No shame in clubs prioritising PL over FA Cup
The FA Cup rolls around again this weekend and again we have to ponder if certain clubs are better off sacrificing the competition for Premier League survival?
Watford boss Nigel Pearson suggested earlier this week that he would be happy to go out of the FA Cup before the Hornets’ were stung by a determined Tranmere of League One on Thursday. As a result, they now have a weekend off to prepare for their upcoming games.
Sat 19th in the Premier League, Watford’s priority is undoubtedly to survive and there is likely to be other clubs taking that view this weekend.
Bottom club Norwich face 13th place Burnley and neither Sean Dyche nor Daniel Farke would be too perturbed by defeat.
💬 DF: It’s a little break from the league but we want to be successful. It’s a quick turnaround from Spurs so it’s tricky – I expect more than two changes. pic.twitter.com/sezN5qDcwu
— Norwich City FC (@NorwichCityFC) 24 January 2020
Dyche made changes for the 4-2 third round win over Peterborough and with his side arresting their recent slide by claiming crucial victories against Leicester and Manchester United, he is likely to rest a number of his first-teamers.
The same is expected of the Canaries. Teemu Pukki has scored in his last two games but his hamstrings are fragile and the Finn will be rested, meaning Saturday could provide fans with another glimpse of exciting youngster Adam Idah.
18th place Bournemouth have reached the fourth round for the first time in three seasons but made wholesale changes for the win over Luton that got them here and will do the same on Monday against Arsenal.
Eddie Howe’s side won for the first time at home since November on Tuesday by beating Brighton and with injuries decimating his squad, some Googling maybe required when their team is announced.
Brighton and Aston Villa, 15th and 16th respectively in the Premier League, are already out of the cup but 17th placed West Ham have a tricky tie against Championship leaders West Brom.
David Moyes faces a dilemma. The board are believed to have listed a good FA Cup run amongst their requirements following his appointment in December and on Friday, ran an interview with Rio Ferdinand on their website saying it is the “best feeling” to win a trophy at Wembley.
Moyes made a handful of changes in the third round victory at Gillingham and is likely to do so again on Saturday. Opposite number Slaven Bilic, returning to Stratford after his sacking in November 2017, will have a similar plan with promotion his priority. Ask either manager away from the cameras and they might admit to the cup being a hindrance.
Like it or not, the riches surrounding the Premier League, whether you are pushing for titles, European football, or survival, designate the EFL and FA Cups are seen as a nuisance.
The introduction of a staggered winter break means the fourth round could not have fallen at a worse time, with the recent midweek round of fixtures the priority for most clubs. Meanwhile, West Ham have the added issue of facing Liverpool on Wednesday.
So what is the reward for progressing in the cup? Well, the fans would surely enjoy a day out at Wembley but in monetary terms it is nothing.
Arsenal have received £142,193,180 in prize money from the Premier League for the 18/19 campaign. pic.twitter.com/hqvxp3Gpqr
— AFTV (@AFTVMedia) 23 May 2019
The winning club earns £3.6m. In the real world that is big money but is peanuts in football compared to the £105m Brighton picked up in TV rights and prize money for finishing 17th in the Premier League last season.
As Neil Diamond sang in 1979, ‘Money talks, But it don’t sing and dance and it don’t walk.’ The FA Cup used to be the highlight of the calendar but those days are gone.
With the riches the Premier League brings, clubs would be foolish not to prioritise it so don’t be disappointed if your team field a weakened side for a competition which many managers consider a nuisance.