FA Cup shocks (Norwich, QPR, Villa, Liverpool & Spurs) show EPL is slipping, FA’s Chelsea Hazard hypocrisy, Man City sell £17m Balotelli to AC Milan

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “Yes. It was better than sex. To score a goal in a game like this was unbelievable. I have to be careful as my missus could read this!” – Luton’s Scott Rendell.

Runner-up: “This has to be our best performance of the season. I am so happy about it that I’m going to go home and celebrate by opening a bottle of champers. I might even treat myself to a bag of crisps as well. To beat a team like Tottenham in this competition makes it just a fabulous day for everyone at the club. We showed today what we are all about and we thoroughly deserved our victory.” – Neil Warnock.

FA Cup Analysis At Large

It’s no fluke – Premier League is on the slide (Alan Shearer, Sun) What a brilliant weekend it has been for the FA Cup. But not for the Premier League. A couple of shock results you could put down as flukes. But when Liverpool, Tottenham, QPR, Norwich and Aston Villa all go out to lower league opposition, it’s not a coincidence. And that’s before you even factor in Bradford’s amazing run to the Capital One Cup final — beating Wigan, Arsenal and then Aston Villa (them again) over two legs. For excitement, passion, commitment and the atmosphere in the grounds, the Premier League is great. But as I suggested recently, the quality of the football is falling.

No shocks to me! Premier League sides lacked guts, cohesion and desire in FA Cup (Mark Lawrenson, Mirror) So many players Premier League players have gone into this weekend with the wrong attitude. There will have been more than a few “stars” given their chance over the last 48 hours after banging on the manager’s door and asking why they are not playing. But one of the reasons why there have been so many shocks is because so many sides have made so many wholesale changes. So you are getting teams with up to 11 players who have not played competitive football with each other before.

Oldham 3 – Liverpool 2

Paul Dickov could lose Oldham job despite victory over Liverpool (Andy Hunter, Guardian) While Brendan Rodgers departed with an angry rebuke for the young Liverpool players who contributed to a feeble performance and deserved defeat, his Oldham counterpart had post-match celebrations punctured by questions over his future. Dickov was rumoured to be on the brink regardless of the outcome against Liverpool. His chairman, Simon Corney, offered no assurances that the 3-2 triumph will save the Scot from the sack on Monday. “It’s very awkward,” said the New York-based businessman, naturally alarmed by a league sequence of seven defeats and one draw in eight games since 8 December. “We will have to chat about it tomorrow. Paul has his own decision to make. Days like this are great but the biggest thing is about staying in this division.” Ah, the romance of the cup.

Weaklings! Brendan Rodgers tears into young Liverpool side after FA Cup humiliation (David Maddock, Mirror) After watching Liverpool beaten 3-2 at Oldham in the FA Cup, a humbled Reds boss Brendan Rodgers tore into his young side, who had just three players over the age of 23 in the starting line up, by insisting the kids didn’t show the right mentality for such a blood and thunder cup tie. “We’re bitterly disappointed. Our mentality was poor and it ended up costing us. We started and finished the first half poorly and started the second half poorly and got punished,” he said.

Humble pie on Brendan Rodgers’ menu (Paul Joyce, Express) This was the unlikeliest of FA Cup giantkillings, delivered by a club apparently on its last legs, but one which summoned the desire and determination to bully Liverpool into surrender and submission.

Leeds 2 – Spurs 1

Strike farce: AVB gamble flops as Leeds shock Tottenham in FA Cup (Mirror) It’s very doubtful Spurs fans agree with Andre Villas-Boas that not signing a striker is a risk worth taking. Tottenham’s failure to bring in a proven goalscorer in this transfer window – with Jermain Defoe injured and Emmanuel Adebayor at the African Cup of Nations – cost them this FA Cup tie. Whether it will have a more damaging impact on their hopes of securing Champions League football in AVB’s first term as manager remains to be seen. But his refusal to acknowledge the lack of forward options at his disposal as a glaring error of judgement could yet see a season of rich promise end in self-recrimination for Spurs.

Private agony: Tottenham ace Jermain Defoe nursing secret pelvic injury (Mirror) Jermain Defoe missed Tottenham’s shock FA Cup defeat to Leeds because he is nursing a secret pelvic injury. The England striker has been playing through the pain barrier is a desperate bid to help keep his club’s season on track.

André Villas-Boas relaxed on lack of Tottenham strikers in Leeds defeat (Guardian) The club have explored the possibility of signing a new striker this month, and Sevilla’s Alvaro Negredo is the latest possible target. But Villas-Boas said that he did not foresee any reinforcements in the final week of the transfer window and he added that the apparent imbalance to his squad was not to blame for the loss to Leeds.

Hazard Hypocrisy 

A booking for one but a charge for the other. By the time this lot are done with football, the game will be an ungovernable, unfathomable mess… (Martin Samuel, Mail) On Friday, the FA announced it would be charging Eden Hazard of Chelsea for kicking ball boy Charlie Morgan… Fair enough, one might think. A three-match ban for kicking a youth would appear, on the face of it, lenient. Obviously, the FA will have precedent in this area, and will apply it to ensure consistency and fairness. And that’s where you’d be wrong. There is precedent, but not of the kind you think. This is the FA, remember. They will do what they always do when given a tough call. They will make it up as they go along.

Arsenal Fans Fight

Arsenal fans have punch-up with EACH OTHER after ‘Wenger Out’ banner is unfurled during thrilling win over Brighton (Mail) [Arsenal’s] win was overshadowed by a fight among Arsenal supporters after a fan unfurled a banner calling for Wenger to leave the club. It read: ‘Arsene, thanks for the memories but it’s time to say goodbye.’ The banner sparked fury among Wenger supporters who ordered the supporter to put it away. The brawl, which occurred around the 80-minute mark, saw a number of punches thrown. One supporter, understood to be the man who unravelled the banner, was ejected from the stadium.

Who Is Signing Didier Drogba?

I wanted my Drog back (Sun) Chelsea have made a sensational bid to re-sign Didier Drogba. Owner Roman Abramovich made an embarrassing U-turn by sanctioning a move for the former Blues hero. Drog, 34, was offered a six-month deal to the summer with a further one-year option for next season. It was a blunt admission by Red Rom that his £50million golden boy Fernando Torres has flopped. But Drogba turned down Rom’s offer and is set to join Turkish side Galatasaray today.

Drogba turns down stunning offer to REJOIN Chelsea… just half a season after quitting over contract row (Mail) Didier Drogba will turn down a sensational approach to return to Chelsea and sign an 18-month contract with Galatasaray.

Balotelli To AC Milan: Done Deal, Maybe

Balo and goodbye (Sun) AC Milan look to have finally prised Mario Balotelli away from Manchester City. The Premier League champs are expected to announce they have sold the hothead striker for around £17million today. It is understood Milan could include former Spurs midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng on top of that fee. Italian ace Balotelli threw a leaving party at his house for close pals last night. He told them he was off to the San Siro and gave away mementos from his controversial stay at the Etihad.

Zaha: Player Profile

How will the new ‘Palace Pele’ cope with the pressure of expectation? (Kevin Gardside, Independent) Zaha’s video compilation on YouTube reveals the requisite dexterity of the deity-to-be. Stepovers come as standard, the back-heeled switch in direction is Ronaldo-esque and the change of pace impressive. But will it be enough against better men? Robinho took every trick in the book to Real Madrid, to Manchester City, to Milan, yet still no meat on the bone. At 29 he has come and gone. Prodigies are 10-a-penny in Brazil. We await the arrival in Europe of the next yellow-shirted Merlin, Neymar, reportedly heading to Barcelona after the next World Cup. He might be Ronaldinho-good. Or he could end up at Newcastle, an echo of Mirandinha.

Transfer Lies

Fab spotlight (Sun) Fabricio Coloccini may face the wrath of Alan Pardew after being quoted claiming a move to Argie side San Lorenzo was “momentarily suspended”.

Norwich ready £7m offer for Celtic star Hooper as other targets move out of reach (Mail) Norwich are preparing an improved £7million offer for Celtic striker Gary Hooper. Manager Chris Hughton is struggling to bring in targets with Sporting Lisbon’s Ricky Van Wolfswinkel out of his price range as the Portuguese rate him close to £12m. Celtic insist they want £8m for Hooper, 25, and Norwich have only offered £4.5m.

Reading’s £6.5m bid for Ince set to be rejected… so Bentley’s on their radar (Mail) Blackpool are to reject a £6.5million offer from Reading for Tom Ince… Reading, who also have an interest in Tottenham’s David Bentley, have blocked a move from Trabzonspor for goalkeeper Mikkel Andersen, 24.

Sunderland hoping to seal £5.5m Graham deal while Scharner move seems close (Mail) Sunderland still hope to finalise a £5.5million move for Swansea’s Danny Graham and are closing on a move for former Wigan midfielder Paul Scharner – claims his agent.

Allardyce in double swoop for defensive duo Pogatetz and Warnock (Mail) West Ham have agreed a £500,000 loan fee for Wolfsburg defender Emanuel Pogatetz… Left-back Stephen Warnock is also joining West Ham on a free transfer after Sam Allardyce was priced out of moves for Blackburn’s Martin Olsson and Montpellier’s Henri Bedimo.

Redknapp aiming to boost defence with QPR in talks over £7m Porto defender Rolando (Mail) Queens Park Rangers are continuing talks over a deal for Porto defender Rolando while they also track Etienne Capoue and Younes Belhanda.