This season’s FA Cup may turn out to be the most keenly-contested in recent history and the reason is not far-fetched. Over the last decade, Premier League teams – especially the top sides – have barely put much interest in the competition, especially during the early stages.
Most of these teams use the FA Cup – and the League Cup – to usually blood in young talents and give opportunities to fringe players, even though it must also be said that more emphasis are placed on it as the competition progresses.
But without a shadow of doubt, this season’s edition will see the top sides paying more attention, for the simple reason that Manchester City appear destined to win the Premier League title this season.
Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal may still see themselves as title challengers, but the FA Cup may appear their biggest bet of a domestic triumph this term given how far off they are from City at the top of the Premier League table.
In seasons past when most of these teams would be within range of each other in the race for the league crown, it appeared to be the norm to play the kids in the earlier stages, until when the competition gets the semifinals – if they get that far – before the big boys get to be introduced.
However, it all seems it would be different this year, for the simple reason stated above. With fifteen points above their closest rival in the Premier League, Manchester City know all they have to do is keep winning and the league title will be theirs, but the other teams do not have that luxury.
To put it in proper context, Arsenal haven’t won the Premier League title since the 2003/2004 season, and while many of the club’s supporters would love to see them become English champions again, that hasn’t been the case but the three FA Cups they have won over the past four seasons have somewhat papered over the cracks.
Chelsea won the league title last term and except something extraordinary happens, won’t win it again this year, but the FA Cup may yet serve as a succor, especially to manager Antonio Conte, who could lose his job if they fail to land a trophy. His countryman Carlo Ancellotti suffered a similar fate in 2011 when he failed to follow up the double he won in his first season the following year.
Manchester United finished sixth last term but won the League Cup and the Europa League which covered the poor domestic season they had. They are out of the League Cup now, and the Premier League and Champions League looks a difficult prospect for them, so the FA Cup may also provide their biggest opportunity of lifting a trophy this term.
For all the energy he has brought to Anfield, Jurgen Klopp is yet to lift a trophy at the club and could make do with England’s oldest club competition as well.
So with the expected increased intent to win the competition in May, would that make it the best FA Cup in recent years?