Is the magic of the FA Cup back?
It does feel as if the FA Cup has been on life support over the last few years with the biggest clubs in the Premier League prioritising far more lucrative competitions. In most cases, this approach has led to the wealthiest clubs usually always fielding weaker sides against the smaller teams. Although, when one says ‘weaker’ sides, it’s worth remembering that most players on the bench of the biggest Premier League teams typically cost more than an entire club in the lower divisions of the English football pyramid.
Indeed, nine times out of ten, the gulf in class proves too much despite these clubs not utilising their best players, and on the odd occasion when a team is able to win or in most instances scrape a draw, there has always been the famous FA Cup replay, which presents the bigger teams with a final chance to blow the minnows out of the water.
In essence, it’s a situation where there’s no more Mr Nice Guy as the better sides usually run riot the second time around and kill any hopes of a fairytale run to Wembley for the lower teams. In fact, the bigger teams are almost always successful when you consider that only four teams outside of the famous ‘Top Six’ in the Premier League have won the tournament over the last 30 years. It has been one-way traffic and the reason why the oldest club competition in the world has been starved of the oxygen it needs to survive.
But could this season see a new winner? There are four teams left in the competition, and among the four are Crystal Palace. The Eagles have never won the competition. They came close when lost in the final in the 89-90 season, but the oldest cup in the world has eluded them. They face an uphill battle as they will face Chelsea in the semi-finals, and if they win that game they’ll face either Liverpool or Manchester City in the final. Despite an impressive 4-0 win over Everton in the quarter-finals, the bookies don’t fancy their chances as they are priced at 11/1 in the Space Casino betting odds.
Boreham Wood cut the Cherries down
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— Boreham Wood FC (@BOREHAM_WOODFC) February 7, 2022
This season has had some great upsets. Yes, we’ve seen Cambridge knock Newcastle out, Nottingham Forest beat Arsenal and local rivals Leicester, whilst Boreham Wood arguably caused the biggest upset in the Emirates FA Cup by dumping Championship high flyers Bournemouth out. It was a thrilling night for everyone who tuned in to watch events at the Vitality Stadium unfold, which shows on the day, anything can happen.
Will the FA scrap replays for good?
This season the FA scrapped third- and fourth-round replays to reduce a congested fixture list. But it has helped to rekindle the romance of the cup and allowed thrilling upsets to occur. There is also a strong chance that this version of the competition will attract a new generation of fans as we know that faster formats are revitalising global sports. In other words, spectators are a lot more likely to tune in now that the FA Cup has a greater sense of jeopardy with the tie set to last just 90 minutes with the winner crowned on the day.
When all is said and done, you can’t underestimate how beneficial these changes will be for the ailing competition if they were to stay but the concerning news is that the FA plans to reinstate the older format in time for the 2022/2023 season.
You would imagine that a rethink is now required after the FA Cup found a way to win the hearts and minds of fans from all over the world again.