English Premier League Stock Watch: FA Cup 4th-Round Edition
The English Premier League took a weekend off as the fourth round of the FA Cup took the spotlight in England. But while the matches didn't count toward the league standings, several Premier League clubs saw their stock rise or fall over the weekend.
Manchester United and Manchester City marched on, while Arsenal stayed alive and Olivier Giroud kept scoring. Meanwhile, a number of Premier League clubs crashed out against lower-league opposition.
Which clubs saw their stock rise? Whose stock fell? Keep reading to find out.
Stock Up: Manchester United's Trophy Hunt
January might seem an unreasonably early date to start speaking of a treble, but with this season's version of Manchester United, that really is not the case.
Top of the table by five points, Sir Alex Ferguson's United also remain alive in both the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League. FA Cup progress was secured with an easy 4-1 home win over Fulham on Saturday, and as usual, the Red Devils impressed offensively.
Ryan Giggs powered home an early penalty before Wayne Rooney and Chicharito (who scored twice) added second-half goals.
Thrilling attacks have been the theme this season for United, as has a leaky defense. If, however, the defense continues improving, and if United can slip past Real Madrid in the Champions League's last 16, the treble push will be well and truly on.
Stock Up: Manchester City's Fortunes at Stoke City
Pablo Zabaleta popped up with an opportunistic goal in the 85th minute as Manchester City edged Stoke City 1-0 on Saturday in a matchup of Premier League rivals.
City won the league last season, but Saturday's win was a first for the current crop of players. Since 1999, no City team had won at Stoke (per BBC Sport). Both teams, it should be noted, played in the Football League's Division Two at the time.
On Zabaleta's goal, which spared City an unwanted additional 90 additional minutes of cup football in the middle of another title race, assistant coach David Platt said: “It is not by luck Zabaleta gets into those positions. The way we play we get a lot of players forward, Zaba has been in those positions many times, and he tucked it away nicely."
Stock Down: Premier League Mystique
Eight-time winners Tottenham Hotspur lost at second-tier Leeds United.
Seven-time winners Aston Villa lost at second-tier Millwall.
Seven-time winners Liverpool lost at third-tier Oldham Athletic.
Queens Park Rangers trailed by four goals early in the second half and lost at home to third-tier Milton Keynes Dons.
And Norwich City lost at home to fifth-tier Luton Town.
Was it a great weekend for that old FA Cup magic? Was it a weekend full of fluky results?
Or does Premier League status count for less and less in the FA Cup these days?
Stock Up: Reading's Momentum
No comeback needed this time.
After back-to-back comeback wins in the Premier League over West Brom and Newcastle, Reading blasted Sheffield United 4-0 at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday. Noel Hunt scored twice and Mikele Leigertwood and Garath McCleary added one each as the Royals outclassed their visitors from League One.
Coming into the match, Reading must have looked ripe for an upset. After it, the Royals have even more momentum for their relegation fight.
Stock Up: Olivier Giroud
Considered a flop almost as soon as his Arsenal career began, Olivier Giroud is showing with each passing week that he is nothing of the sort.
The big Frenchman scored two more goals Saturday as Arsenal held off second-tier Brighton and Hove Albion in a classic FA Cup tie. Both goals were worthy of his celebrated predecessor, even if it's beyond unfair to compare Giroud to Robin van Persie.
With plenty of matches left to play, Giroud has now recorded 13 goals and nine assists for Arsenal. He could do far worse for his first season in England.
Stock Down: Aston Villa
It was a miserable week of cup ties for Paul Lambert's Aston Villa.
First, Villa crashed out of the Capital One Cup on Tuesday, beating Bradford City at home but losing 4-3 on aggregate.
Then, on Friday, the Premiership relegation strugglers lost 2-1 at second-tier Millwall. Everything must have seemed fine when Darren Bent opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, but after John Marquis completed Millwall's comeback just before the final whistle, Villa somehow realized a new level of misery.
Stock Up: QPR's Chance to Focus on the Relegation Fight
Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp will struggle to find many positives from his team's 4-2 home loss to third-tier Milton Keynes Dons. Rangers conceded the game's first four goals and despite pulling two back in the final 10 minutes, never looked like they were advancing.
The irrepressible optimist will point out that QPR now have more time to focus on their fight to escape relegation. Indeed, the lack of FA Cup matches will allow Redknapp to rest players more than Wigan and Reading, the two clubs directly above QPR in the table.
QPR are now free to concentrate on getting relegated— Will Tidey (@willtidey) January 26, 2013
But that will be the only positive from a truly wretched performance. And it's not much of a positive at that.