In the good old days, there was plenty of glamour attached to the FA Cup. The minnows against the big boys, the smell in the air of an upset, mudbath pitches, children making replica cups out of tinfoil and cardboard….marvellous.
Nowadays, it seems like the competition has been downgraded somewhat in the pecking order of most clubs, as has the excitement and razzmatazz attached to a day out at Wembley Stadium. Why the FA moved the semi-finals there as well is anybody’s guess.
But for many sides, this competition represents their best opportunity for getting their hands on the trophy, plus a back-door route into the Europa League for those who need/want it. Should we be devaluing one of football’s oldest cup competitions then?
One wise old sage who has never taken the FA Cup lightly is Arsene Wenger, who has gotten his hands on the famous trophy six times in his reign as Arsenal boss. Whether the reasons for that are genuine (perhaps the Frenchman is an old romantic at heart?) or cynical (let’s be frank: the FA Cup represents Arsenal’s sole avenue for silverware each year), the upshot is that punters can benefit from Wenger’s enthusiasm.
FA Cup Winner Betting Tips
The Gunners’ rich recent history in the FA Cup – they won it in both 2014 and 2015 – is no coincidence. This is a team that perennially finishes inside the top four without necessarily challenging for the title, and whose Champions League CV dictates that they will probably lose against Bayern Munich in the last 16 in the coming weeks.
So, yet again, the FA Cup could be Wenger’s get out of jail card; Arsenal, as a club, demands success on any front possible.
So the motivation is there and that should lead to strong team selection, which is becoming more of a factor with each passing year. The likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City, with bigger fish to fry, will take the opportunity to rest weary legs and field fringe players and young starlets. That has not proven to be a recipe for success in this competition.
Arsenal have plenty of squad depth to work with, in contrast. In attack Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud, Lucas Perez and the returning Danny Welbeck could all be utilised at some stage in the cup run, and in midfield names like Ozil, Walcott, Iwobi, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Xhaka, Coquelin, Elneny and Cazorla (when fit) ensure Wenger can shuffle his pack as he sees fit.
For these reasons, the 8/1 available on Arsenal winning the FA Cup is an outstanding price.
Watch Out for Tony the Sheriff
In the past few years the FA Cup has created a stack of surprise finalists, starting in 2013 with eventual winners Wigan and then following up with Hull City, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace. Clearly, for teams that actually want to do well in the competition, and who are fortunate in the draw, there is an opportunity for a day out at Wembley Stadium in the offing.
One potential candidate in 2016 is West Brom, who have become a rather difficult team to beat under Tony Pulis. A run of just seven losses in twenty Premier League starts highlights why the Baggies could be an each way contender in this competition.
They aren’t playing for anything in the league apart from extra prize money from finishing inside the top ten, and yet victory in the FA Cup could secure them a shot at European football next term; which would help to push the club forward.
Unlike other outsiders, the Baggies actually boast a pretty decent record against the top teams, having suffered one-goal defeats to the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool this term, while victories over Southampton, Watford, Leicester and Burnley should be cherished; those are the kinds of sides you are likely to bump into from the fourth round onwards.
Pulis has added a touch of sparkle to West Brom’s endeavour, and is reaping the rewards in league action. Without any distractions, they can make a decent fist of the FA Cup, and at 50/1 they have to be considered an each way punt to savour.