Wow. What an unbelievable round of Capital One Cup action we’ve just witnessed. The whole nation has loved every second of it, and it seems that everywhere I look people are talking about the matches, particularly Reading versus Arsenal, and Chelsea against Manchester United, which together produced a grand total of 21 goals.
I tuned into the Arsenal match a bit later than I had hoped, and had missed six goals. The fact that I saw a further six before it was all done and dusted was simply amazing. I honestly can’t remember any game that’s finished 7-5, it was absolutely crazy.
As a player I can’t recall being part of an unthinkable comeback, or throwing away a huge lead, but I know the emotions for those involved will have been so, so contrasting.
Brian McDermott’s men will be kicking themselves. They should have had enough experience within their ranks to see home the victory having led 4-0. The problem with taking such an unexpected lead is that it can play havoc with players’ minds. They want to hang on to it so badly that they inadvertently sit back and invite the pressure. This is part of what happened on Tuesday night, and fair play to Arsenal, they stuck at their task really well and just went for it. They’ll be on a ridiculous high thanks to the work they did.
It was the same at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, where Roberto Di Matteo and Sir Alex Ferguson sent out their teams in an ultra-positive fashion. Just go out there, take people on, and try things, would have been their message to the teams, and what a refreshing and exciting spectacle they provided.
Mistakes happen, and managers don’t like to see them, but who doesn’t enjoy seeing these topsy-turvy thrillers? I absolutely welcome the all-out-attack policies we’ve seen managers employ this week. It’s given English football a real lift.
In the past, not losing has been a priority for some, but in the Capital One Cup it seems that players are being encouraged to show us what they can do going forward, sacrificing a focus on defence for positive, attacking football. It’s been stunning to see.
I watched Liverpool entertain Swansea City at Anfield, and I have to say that the best team on the night prevailed. Michael Laudrup’s side never once sat back all night, taking the Reds on at their own game – and to be honest they had more quality in certain departments.
Liverpool only really got started once Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez entered the fray, but even with them on the pitch, Swansea still looked very, very good. They expressed themselves all over the pitch and at no stage did they ever look like panicking. They fully deserved the standing ovation given to them by those Liverpool fans that stayed until the end.
I’m gutted for my former club, as I fancied them to go all the way to Wembley again, but on the night they can have no complaints.
We’ve got just over a month to wait for the Quarter Finals now and they can’t come quickly enough, can they? If we get more of the same attacking brilliance we’re in for another special treat.
The pick of the round is Leeds United versus Chelsea, and that conjures up great memories for me. Back in 1970, before many of you were born, they played out a cracking FA Cup Final – well two in fact, because it went to a replay – and although it’s a tie that’s remembered for its tackling, it’s a game I smile about because it was so passionate and full-blooded.
I fully expect this Quarter Final to be just as hard-fought, and under the lights at Elland Road it promises to be fabulous. Chelsea will be favourites of course but Leeds won’t be make it easy for them on home turf.
Nor will Bradford City make life comfortable for Arsenal at Valley Parade either. In fact, they’ll do the exact opposite and hope that the Gunners’ star men don’t relish the battle. If they don’t, who knows what might happen?
This season’s Capital One Cup is not only wide open but it’s also turning out to be one of the most classic seasons in the history of the entire competition. I can’t wait for the next instalment.