Explain this FA cup thingie to me.

Looking, briefly, at the soccer pages while hunting for more glorious news about the Wales game I think I’m right in saying that the FA cup semi -finals have Wigan, Hull, Sheffi8eld United in them.

Erm, what happened to all of the expensive teams in the premiership? Do they not take the Cup seriously? It’s just an odd year? What?

33 thoughts on “Explain this FA cup thingie to me.”

  1. Many of the big teams use the F A CUp matches to give those not playing too frequently a run out, so not really “first” team. They calculate that their 2nd best should still beat the lesser teams’ best.

    Probably would too, if the team members played competitive matches often enough together. So the “odd” years are becoming more frequent. Last year Wigan achieved the double of FA Cup and relegation from the Premier League !

    Alan Douglas

  2. Most PL teams are shite, they just think and Sky sports, PL execs tell them that they’re good – the FA cup always provides a reality check.

  3. A lot of the premier league teams that you’d expect to be competing at this stage were put out by other premier league teams this year. Man Utd by Swansea, Liverpool, Everton and Spurs by Arsenal, Chelsea by Man City. City’s loss to Wigan was the only real shock and even then Wigan beat them in the final last year. I’m not sure how unusual this is.

  4. They’re all focussed on doing well in the league and getting into European competition. They’re obligated to play in the FA cup and as Alan points out, play weaker players as a rule.

  5. Inch by inch over the years the PL has pushed the cup further back in importance. Four PL teams qualify for the Champions League. Champions’ League teams attract the best players. For evidence I give you Liverpool, who couldn’t pursuade players to sign last year but are now bombarded with various players; agents telling the local rag about client’s affinity for Merseyside which he’s certain he WILL have.
    So 4th place becomes, well, promotion. We are being told to dream the dream and aim for the title; we’re not interested, it’s 4th we want.
    And the FA Cup: it’s a teapot.

  6. Ironman, 14 out of the last 16 FA Cups have been won by Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool and Manchester United, when they were still considered big four teams. They do seem to care about winning that teapot. Of course, champions league football matters more to them in the longer term but if you spend millions on a team then the manager better win some silverware and there are only a few of them on offer every year.

  7. You’re ignoring Arsenal a well managed and expensive-ish side and Hull has been brilliantly put together from other teams’ rejects like Huddlestone (international standard) and some very shrewd recent buys by Steve Bruce.They’re doing well in the Premiership. The Blades are well-managed and so are Wigan who have some very good players ,having beaten Man City in the Final last year.(Don’t say Man City were n’t trying: all their big players were on the pitch at one time or another and the last half-hour was frantic attack)
    Anyway I thought you said market forces /big money must rule. This shows they don’t. You also says managers are critical to success, This tends to show that they are (but with a turnover/sacking rate ) that the general run of industrial managers in this country could n’t live with (and have made damned sure would never apply to them).

  8. while hunting for more glorious news about the Wales game

    It was a good weekend for England victories over Wales. On Friday the U20s thrashed Wales 67 – 7 and then on Saturday the England team thrashed Wales on their way to winning the Camrose trophy, the bridge (game) equivalent of the home nations cup.

  9. The top teams are more interested in Champions League, as noted above. So when the FA Cup starts why would the risk their best players getting injured playing at, say, Grimsby on a cold night in January?

    By the time the quarter finals come around the top teams know their Champions League fete for that season and if they have been ejected then the FA Cup takes on more significance, but they still have concerns about Champions League qualification for the following season.

    @High, how many of those 14 were in the Champions League at the start of the season or still in it at the end of the Champions League league stage?

  10. Class tells over the course of a competitive season; however, every dog has its day – usually with a cup run.

  11. SimonF, I would guess all of them. The only doubt would be pre-Abramovich Chelsea but they did feature in the Champions League back then just not regularly. And I’ve only mentioned winners. There were several years when top four teams played each other in the final.

    This year may be on odd year but only in that so many of the top teams have played each other. But I don’t know whether this is wholly unprecedented. Arsenal, a traditional top four side, may yet win the trophy to continue those sides dominance.

  12. @SimonF,

    Manchester City are effectively out of the Europeans this season, and at best 50/50 for the league title. They thus had plenty of incentive to go for the FA cup, did so, and lost despite utterly outplaying a lower-league team who had the better game plan and got the balance of fortune. These things happen.

    If, as is likely, the cup is Arsenal’s this year, then all the wibble about big teams not taking it seriously will be shown for the wibble it is. The FA cup has always been secondary to the league and tertiary to the euros. It’s only really important in the public imagination because the final has been on the telly since 1763, and was briefly promoted in importance by the Euro ban on English teams in the 1980s and knock-on effect that had for at least a decade after it was lifted.

    The Euros are more important than the FA cup were before the ban as well. They weren’t for obvious reasons more important when they weren’t even on the fixture list, so we perceive this as a “relegation” of the FA cup.

  13. OK, they take it LESS seriously.

    My opinion stands though, we couldn’t care less about the Arsenal cup game, winning the league match was far far more important.

  14. Ironman, nine years without a trophy and you don’t care about your best chance one this year. I sense you protest too much. Surely, you’re over Birmingham by now? And, yes, we know the league is far more important. It always is.

  15. Too many foreigners in football teams means they don’t care so much about success in domestic compared to international tournaments.

    It’s one reason why I no longer pay any attention to football (the other being Scottish football is not the force it once was).

  16. Tim, your time is far too valuable to waste it on trying to understand the vagaries of the silly round ball game.

  17. In addition to the recent habit of fielding the second string, two things also matter a lot.

    (i) It’s soccer, a low-scoring code – so luck usually plays a far larger role than in, for instance, rugby. Luck might even out in a League, less so in a Cup.
    Iii) There’s another huge element of luck, to wit which clubs you are drawn against.

  18. P.S. it was a million years ago but my experience was that the codes had more in common than might meet the uninstructed eye. For example, the positional sense I need as a number eight was comparable to what I need as a wing-half.

    When I got my sole experience at (rugby) full-back, it reminded me of playing centre-half at soccer. On t’other hand, my experience of playing a few games at scrum-half didn’t remind me of any position I’d played at soccer.

  19. Gents, there’s no point trying to explain football to someone who calls it soccer.

    Such a person is either American or wilfully ignorant. (Or possibly a character from a PG Wodehouse novel, but you can’t explain things to fictional characters.)

  20. On second thoughts, my comment is unfair on Wodehouse characters – after all, even Wooster referred to “black footer bags”, not “soccer bags.”

  21. For example, the positional sense I need as a number eight was comparable to what I need as a wing-half.

    I found the same thing: I was as unbelievably shite at football in every facet of the game as I was at rugby.

  22. Tim Newman: you’re probably wasting your time trying to cite facts to a keen football fan, since it’s overwhelmingly likely that in his football fan mode he’s got shite for brains.

  23. Tim, interesting – I would have guessed people stopped using it in the 40s. But he doesn’t provide any example of the word being used in everyday speech. Nor in writing apart from headlines/titles.

    I suspect (on no particular evidence) it was a journalists’ word, used for alliteration, brevity in headlines, or whatever reason journos use “shame” all the time.

    Dearieme, I’m not a particularly keen football fan, but you’re too kind.

  24. It’s mostly economics.

    For a team above the bottom three (who get relegated) and below the top four (who get to play in the “Champions League”), a single extra win over the course of the season can be expected to be worth two or three places in the final table, which translates to an expectation of about £2m in prize money. Relegation costs much more than that, and qualifying for the CL earns much more than that. Whereas the prize money for winning the FA Cup is £1.8m: it’s much less for earlier rounds.

    So management sees premier league matches as much more important than FA Cup matches, FA Cup matches in the earlier rounds especially.

    Empirically, players seem to be at their best if they play about once a week. So it’s tempting to rest many of your first team players for FA Cup matches. Furthermore, since some injuries are inevitable, a team needs reserve players in each position. If you want them to be reasonably content, and match fit for when they’re needed, it’s a good idea to give them a game from time to time. Hence PL teams tend to bring in a fair few reserves for FA Cup matches.

    On the other hand, there have been a lot of FA Cup ties this season pairing strong teams.

  25. @ Luke
    I played soccer in the 1950s. On occasion we played on pitches with rugger goalposts. In the early 1960s I played rugger.
    Have you considered limiting yourself to talking about subjects where you know something?

  26. If you are a big club, you have a very crowded schedule until at least the end of January and probably most of February. You want to win the FA Cup matches like you want to win everything else, but the league and European games are more important. You therefore rest some of your top team players for the FA cup games, and even the ones that play are thinking of the games in the other competitions.

    On the other hand, teams who are not big teams (which means anyone but about the five or six best teams in the country) know that to win the FA Cup is about the biggest achievement that is possible for them, so they raise their games for FA Cup matches rather than lower them. Hence you get a lot of upsets, and some smaller teams make the later stages.

    Then towards the end of the FA Cup, for those teams left in it the FA Cup matches are big games, whether they are big clubs or not. If they have been eliminated from contention in the bigger competitions then the FA Cup becomes the biggest thing they can win. If they are still in contention in the bigger competitions they start thinking about doubles and trebles. Anyway, finals and semi-finals at Wembley are big occasions for anyone.

    So there are fewer upsets in the later stages, and those big teams still in the FA Cup at the semi-final and final stages then tend to win it. There’s usually at least one of them, as there is this year, and by far the most likely outcome is that Arsenal will win it. Occasionally you get an upset in the whole tournament as with Wigan winning it last year, but that’s very occasionally.

    None of this explains City losing yesterday. I think that may just be because they are crap.

  27. John 77, great. You played football and rugby in the dark ages. 3 points for a try, jumpers for goal posts etc.

    But what did you call the two sports? That’s my point. Did you say to your mates “let’s play soccer?” Or “let’s play football”? I have never *heard* an English person talking about soccer. Just haven’t. Maybe seen it in headlines/PG Wodehouse, maybe seen it in book titles aiming to sell in US, but I’ve never heard anyone say it. Never. Not once. Tim was trolling by using the word.

    My argument is about common linguistic use, which has nothing to do with expertise at either excellent game.

    PS, When I talk about something I know about, I hope to get paid for it. This is for fun. And I have played both rugby union (or “rugby” as my teammates called it) and association football (or “football” as we called it). My mother, who has never played rugby, joins you in calling it “rugger”. What’s expertise at sport got to do with use of language?

  28. Whereas the prize money for winning the FA Cup is £1.8m: it’s much less for earlier rounds.

    I think this ignores the fact that winning the FA Cup qualifies a team to compete in the Europa League.

  29. There’s no attraction for top clubs in a Europa League spot, because they’re going to be in the CL already. It really is purely economic: the (potential, highest possible) reward per game in the FAC is of the order of a tenth of the reward per game in the PL – the CL is most lucrative, even if a team isn’t successful, and significantly more lucrative than even the PL matches if a team wins.

    The top clubs are just specialising in what they’re best at.

  30. There’s not much attraction for any PL club in playing in the Europa League – it can be expected to cost most in PL position than it pays.

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