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FA Cup win or Premier League success? 

ANALYST
Feature
347   //    08 Jan 2019, 08:10 IST

Chelsea won the FA Cup last season
Chelsea won the FA Cup last season

The magic of the FA Cup is one that many football fans talk about extremely fondly. The oldest cup competition in Europe has had so many magical moments and for the neutral many fantastic upsets along its way. When we talk about the domestic cups now in England, it seems like it is an opportunity for the clubs in the Premier League and even the top teams in the Championship to rotate the squad and have a look at players perhaps on the outskirts of the first team squad or promising youngsters coming through the ranks.

What has happened to teams attacking the cup, wanting to bring the prestige of winning a trophy and medals to add to the history of the clubs or players wanting to count the medal collection when they retire rather than the money in the bank.

2018/19 FA Cup

The FA Cup 3rd round matches took place all over the weekend and all at various times, this for one has taken away from fans, punters and the media interest from covering these games. TV rights have taken the air of enthusiasm away from people at this stage of the competition.

Show the matches yes, but why have a handful of games early on the Saturday, more at 3 o'clock, then another handful alongside the televised match later on in the afternoon. This makes it much harder for fans to keep up to date with all the scores that are happening on the Saturday and Sunday.

Barnet overcome Championship side Sheffield United on a Sunday afternoon
Barnet overcome Championship side Sheffield United on a Sunday afternoon

When it came to this weekend with 3rd round games, there was 4 Premier League clubs that made a swift exit from the competition, 2 clubs that are in a relegation fight, Fulham and Huddersfield, 1 team from playing another Premier League club in Bournemouth, and Leicester City who have no worries of relegation as they sit 7th in the Premier League.

With Newcastle, who historically do not focus on a cup run, and Southampton, both being taken to replays. The major question for fans of Bournemouth and Leicester City should be why they were not fielding their strongest possible line-ups, or at least several more of the 'better' players. Bournemouth are coming off the back of a very poor festive period, and this would have been a massive opportunity to gain momentum and a cup run would have brought the confidence back among the players.

Leicester were guilty of the same approach in the Carabao Cup defeat at the hands of Manchester City, making a host of changes, and despite drawing the game, Leicester attacking the competition, playing the likes of James Maddison from the start, they could have potentially been playing Burton in the semi-final of the competition.

Premier League position or FA Cup success?

Supporters of some Premier League clubs must watch their team when it comes to the FA Cup with a sense of disappointment and confusion.

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The money in the Premier League is tremendously high which allows even clubs who struggle with relegation and with mid-table ambitions to have extremely large squads, this, in turn, has managers using the competition as a springboard to give some squad players minutes on the pitch, and to almost see how far the fringe players can get them before introducing the more established starting eleven players into the team in a hope to win the competition.

League 2 side Oldham knocked Fulham out of the cup with a late winner
League 2 side Oldham knocked Fulham out of the cup with a late winner

The clubs in the Premier League now are focused on what can bring in the most money, staying in the Premier League is obviously worth more in the long term than success in the FA Cup, but what about spirit and getting confidence among the players, Fulham, especially, had a fantastic opportunity to push on and build a platform for positive results. After getting beat by league 2 Oldham at home the club will be a real downer, fans wondering if they have enough to really make a fight to stay in the Premier division.

The fans of Newcastle need a lift, something to feel positive about in terms of the season ahead, and they now face an extremely difficult fixture at Ewood Park against a Blackburn team that should have knocked the Magpies out of the competition completely, yet again.

The fans of these clubs need to feel the optimism at the clubs, in the cup you need a bit of luck to get far, and get the right draws, but who is to say if Newcastle drew a top six team that the top six team would play a full strength eleven? Then there is a perfect opportunity to progress to the latter stages of the competition.

The giant killers

The giant-killings of the FA Cup is what draws the most anticipation. The atmosphere at Rodney Parade from the start there was a sense of we can win this, Newport fully deserved their victory over previous Premier League winners Leicester City.

The talk about the quality of some of the players was relentless, even though these were League 2 footballers earning considerably less than even the back-up Leicester City players.

Barnet beating high flying Sheffield United of the Championship is a result looking at the weekend results that must be considered a giant-killing, and the boos around Bramall Lane at the final whistle showed the fans displeasure of the lacklustre display on such an occasion, especially knowing the history the club has with the competition.

These results still happen; last season saw Lincoln City, then of the National League, put out a Burnley team that were flying high in the Premier League.

Newport celebrating a famous win against a below par and under-strength Leicester City team
Newport celebrating a famous win against a below par and under-strength Leicester City team

These lower league clubs put so much in the competition, even in the qualifying rounds, that it can be hard to see clubs using the cup as an experimental tool. The lure of testing themselves against the best clubs in the country, managers wanting to show their own credentials against perhaps managers that they look up to.

The TV money, should they get it and from progressing, is obviously fantastic for them, but watching that Newport performance against Leicester, a club who would benefit greatly from the money they will receive, the players looked like they wanted to showcase their ability, played with a fight, a hunger to work together, and show their fans that they care for the club.

That is what can be great about these clubs in the cup; fans who do not follow or watch lower league games can become familiar with the players, almost find a second club, where they enjoy watching them, and want to feel a part of it - all these factors can enlighten and enhance clubs from the bottom tiers.

Past winners

Previous clubs among the Premier League have shown what can be done in the competition, should they take it seriously and try and have a go at winning the competition. In 2008, Harry Redknapp won the cup with his Portsmouth team; Wigan in 2013 beat the odds to overcome an extremely strong Manchester City team to lift the trophy.

Only 3 teams in the last 25 years have had the glory of winning the FA Cup outside of the top six in the Premier League, the other team was Everton back in 1995. The top clubs - Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City, have all tasted success during this time.

Everton should be one of the clubs looking to use the cup this year as a platform to build on in terms of winning a trophy. The feel-good factor at the club would be enormous, especially after the last few years which has seen many Everton fans become disgruntled at the club they support.

The debate of finishing in the top four or winning the FA Cup, what is more important to Tottenham Hotspur? Well they should finish in the top four this season given their current position, but how good was it to see Mauricio Pochettino line up with Son Heung-min, Dele Alli and Harry Kane coming off the bench at Prenton Park, a real sign that he is in a trophy hunt this season.

Goal-scorer Paul Rideout and Graham Stuart celebrate winning the FA Cup in 1995 against Manchester United
Goal-scorer Paul Rideout and Graham Stuart celebrate winning the FA Cup in 1995 against Manchester United

The FA Cup is one that needs to be reviewed, not in terms of what the FA can change with it but by clubs among the Premier League and how they prioritise it. Could they integrate a system that would stop clubs making wholesale changes to line-ups?

We want to still have the moments of giant-killing in the competition, so getting rid of replays is not the answer especially for the clubs lower down in the divisions who can benefit greatly from the financial gain.

As a fan, it would be great to see everybody taking the competition seriously and looking forward to FA Cup weekends rather than almost turning a blind eye to this. Having the majority of games on the Saturday 3 o'clock kick off time would bring back an atmosphere, with obviously a few televised games along the way.

Can the semi-finals go back to neutral stadiums? Elland Road, Villa Park and Old Trafford provided us with some great semi-finals, and the lure of Wembley for the final will bring back a much greater hunger amongst clubs. Overall, the competition comes to life in the latter stages however we as fans need that hunger back, that we have felt from watching the history of this prestigious trophy.

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ANALYST
I am based in Northern Ireland, and have a strong passion for football, predominantly European football. I work full time, but my interest always brings me back to football, and aspire to work full time in the industry.
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