The FA Cup is a competition that inspires a variety of reactions. Some still believe that it is one of the most prestigious cup competitions in the world, and others believe it to be an unwanted distraction from league success. Here, two of our writers debate whether the competition still retains that magic of old.
Yes- Dominic Lee
On Friday the 25th of January, Manchester United booked their place in the 5th round of he FA Cup with a 3-1 win over Arsenal. There’s no question that this was a heated tie, but in the grand scheme of things does it really matter?
The FA Cup has a long and storied history, but I think its time that we admit its spell is wearing thin. Every top six team is out there trying to convince us they don’t want to win it in the early rounds, fielding weakened sides against lower league teams desperate to cause an upset. However, when you look over the recent winners of the cup, you have go all the way back to the Wigan’s heroic 2012-13 triumph over Manchester City to find a winner outside the top six. Upsets do happen and they happen every year but only early on in the tournament, very rarely does a team from outside the traditional footballing elite make it to the final and when they do they almost always lose.
Maybe I’m being bitter. Okay I’m almost certain I’m being bitter, I know what tears at Wembley feel like thanks to Stoke’s heart-breaking loss to Manchester City in 2011. I can only imagine the joy of winning. The FA Cup is still important, the exhilaration of a game under the lights with the prospect of walking down Wembley way can produce unrivalled excitement. Every year the cup has the potential for exciting matchups, giant killings and moments that could go down in history.
However, this potential is masked by the reality of the situation. The FA Cup, while a more open competition than the Premier League, is still dominated by the same teams that are at the top of the table by the end of the season. So despite being one of the worlds most famous competitions where “anything” can happen, “anything” usually ends up being another top six team lifting the famous trophy. Apart from Tottenham of course. Tottenham don’t do trophies.
No- Phil Etchells
After another busy festive football period, the world’s oldest national football competition is back. Established in 1871, the FA Cup has brought shocks and surprises to English football fans for over 140 years, and after the customary early January 3rd round a few weeks ago, it seems like this enchanting trophy will continue bewitching fans this season.
Traditionally, the FA Cup has been an opportunity for the ‘minnows’ of English football to give their loyal fans the chance to dream instead of the usual worry of relegation. Over the years there has been some memorable ‘giant-killings’, from Hereford United knocking out the First Division Newcastle side in 1971-72, to Wrexham, who were at the foot of the Football League the season prior, beating reigning Division One champions, Arsenal in 1991-92. The picture of Ben Watson’s last-minute header to beat Manchester City is also still fresh in many a fans’ memory - helping Wigan to become the first team to win the FA Cup and get relegated in the same 2012-13 season.
There have been grumblings in recent years that the competition has lost the charm that it once had. Admittedly, the ‘big’ teams are lured by the lucrative offers of the Champions League and Premier League - fielding weaker teams because ‘3 points’ or an ‘away lead in Europe’ are the priorities. But this is a risk they take at their peril, and it is often their Achilles’ Heel, giving the chance for the lower league teams to dare to dream of a road to Wembley.
You only have to look at the 4th round results from last week: Millwall beating Everton and AFC Wimbledon stunning West Ham are just two examples. Wimbledon fans will already be wondering - “Could this be another ‘88?” - when Vinnie Jones and the ‘Crazy Gang’ triumphed over Liverpool to write themselves into the annals of FA Cup history.
The debate about the cup losing its magic will surely go on, but one thing is for sure; with only 5 Premier League teams of the 16 remaining in the competition (and either Manchester United or Chelsea to go out in the 5th round), the FA Cup could still cast its spell on a David and Goliath encounter in the final on Saturday 18th May.