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Donkeys: Five PL players who blew their chance to impress in the FA Cup

The weekend’s FA Cup fourth round action saw holders Arsenal crash out of the competition at Southampton, whilst Manchester United edged Liverpool in an entertaining cup clash between the two northern powerhouses at Old Trafford.

Elsewhere Wolves ended the run of the last non-league representative in Chorley, whilst there were wins for Manchester City, Leicester and Chelsea who will all be eyeing a potential Wembley appearance.

The hectic nature of the football schedule saw Premier League sides rotate their options for this weekend’s ties, offering a rare starting opportunity for several players who have found themselves on the fringes this season.

Whilst many flourished, there were plenty who failed to seize their chance to impress and we’ve picked out some of the more underwhelming performances.

Here are five Premier League players who blew their chance to impress in the FA Cup:

Donny van de Beek

It’s fair to say it has been a difficult debut season for Donny van de Beek at Manchester United, the summer signing from Ajax having been restricted to just cameo appearances for much of the campaign amid fierce competition for midfield places.

The Netherlands international arrived with big expectations but has failed to deliver on the promise he showed in the Eredivisie, struggling to win the trust of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and starting just twice in the Premier League this season.

Van de Beek was included in the side this weekend for a huge fourth round clash with Liverpool, though a fascinating cup tie ultimately passed the midfielder by with his contribution to the cause minimal.

The basic principles of the Dutchman’s game were evident early on as he was neat and tidy in possession, though more is expected of a United number 10 and Van de Beek must take control of the game if he is to really succeed with the Red Devils.

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The midfielder – perhaps due to a lack of confidence – found himself away on the break in the first half before ultimately turning back and playing it safe, and the club’s supporters will want to see more risk and imagination than what Van de Beek showed this weekend.

He faded further in the second half and it was little surprise to see him substituted with Bruno Fernandes coming on and scoring the winner with a fabulous free-kick, further emphasising the fight Van de Beek faces to establish himself in the side.

Kepa Arrizabalaga

Kepa Arrizabalaga’s career at Chelsea has been heading nowhere fast for some time, with the most expensive goalkeeper in football history having largely been frozen out of the first-team picture this season.

The Spain international returned to the side for this weekend’s cup clash with Luton and if his selection was intended with the idea of putting Kepa in the shop window this winter, there are likely to be few suitors queuing up at the door.

Tammy Abraham’s early double had seen Chelsea cruising to a comfortable victory over the Championship outfit, only for Kepa to gift Luton an avenue back into the contest after allowing Jordan Clark’s tame effort through his grasp.

It was the visitor’s first shot on target of the game and one any leading goalkeeper would expect to save, the 26-year-old’s confidence unlikely to have been improved by another unconvincing performance.

He improved later on and made a smart stop to deny Harry Cornick with Chelsea under pressure, though Frank Lampard’s concerns over his goalkeeping deputies are unlikely to have eased.


Willian’s free transfer arrival at Arsenal during the summer was widely heralded as one of the best pieces of business of the window, the capture of a proven Premier League performer adding depth and quality to the Gunners’ squad.

Chelsea were unwilling to give the winger the three-year extension he desired before Arsenal gratefully snapped up the Brazil international, but could the west Londoners have already spotted signs of decline in the 32-year-old.

Willian has had no shortage of chances to impress this season but looks like a shadow of his former self since moving to the Emirates, his performance in the 1-0 defeat at Southampton once again anonymous.

Willian looks short of confidence and failed to make any form of impression as the holders crashed out, the experienced star and club-record signing Nicolas Pepe far from the standard expected this season.

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The duo’s latest showing can only have enhanced Mikel Arteta’s view that youth is the best way forward, the energy and attacking exuberance of Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka visibly missed at St Mary’s.

Daniel Amartey

Leicester’s rotated side came from behind to move into the fifth round with a 3-1 win at Brentford, bouncing back impressively to overcome the Championship promotion hopefuls with a strong second half showing.

Whilst the likes of Cengiz Under and Ayoze Perez made positive impressions to boost their hopes of more regular involvement under Brendan Rodgers, Daniel Amartey endured an afternoon to forget on a rare starting opportunity for the versatile Ghana international.

Amartey partnered Caglar Soyuncu at the heart of the Foxes’ defence and struggled, conceding a cheap set-piece before being beaten far too easily for the game’s opening goal as Brentford briefly threatened an upset.

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The 26-year-old has made just four Premier League appearances so far this season but looks unlikely to force his way into Rodgers’ strongest XI on this showing, the competition for places at centre-back and in midfield leaving Amartey firmly down the pecking order.

Rhys Williams

Liverpool’s depleted defensive options have seen Jurgen Klopp’s hand forced at centre-back this season, calling on the inexperienced duo of Rhys Williams and Nathaniel Phillips.

Each of the pair have covered adequately on occasion but there was no doubt Williams struggled badly this weekend, the teenager targeted by Manchester United’s forward options and exposed on several occasions.

The 19-year-old’s lack of pace was evident throughout and he made a huge mistake for Marcus Rashford’s goal, miscueing a simple interception to allow the Red Devils star through on goal.

The current campaign has been a baptism of fire for a player whose only previous senior experience was in non-league with Kidderminster Harriers last season, and to lambast the youngster would be cruel on a player unquestionably thrown into the deep end.

That said, Williams currently looks way out of his depth defensively at this level and an improved Liverpool display ultimately counted for nothing as they exited the FA Cup early under Klopp once more.

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The German has hinted towards his frustrations at a lack of backing amid the Reds’ centre-back crisis and this weekend’s performance from Williams outlined the need for reinforcements more than ever.

The champion’s season may just depend on whether swift action is taken in the coming days.

Read – The best of the weekend’s FA Cup fifth round action: Man Utd trump Liverpool, holders exit, Everton’s history maker

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