Rest In Peace, FA Cup
So what did we learn from the FA Cup 3rd round this season?
Premier League > FA Cup
Well, we learned that the teams in the race for the Premier League and only ones I’d expect to win it (yes, Man United included) all won easily in the end. It’s quite a simple conclusion that bound City, United and Chelsea in their 3rd round games, namely the deepest squads in the league, with the best quality cover in the top flight by far.
The thing that makes me chuckle is how many fans of clubs that blatantly have either sold their squads short over the years due to design – Poch likes trimmed down squads to work with, poor recruitment – Liverpool pre Klopp and pure over confidence – Arsene and his stubborn insistence that he won’t pay over the odds, etc genuinely believe that they essentially can put out a second string that is anywhere as good as their first!
Yes, even in this season of super managers, hired to make sure a Leicester doesn’t happen again, with the sheer size of those squads, and even the amount those clubs let out on loan.
Liverpool against Plymouth for example. All I’ve heard recently is how good the kids are and indeed all of the stats painted the rosy picture of “Liverpool’s youngest ever team”. Although, if they can’t step into the boots of the seniors who are injured, suspended or out of form, then it just becomes another stat bandied around a sport which is used to judge performance on the scoreline, progression and facts rather than bullshit and bluster.
Likewise, Spurs against Villa. A routine victory in the end but does anyone honestly believe that team has any chance of winning the Cup against any of City/United/Chelsea’s second string? Not a chance! Epitomised by Vincent Jansen, an 18 million pound signing whose second touch is a header and hasn’t just lost the goal touch, he looks as though he’s never had one. So much for quality cover for Harry Kane.
Chelsea, United, City
Compare that to Chelsea for example who made six or seven changes and won at a canter.
Man United, the much maligned Man United where this week I had Scholesy joining me in believing United can win the league, a team who may have taken time to gel but can count on how many senior internationals who can’t currently get into the team at the moment? How many trophy winners?
Man City, a club again whose need to compete on all fronts means simply they cannot afford not to have serious squad depth as they desperately want to dine at the top table both home and abroad. At least those three clubs have made sure their second string is almost as good as their first before kidding people with stats about how young or how trim the squad is.
FA Cup Interference
As for the FA Cup itself, we need to be a little honest with ourselves. It will never die but never has that famous old trophy looked so lacking in importance, so patronised by many as an interference and seemingly so valueless, and that hurts me greatly.
As someone who played in its Final, walked up the old Wembley tunnel, heard “Abide With Me” and everything that meant as an iconic English sporting occasion,
the Premier League again has trumped the FA Cup over the years, leaving this grand old competition nothing more than a shell of its former self.
There will always be the odd upset, the odd starring story of the Postman scoring against the multi millionaire world cup winner but let’s be honest, because of tournament prioritisation, squad rotation and as many foreign full time pros playing in the conference as the pro leagues, those stories are dying out fast. The Cup only really makes a stir if two of the big boys are in the Final.
Rest In Peace
Is there anything we can do to save it? Probably not in all honesty. The only thing I get excited about when watching it these days is the huge away followings which for me are a great reminder of yesteryear, but that’s pretty much it.
Seeing a Premier League team playing a Championship team who between them made ten to fifteen changes to “concentrate on the league” isn’t what the Cup was devised for or what it should be, but it is, so I’ll bid this great old English tradition farewell and remember it for what it was.
RIP the Cup.