his last season at Everton and has had as many managers as he has scored league goals. Not every talented youngster will fulfill their potential; Not every transfer is a success. But it’s hard to think back to Barkley’s breakout years and not lament the accumulation of scatterguns that football’s superclubs can afford. Alex Hess

2) Fate is still in Burnley’s grasp

Back-to-back defeats have sent Burnley back into the relegation zone and Thursday’s visit to Aston Villa was monumental. However, there was room for optimism in a struggling performance at Tottenham who arguably deserved a draw. “I’m really proud of the group,” said Mike Jackson. “They had a good start today. I saw a group that fought and had a fighting spirit.” A point in Villa Park will hold their destiny in their hands. Jackson will have to decide whether to stick with the five-man defensive line that has largely deadened the Spurs, or be more expansive and rely on the early goal that could make life a whole lot easier. There is the added complication that, unusually, they played Villa at home nine days ago and were well beaten. Jackson needs to get the formula right but has shown he is capable of assembling a team that can handle the fight. Nick Ames

3) Talismanic Zaha, still willing to take the bait

Wilfried Zaha enjoys fertile times. As his powers peak, so do his returns. Now more finisher than creator, Zaha’s 13 league goals this season are a career highlight. His previous best (11) came last year. But the less-welcomed part of his game — the side where he deals with barking crowds — remains. At Villa Park, Zaha did so with a beaming smile, but it’s still energy best channeled elsewhere. “It’s part of Wilfried, his character, his personality,” explained Patrick Vieira. “It’s both a strength and a weakness. He’s a target player and he needs to control his wits to keep that energy, that strength, so he can make the difference in the last third. Vieira knows that when Zaha mismanages things, life becomes easier for his opponents. “It’s a sideshow,” said Steven Gerrard. “He had a really quiet afternoon. We dealt with him really well.” Sam Dalling

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4) Struijk gives Leeds hope and faith

Pascal Struijk’s injury-time equalizer for Leeds not only changes the dynamic around the final week of the relegation battle, but the entire mentality around Elland Road. Just minutes before Struijk scrambled home a cross from Joe Gelhardt, deafening renditions of Marcelo Bielsa’s name rang out before the home crowd turned their ire on the board. It threatened to overshadow the bigger challenge facing Leeds as February’s sacking of Bielsa remains an incredible gamble that remains hugely unpopular with large swathes of Leeds fans. But when Struijk went home and Elland Road erupted, the mood changed, as did the permutations. Burnley could change the whole script again if they get a result at Aston Villa on Thursday night, but for the first time in several weeks Leeds supporters can look to the table with preliminary confidence. If momentum really is a thing in sport then Struijk, the least likely of heroes, has ensured Leeds have at least a whiff of it with one game left. Aaron Bower

5) Daka has to step in to let Vardy run out

It’s been a strange season for Leicester. Last year’s FA Cup win was the result of two strong league campaigns and it looked like a young, talented, improving squad was back on track. But while things didn’t turn out that way, they didn’t waste their time. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall has established himself, James Maddison has rediscovered himself – and Harvey Barnes – scorer of two fine goals – is a better player now than he was in August. But sometime soon, and despite his brace, they’ll have to replace Jamie Vardy. In an ideal world, his role from now on would be that of a rotary player and impact subs. The question is whether Patson Daka is ready to step up. Despite showing tremendous ability at both Leicester and RB Salzburg, he has struggled in recent months. Now it’s up to him to find the consistency it takes to oust a club legend. DanielHarris

Match report: Watford 1-5 Leicester

‘Win our game to be champions’: Guardiola says Premier League is in Manchester City’s hands – video

6) Fernandinho fights in the emergency role

Manchester City’s injury worries in defense are well documented but it was interesting that Fernandinho backed the idea last week that youngsters CJ Egan-Riley and Lucas Mbete deserved some playing time in the title fight. At West Ham, Pep Guardiola opted for experience, with Fernandinho starting at centre-back. The Brazilian is a legend at City but is increasingly looking like a weak link as Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen embarrassed the 37-year-old on the counter. Both West Ham goals used space at the back and Fernandinho was also lavish with the ball, including a poor back pass that could have resulted in a third Hammers goal. Fernandinho deserved a farewell of sorts ahead of his return to Brazil this summer, but it would be a shock to see him return to defense in City’s crucial final game against Aston Villa. Michael Butler

7) Wolves need to fix point problems

It’s hard to know what to make of wolves. They’re a lot more fun to watch under Bruno Lage than under Nuno Espírito Santo. And yet 37 goals in 37 games – the fewest of any team outside the last three – is almost as abysmal as last season’s 36 of 38, the lowest outside the last four. Something has to change and Lage will hope he has the internal solutions. After 10 months out through injury, Pedro Neto is back and will be much better for a full pre-season. But Raúl Jiménez’s form must be worrying, his 44 appearances yielding just nine goals, eight yellow cards and two red cards. The hope is he regains confidence and sharpness after a long layoff due to a potentially life-threatening head injury, but if he doesn’t start next season well then his manager will – no doubt reluctantly – need an alternative. DanielHarris

Match report: Wolves 1-1 Norwich

Frank Lampard heartbroken after Everton loss to Brentford
Everton might be safe now but the loss to Brentford kept them in the relegation battle. Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

8) Chaos threatens to drag Everton into the abyss

Just when it looked like Everton had made their way to safety, they returned to the charade that had carried them through the season. Two red cards and some desperate defences, as of Thursday at home against Crystal Palace and next Sunday at Arsenal, saw Frank Lampard’s side need something to stay ahead of Burnley and Leeds. In the Goodison Stand, Joe Royle and Peter Reid, both playing legends with Royle being a former manager, looked on while chairman Bill Kenwright looked positively distressed alongside them. Any of these famous Evertonians would recognize the chaos that can engulf their beloved club. It briefly appeared Lampard had taken advantage of the chaos and Everton fans reacted warmly enough to his lead. But his team still has no discernible approach and lacks discipline. Burnley and Leeds’ troubles mean Everton are likely to survive but face a tough final season. Farce, mayhem and mayhem rarely add up to sustained success. John Brewin

Match report: Everton 2-3 Brentford

9) England’s women’s team is richly blessed

England manager Sarina Wiegman was at Wembley on Sunday and will surely have learned far more from this high-profile FA Cup final than many bloodless qualifiers. Keira Walsh and Alex Greenwood both shone in the Manchester City defeat; Millie Bright and Jess Carter have both made their case for Chelsea. But the real bright spot was City winger Lauren Hemp, who has been increasingly committed to England’s chances this summer. The next big women’s game at Wembley will be the Euro 2022 final. Will England be there? Jonathan Liew

‘It means the world’: Liverpool and Klopp celebrate winning FA Cup – video

10) The Reds use history for shootout success

In August 1974, Liverpool defeated Leeds United 6-5 on penalties to win the Charity Shield – the first of 26 shootouts in which they took part. Of these, a rather ridiculous 19 have been won, including two European Cup finals, two FA Cup finals and three League Cup finals. Two of those came in a goalless draw against Chelsea this season. At first glance, what happened in Rome in 1984, for example, has nothing whatsoever to do with what happened at Wembley on Saturday. But an overall success rate of 73.08% can’t be coincidence, rather it speaks volumes about Liverpool’s mythology and self-mythologizing – veins that Jurgen Klopp has so aptly tapped into. Of course, all professional footballers are capable of beating a goalkeeper with a free kick from 12 yards out, but Klopp has given those who play for him confidence, claim and aggression, a sense of history and destiny bordering on the messianic – and they are not still done. DanielHarris

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