Much has been written about the demise of the FA Cup in the Premier League era and with this weekend’s third round ties interrupting the most unpredictable top flight league season in modern football history, it’s downfall is even more apparent. The draw has thrown up five all Premier League match-ups and every one of the teams involved would concede defeat now if you could guarantee them three points against the same opposition in their league fixture to come.
The most relevant example of that theory will be seen at White Hart Lane where Tottenham host Leicester in the Cup before welcoming them back just three days later for a 4th v 2nd league clash. If more than five of the same players from each team start both games I will be stunned and there are no prizes for guessing which of the 90 minutes the manager’s idea of his best eleven will be featuring in. The famed magic of the Cup has become a curse with no team that has made the final winning the league that campaign in the last five seasons and that is a list that includes the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.
Worse still is that three so called lesser sides who have made the Wembley show piece in that spell have traded a Cup Final fairy tale for long term melt down. You may find some fans of Wigan (winners in 2013, relegated in 2013), Hull (final in 2014, relegated in 2015) and Aston Villa (final in 2015, GOING to be relegated in 2016) who enjoyed singing ‘Abide With Me’ but they won’t be signing anything again in the Premier League for quite some time to come.
Just hours after they play in the Cup, every top flight side will be in action in the league and with just 9 points separating 11th placed Everton and the Champions League places and 9 points between 12th placed West Brom and the drop zone every single one of the ten games is crucial. Top Billing has to go to Liverpool hosting Arsenal under the Anfield floodlights on Thursday morning. With the exception of that incredible 5-1 home win for Liverpool in February of 2014, Arsenal’s record in the red half of Merseyside is excellent and with Jürgen Klopp’s men riddled with injuries and still largely inconsistent under the German two things are certain, Arsenal will go there looking for the win and Klopp and Arsene Wenger will have a touchline spat at some point.
At the bottom of the EPL table, Sunderland face their second relegation six-pointer in as many league games as they go to Swansea and they can build on the win against Aston Villa and claw themselves closer to salvation under Sam Allardyce. Jermaine Defoe is going to be the key for the Black Cats between now and May. Big Sam seemed reluctant to put his faith in Defoe when he first arrived at the Stadium of Light but his brace against Villa takes him to six for the season and he now surely has to be the first name on the team sheet.
Get the excuses ready for the boss at work on Wednesday and Thursday morning, this midweek football needs to be watched.
I’ll leave you this week as I will do every week in January, by debunking absurd January transfer window rumours coming out of England. This week it has been suggested that Manchester United are looking at a 75 million pound move for Gareth Bale. They have more chance of signing Christian Bale.