English Premier League Stock Watch: FA Cup Weekend Edition
Manchester City and Chelsea moved on as Roberto Mancini and Rafa Benitez bought some much-needed breathing room. But Arsenal crashed and burned in what was the upset of the round.
The last eight of the FA Cup are beginning to take shape after a weekend of fascinating action. Manchester United, who face Reading on Monday, are yet to play, but now is as good a time as any to take stock of the English Premier League clubs left in the FA Cup.
Which teams saw their stock rise? Whose stock fell? Keep reading to find out in this week's edition of the B/R English Premier League Stock Watch.
Stock Up: Sergio Aguero
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Sergio Aguero scored twice and set up a third goal as Manchester City routed Leeds United 4-0 on Sunday at the Etihad.
Manager Roberto Mancini made several changes to his squad following a dire performance last weekend against Southampton. But based on Aguero's performance, it was easy to see why the Argentine retained his place.
Aguero was so good, in fact, that Mancini made a bold statement about the Premier League title race, which had seemed over last weekend when City fell 12 points behind leaders Manchester United.
Stock Level: The Title Race
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Roberto Mancini might merely have been overexcited about his team's decisive defeat of Leeds United. Or the Manchester City boss might have trying to pile pressure on rivals Manchester United.
Either way, it's unlikely the title race is back on, like he suggested in his post-match (see the previous slide).
United's 12-point lead is not just formidable. With 12 matches left, it's almost unassailable.
While a historic collapse is possible, it's highly unlikely. Besides, Aguero's goals won't stop United from winning any of their remaining 12 matches besides the upcoming Manchester derby.
Stock Down: Arsene Wenger
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Arsenal lost 1-0 at home to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday. In crashing out of the FA Cup's fifth round, the Gunners also lost their last realistic chance at silverware this season.
Unless Arsenal emulate Chelsea's unlikely run last season to a UEFA Champions League title, 2013 will mark the eighth consecutive year Arsene Wenger has failed to deliver silverware to North London.
Afterwards, it was easy to criticize Wenger's decision to hold out influential attackers Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott until the final 20 minutes. But in fairness, Wenger was right to keep in mind his team's Champions League match against Bayern Munich on Tuesday.
Simply put, it was a gamble that backfired, as gambles sometimes do. Problem is, with Wenger, that seems to be the norm these days rather than the exception.
And what's worse, it's not as if Arsenal received a poor draw or crashed out of the Cup against superior opposition. Instead, the Gunners dominated possession and created several clear chances yet failed to defeat an obviously inferior team from a lower division.
Unlike Wenger's best teams of years past, this edition often lacks the decisive edge in the final third. The first 11 can play formidable football, but beyond the starters, the quality falls sharply.
Meanwhile, inconsistency remains a scourge, and Gervinho remains incompetent as a finisher at the most important moments.
Such is the recipe for almost there and nearly men.
Stock Level: Rafa Benitez and Chelsea
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Chelsea dominated Brentford on Sunday, winning 4-0 at Stamford Bridge in a fourth-round replay.
The win was satisfying, and it should relieve some of the incessant pressure placed on interim manager Rafa Benitez. And yet, it was only a fourth-round replay, and a fifth-round match looms next Wednesday.
Back into the frying pan, then, for the Blues and Benitez. Or does anyone think the fans will cut Rafa a break?
Stock Up: Tiki-Taka Team Golazos
In the weekend's only Premier League match, Liverpool demolished Swansea 5-0 at Anfield in manager Brendan Rodgers' first home match against his former club.
The first-year Reds manager will have been proud of his side's third goal, a true team effort that was equal parts tiki-taka and golazo.
The goal, which was finished by Jose Enrique, appears above. Enjoy.
Michael Owen sure did.
Stock Up: Wigan
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The current league campaign has been truly terrifying for Wigan, who sit 19th in the table through 26 matches and have been staring down the prospect of relegation for weeks.
And yet, in the FA Cup, after Sunday's 4-1 win at Huddersfield Town, Roberto Martinez's Latics are one of the eight teams who still have a shot at winning England's most storied cup competition.
That's more than Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool can say.