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TALKING TACTICS: Mourinho outwits Pochettino; Liverpool repeat bad habits; Guardiola keeps Man City hungry;

The FA Cup semi-finals took centre stage on a quiet weekend of Premier League action, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a significant one at the bottom end of the table. Stoke City's draw with Burnley all-but sealed their fate, while West Brom's hopes of a dramatic escape were ended with a 2-2 draw against Liverpool.

Here are three things we learnt from the weekend action in the Premier League and FA Cup:



1) Allen & Ndiaye deserve Premier League transfers in the summer

Ashley Barnes' late equaliser for Burnley appears to have relegated Stoke City, meaning some of the players' agents will probably have begun making phone calls on Monday morning. The two standout performers for the hosts were Joe Allen and Badou Ndiaye, who dominated midfield for long periods of a game with plenty of open spaces in midfield. Both should easily find a Premier League home over the summer.

It is rare to see two 4-4-2 formations on the pitch at the same time, and what it did at the Britannia was create huge spaces in central midfield; it was paticularly impressive, then, that Allen and Ndiaye swept up the loose balls, tackled back well, and distributed the ball quickly into Peter Crouch. Paul Lambert's side were unlucky not to get the three points as Allen and Ndiaye completed seven tackles and six dribbles between them.

Allen's reputation means he will have plenty of suitors, but Ndiaye could struggle. The Senegalese was only signed in January, meaning few Premier League clubs will have scouted him fully just yet.



2) Allardyce's rigidity shows why he cannot remain at Everton

Throughout his career Sam Allardyce has bemoaned the media labelling him as old-fashioned, claiming that he would play a more attractive style of football if given the chance to manage a bigger club. It is quite obvious this theory has been disproved and Big Sam has blown his one opportunity to make it as the manager of a top side.

Forget the final result. Everton's lackadaisical performance against Newcastle United showed why the Everton fans have not taken to Allardyce. With a mid-table finish secured, surely this is the time to experiment with an expansive system, but instead the Toffees were dreadfully flat. Wayne Rooney was extremely deep, almost exclusively passing the ball sideways, while the two wingers stayed rigidly out wide. There was very little movement or positional interchanging in the final third.

It took 43 minutes before Yannick Bolasie and Theo Walcott finally swapped wings after a first half in which the full-backs seemed hesitant to get forward and Cenk Tosun was completely anonymous. Walcott's goal (soon after he had swapped wings with Bolasie) was the first shot on target of a boring game at Goodison Park. There is no chance Allardyce will still be Everton manager next season.



3) Mourinho shows that in-game tactical switches make for a top cup manager

Much has been made of Tottenham's psychological issues in the latter rounds of cup competitions, but in truth they are simply being beaten by much more established sides who can afford to buy the likes of Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez, the two men who changed the game at Wembley.

However, one thing Spurs do lack is a manager who knows how to grind out results in knockout games; this was a lesson from one of the best ever, Jose Mourinho. His in-game tactical management made all the difference, firstly by moving Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera into deeper role to sit on top of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli (eventually halting their early influence) and then by shutting the game down after Herrera had given United the lead.

By contrast, Mauricio Pochettino made an error leaving Hugo Lloris out of the team and did not know how to change his team shape to put pressure on the United goal in the closing minutes. The idea that Spurs bottled it is false, but nevertheless they have work to do before they become a proper cup team.



Best of the Week – Man City's desire to break records

Pep Guardiola has highlighted his side's record-breaking potential in a bid to keep them focused over the remainder of the season, and the early signs are that it's working. Man City were ruthless against Swansea, tearing them apart with trademark moves that revolved around the movement of Kevin de Buryne and intricacy of David Silva.

However, they were helped significantly by Carlos Carvalhal's tactics. Swansea decided to sit back in their own third, restricting space in the penalty area by standing right off and applying zero pressure on the ball. This is a huge mistake; the Swans naivety certainly helped City stay on course.



Worst of the Week – Liverpool set-piece defending

Liverpool's record of defending set-pieces has improved dramatically since the arrival of Virgil van Dijk, which is why Jurgen Klopp will be worried to have witnessed his side concede twice from dead ball situations at the Hawthorns.

Only one of the back four that faced West Brom will start against AS Roma on Tuesday, so fans perhaps don't need to be too worried, although their sloppiness could have a psychological effect on a side that has a tendency to repeat their errors.

Alex Keble
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Alex Keble

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