This year’s FA Cup 5th round takes place across this weekend – yet with just six Premier League teams forming the last sixteen of the cup – Sol asks: Has the FA cup lost some of Premier League managers attention as years go by?
Compared to last season’s 5th round, there are four fewer teams representing the elite league of football in England. Similarly, in 2017, there were eight teams from the Premier League – filling up half of the available spaces in the 5th round. 2016 the number of teams was 12. So why this year is the half the amount as compared to just three seasons ago?
Interestingly, going through the 3rd and 4th round fixtures of those FA Cup’s from 2016-19 it is worth noting the amount of all-premier-league clashes. This year’s cup has seen 5 fixtures take place featuring two premier league sides, in 2018 the figure was 6, 2017 back at 5 again, yet in 2016 the number was as high as 7 despite there being double the amount of premier league sides in that year’s 5th round than this years.
It seems then, that premier league opposition are not stacking up as well against the ‘minnows’ or underdogs from the rest of the English football hierarchy in the last few years as they have done previously.
The natural conclusion would be to argue that managers must be fielding weakened sides in a focus upon other competitions with the FA cup coming in a period notoriously packed with fixtures.
But West Ham’s XI that was demolished by, at the time, bottom of League 1 AFC Wimbledon, contained Snodgrass, Adrian, Antonio, Caroll and Hernandez — hardly unrecognisable names against somewhat considerably lower opposition. Yet the premier league side succumbed to a 4-2 defeat, even with Perez and Anderson coming on at half time.
Similarly, Everton’s side which fell victim to championship outfit Millwall, featured regular starters in the likes of: Sigurdsson, Richarlison, Gomes, Pickford and Digne. In fact, Marco Silva made just two changes from the squad which was beat by Southampton in their previous fixture.
So if not weakened squads and a snubbing of the cup, what is causing the Premier League’s attendance in the FA cup’s 5th round to be dropping?
Are managers more inclined to focus on their league standings come the end of the year rather than a cup run in an age dominated by TV money? Or, perhaps it is an underestimating of the opposition being drawn out of the hat by Prem managers that is cauing so many ‘Cupsets’.
I think more than anything it is a compliment to the teams from the Championship and below that they are being more represented in the later stages of such a historic and illustrious piece of silverware. With non-league side Sutton United achieving the 5th round in the 2016/17 season and League Two’s Newport County reaching last season’s 4th round and this season’s 5th round notable examples of the success achieved by the so-called ‘underdog’ clubs at the expense of the Premier League.
The FA cup will always be a target by most football club’s boards, and with Premier League teams only needing to win five matches across three months to secure a place at Wembley’s final, it seems silly for most, if not all, to take the chance of a cup run seriously.
While I’m not accusing any club’s of not doing so, the dip in representation from the Premier League raises questions to the commitment and attitude from the top twenty clubs in England towards the FA Cup.
Maybe soon should this trend continue and the representation from lower league clubs be of similar levels, we will see the ultimate ‘cupset’ and a true underdog lift the trophy at Wembley.
This year’s 5th round draw is as follows:
Friday 15 February
- QPR vs Watford 7.45pm on BT Sport
Saturday 16 February
- Brighton vs Derby – 12.30pm on BT Sport
- AFC Wimbledon vs Millwall – 3pm
- Newport vs Manchester City – 5.30pm on BT Sport
Sunday 17th February
- Bristol City vs Wolves – 1pm on BT Sport
- Doncaster vs Crystal Palace – 4pm on BBC One
- Swansea vs Brentford – 4pm on BBC Wales
Monday 18 February
- Chelsea vs Man Utd – 7.30pm on BBC One