Most of the Premier League's top football clubs sailed through the third round of the 2015/16 FA Cup easily over the weekend, with Manchester City, Arsenal, Man United, Chelsea, West Ham United, and others all cruising through to the fourth round of the Football Association tournament. Read on for a recap of the winners and losers of the weekend!
As usual, the Premier League's soccer teams got a bye into the third round, which means this is the first time in the 2015/16 FA Cup that we are seeing teams such as Man United, Arsenal, and others. Since so many of the league's top clubs were upset and eliminated in the fourth round of last year's FA Cup-including Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, and Chelsea-most of the Premier League's best teams are playing FA Cup football for the first time in nearly a full calendar year.
We'll have to wait and see what round four brings, but round three saw the Premier League's teams mostly avoiding upsets. The Sky Blues were the biggest winners of the weekend, with players donning the Manchester City away jersey 2015/16 to beat Norwich City 3-0. With Sergio Aguero back on the pitch after a heel injury that caused him to miss most of December, Man City are early frontrunners to win the FA Cup this year.
Of course, you can't write off Arsenal, who won two FA Cup titles in a row in 2015 and 2014 to become the most decorated team in the history of the tournament. The Gunners have won 12 FA Cup titles over the years, and judging by their round three performance-a 3-1 takedown of Sunderland-they could be well on their way to lucky number 13.
Manchester United, meanwhile, are chasing Arsenal's 12-title record. The Red Devils won their 11th title all the way back in 2004, setting the record that Arsenal broke last year. United have made it to two finals since then (first in 2005 and later in 2007), but lost both of them (to Arsenal and Chelsea, respectively). Despite struggles to stay consistent in the Premier League, United won their third round fixture to keep their title hopes alive, beating third-tier club Sheffield United 1-0 at Old Trafford.
Chelsea, finally, continued their recent run of solid play, beating Scunthorpe United (also a third-tier soccer club) 2-0.
Elsewhere, West Ham United, Everton, Watford, AFC Bournemouth, and Crystal Palace won their matches to progress to the fourth round.
Round three of the 2015/16 FA Cup didn't see many outright losers-at least in games that weren't easily predictable like the matches against Arsenal and Manchester City. Southampton continued their disappointing 2015/16 season, losing 1-2 to Crystal Palace. Newcastle United also continued a dry spell, losing to Watford.
The biggest "disappointments" of round three came not in the form of losses, though, but in the form of draws. Liverpool continued to stagnate, drawing 2-2 with fourth-tier squad Exeter City (and having to come from behind to manage the tie). Aston Villa, last year's FA Cup runner-up, sputtered to 1-1 draw with the Wycombe Wanderers (also a fourth-tier soccer club). The Lions haven't won a football game since September 22nd, in any competition.
Arguably the most notable match of the entire round also ended in a draw. Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur-both currently ranked in the top four of the Premier League-were rather unfortunately drawn against one another for the third round. Leicester have had a remarkable season, based largely on the strength of forward Jamie Vardy (tied with Everton's Romelu Lukaku as the Premier League's top scorer). Tottenham Hotspur, meanwhile, have continued to thrive with a solid squad led by last year's breakout star, Harry Kane.
It was Kane who saved the day for Tottenham over the weekend, netting a penalty goal at the 89-minute mark to equalize the score at 2-2. Before that goal, Leicester had been leading 2-1 for 41 minutes of playtime and looked like the clear winners.
All of those draws will demand replay matches, which are scheduled for January 19th or 20th. Follow Soccer Box on social media to get results for those fixtures or learn other big FA Cup news. You can find us on Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and other popular social platforms.