The oldest domestic competition in world football returned this weekend and it once again failed to disappoint, the headline tie in Manchester United and Liverpool resulting in a thoroughly entertaining encounter.
Non-league Chorley bowed out of the competition but earned huge credit for their performance against Wolves, whilst holders Arsenal’s defence was ended as a rotated side crashed out at Southampton.
Following a fascinating set of fixtures we’ve picked out the weekend’s best performers, here is the Football Faithful’s FA Cup fourth round Team of the Week.
Goalkeeper: John Ruddy – Wolves
Wolves avoided a giant-killing of huge proportions after edging past non-league Chorley 1-0, though the Premier League side had goalkeeper John Ruddy to thank for avoiding an embarrassing upset.
Ruddy was handed a starting opportunity as Nuno Espirito Santo handed several senior stars a rest and produced a fine performance as the top-flight side came under sustained pressure.
The 34-year-old was the visitor’s key performer and made a string of saves as Chorley threatened, his experience crucial to Wolves emerging from a potential banana skin relatively unscathed.
Right-back: Ryan Fredericks – West Ham
The impressive form of summer signing Vladimir Coufal has seen Ryan Fredericks sidelined for much of the season, though the flying full-back made the most of a rare starting opportunity in West Ham’s 4-0 win over Doncaster this weekend.
Fredericks’ attacking strengths were on show as he spent much of the game pushing forward into the Doncaster half, providing the assist for Pablo Fornals’ opener after one particularly lung-busting run down the right flank.
Next round of the cup 👍🏽 congrats to the young lads on the debuts 🔥 pic.twitter.com/cF7zVa6XgR
— Ryan Fredericks (@RyanFredericks_) January 23, 2021
The 28-year-old was always available as an outlet and created space for his teammates with his continued willingness to overlap, West Ham maintaining their flawless record since the turn of the New Year to reach the fifth round for the first time since the 2015/16 season.
Centre-back: Caglar Soyuncu – Leicester
Soyuncu is yet to regain his place as an automatic starter for Leicester since returning from injury but the centre-back will have done his chances no harm with this weekend’s performance, the Turkey international commanding in the Foxes’ 3-1 win at Brentford.
The 24-year-old was an imposing physical presence and comfortable when in possession, his passing range on show with a number of switches of play to compatriot Cengiz Under.
Soyuncu’s greatest strengths are in his determined defending, however, and it was the star’s aggressive high pressing that regained possession in the build-up to Leicester’s equalising goal.
Centre-back: Ryan Bennett – Swansea
The centre-back made an impressive return from injury in the centre of Swansea’s back three system, producing a series of vital interceptions and clearances to ensure a comfortable afternoon for the second-tier outfit.
Bennett stood tall as Nottingham Forest briefly threatened to get back into the all-Championship tie, making two brilliant blocks in the second half to deny the visitors.
The 30-year-old has proven an astute signing since arriving at the Liberty Stadium in October, the defender emerging as a key figure in a side seeking both promotion and an FA Cup venture.
Left-back: Tommy Rowe – Bristol City
Amongst the key performers for Bristol City as they eased into round five by winning at Millwall, Rowe continued his progress in a defensive role this season with another all-action showing at left-back.
The 32-year-old led his side for interceptions and ranked joint-first for tackles alongside Tyreeq Bakinson, in addition to winning three aerial duels as Dean Holden’s side booked a fifth-round meeting with Sheffield United.
Midfield: Matt Grimes – Swansea
Swansea produced one of the most impressive results of the weekend after thrashing Championship rivals Nottingham Forest 5-1 at the Liberty Stadium, earning the Swans a glamour tie with Manchester City in round five.
Steve Cooper’s side were largely dominant with Matt Grimes amongst their star performers, the midfielder offering his backline protection in a deep-lying role and contributing to the cause with two goals of his own.
— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) January 23, 2021
Grimes doubled Swansea’s lead with a thunderous effort from distance after Liam Cullen’s opener, before later restoring the home side’s two-goal advantage by sending Jordan Smith the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Midfield: Youri Tielemans – Leicester
There’s a mounting case that Youri Tielemans may just be the most important cog in a Leicester side continuing to pick up results, the midfielder once again influential as the Foxes booked their place in round five with a 3-1 win at Brentford.
The Belgium international’s growing importance was rewarded with the captain’s armband and he responded with a leader’s display in the centre of the pitch, dictating the play and breaking lines with probing passes.
Tielemans’ level of control helped Leicester turn the tie after Brentford briefly threatened to cause an upset, putting the Foxes ahead with a cooly-taken penalty for his fifth goal of the season in all competitions.
Right-wing: James Rodriguez – Everton
Everton’s marquee summer signing has added a real injection of quality into this side and Carlo Ancelotti will have been pleased to see the return of the Colombian in recent weeks.
Rodriguez was at the centre of the club’s 3-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday this weekend and once again demonstrated his creative class, drifting into central areas and carving out a number of opportunities.
The 29-year-old finished the fixture with two assists following two brilliant set-piece deliveries in the second half, Rodriguez’s ability to pull the strings and deliver dead balls with pinpoint precision offering Everton a huge forward threat.
10 – All 10 of James Rodríguez’s goals (3) and assists (7) this season have come at Goodison Park, with the Colombian registering more direct goal involvements on home soil than any other Everton player this term. Contento. pic.twitter.com/KhZ8E0Mpme
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 24, 2021
Questions have been asked over his form after an initial bright start, but this was Rodriguez at his brilliant best as he strolled around the pitch and made things happen.
Left-wing: Marcus Rashford – Manchester United
Manchester United’s clashes with Liverpool have often disappointed in recent years but fans were treated to a thoroughly exciting cup clash this weekend, the Red Devils edging their fierce rivals in the pick of the fourth round ties.
United came from behind to secure a 3-2 victory and it was down the left-hand side that much of the home side’s best play came, Marcus Rashford’s dynamism and pace creating continued problems for a depleted Liverpool defence.
Rashford was direct and dangerous throughout and provided a brilliant moment of quality to assist Mason Greenwood for the Red Devils’ equaliser, before putting his side ahead after racing clear on goal following a Rhys Williams mistake.
— Goal (@goal) January 24, 2021
The 22-year-old can hold onto possession too long and his decision-making in attacking areas can improve, but at his best he can be an unstoppable and captivating talent.
Forward: Jay Rodriguez – Burnley
Burnley secured their passage into round five courtesy of a comfortable victory over Premier League rivals Fulham at Craven Cottage, a rotated side producing an impressive performance to book a clash with either Bournemouth or Crawley.
Jay Rodriguez proved the inspiration for the victory and ended a six-month wait for a goal with a well-taken double, stooping to head home the game’s opener before netting a second from the penalty spot.
Rodriguez then turned provider as he chested the ball into the path of Kevin Long to score Burnley’s third of the afternoon, a promising performance from the forward whose excellent work rate was rewarded with a long-awaited return to the score sheet.
Forward: Tammy Abraham – Chelsea
Former Chelsea boss Frank Lampard was often accused of not knowing his best side during the Blues difficult run of form, with the club’s attacking focal point having been amongst the subjects of debate.
Tammy Abraham was handed his chance to impress this weekend and staked his claim in some style, playing with a point to prove and showcasing just why he can be trusted to spearhead the side.
The 23-year-old helped himself to a hat-trick as the west London side beat Luton 3-1 at Stamford Bridge and the variety in Abraham’s game will no doubt have pleased his manager.
The England international was a threat with his runs in behind and opened the scoring with a smart finish into the far corner, before doubling his tally with a towering header and completing his third senior treble with a predatory close-range finish.
Tammy Abraham has scored his second ever hat-trick for Chelsea.
His first at Stamford Bridge. 🎩 pic.twitter.com/oXiaQYaomW
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 24, 2021
Abraham has had to work hard amid competition for places this season but will now be hoping for a regular starting role, his hat-trick this weekend taking his tally to a hugely impressive 11 goals in just 14 starts in all competitions.