Premier League managers wrongly dismiss 'The Magic of the FA Cup' as smoke and mirrors

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A weekend of shocks in Fourth Round FA Cup fixtures

Anyone who chose to build a football accumulator from the weekend's favourites was sorely mistaken in assuming that it would be an easy ride, as there were more than a few shocks in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup. It all started on Saturday where, despite Derby County defeating Accrington Stanley in the early kick-off as expected, results later on in the day presented some unpredictability, Middlesbrough held to a draw at home to Newport County, Queens Park Rangers held to a draw with Portsmouth, Wolverhampton Wanderers held to a draw with Shrewsbury Town, and an even more damning selection of defeats. Devastating defeats included Everton losing away to Millwall, West Ham United losing away to AFC Wimbledon, and another upset on Sunday, as Tottenham Hotspur lost 2-0 away to Crystal Palace.

Not only do these outcomes prove a case for the foretold 'Magic of the FA Cup' but they also question whether higher tier teams are still showing it the respect it deserves. Older football fans will recognise the FA Cup as being the biggest and one of the oldest football trophies to remain in circulation, but whether managers from abroad are seeing it on a similar pedestal is looking unlikely, with Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp and Tottenham Hotspur's Mauricio Pochettino appearing to dismiss it over past months.

Nuno Espirito Santo Wolves Wolverhampton Wanderers FA Cup Premier League
Wolves had to fight back in the dying minutes to salvage a draw away to Shrewbury Town

There are clearly a lot of managers who still regard the FA Cup as being among the sport's biggest competitions, but with more showing themselves to be uninterested in competing for other, arguably more important tournaments, it's a concern as to whether it will be given quite as much exposure in future years. The Magic Of The FA Cup has become a cliché for English football fans, with it being based around the concept of anything being possible during FA Cup fixtures, allowing the country's smallest team to defeat the country's largest, but even that might not be enough to convince some of the Premier League's most respected managers.

The Magic Of The FA Cup is alive and well this season

Last weekend saw some incredible results, especially Millwall's win over Everton and AFC Wimbledon's win over West Ham United, but it's not been the first round that's seen some shocks this season. Other notable giant killings from the current campaign include Derby knocking Southampton out on penalties, Gillingham narrowly defeating Cardiff City, Portsmouth beating a ten-man Norwich City side, Doncaster Rovers shocking Preston North End away from home, Newport County capably dominating Leicester City, Shrewsbury Town causing a comeback to beat Stoke City, League Two Barnet conquering Championship Sheffield United, and Wolves overwhelming an underpowered Liverpool side.

It's interesting to see so many surprise results in the FA Cup, made even more bizarre through such a large portion of these fixtures occurring within hours of each other. The truly incredible 'David and Goliath' outcomes have arisen when the larger team opted to play a lot of their key players regardless of it being against a weaker opponent, but it's been a reoccurring trend to see the higher tier teams putting out a second string side, only to result in defeat. While it could be argued that they needed to rest these players with other fixtures coming in the form of the Premier League, Champions League, Europa League or Carabao Cup, the aftermath rarely sees an absolutely devastated manager in the losing end, instead seeing someone who appeared to be unaware of the majesty of the FA Cup and all it stands for in English football.

Millwall Aiden O'Brien Millwall 3-2 Everton Marco Silva Everton FA Cup Championship Premier League
Millwall capitalised on one of several uninspired Premier League sides at the weekend, defeating Everton 3-2

Winning FA Cup matches often means more to lower tier teams, with each stage benefitting the winner financially. This was something seen with Accrington Stanley manager John Coleman, where he wasn't only distraught through feeling 'wronged' in how the game was officiated, but also by not being able to get the money to help benefit his side. Speaking on the referee, he said: "He'll go away now and he won't care that he's ruined our weekend. He's potentially cost us £250,000 on an appalling decision - two appalling decisions."

Liverpool and Spurs looking like the main culprits for undermining the FA Cup

Debate has continued to rage between football fans over the behaviour of Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp, who both seem unaware of the history behind the FA Cup. It would be fair to give them credit over the risk they're taking in putting their Premier League and Champions League ambitions ahead of a domestic cup, but they could end up in hot water with traditional football fans, as there will be a lot of people who disagree with their decision to effectively treat the FA Cup as a friendly where the outcome is irrelevant. Both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are involved in the title race - Liverpool first with a four point lead and Spurs third with nine points less. Meanwhile, Manchester City sit second with an intention to battle for all pieces of silverware on offer, including the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup.

More substantial squad depth at Manchester City could be the reason why Pep Guardiola is able to compete in every available competition, but he's also been criticised for doing the opposite to what Pochettino and Klopp have been proven to do. In past FA Cup rounds, Guardiola has been seen fielding an overpowering side with only a handful of changes, where he's put it down to respecting his opponent rather than any effort to embarrass the teams he plays. He said: "Maybe in those five minutes, they can help to win something, and that is what I need". For a lot of fans, this is preferable than going easy on a team based on their fortunes or which league they're in, but a fair argument could be made for both sides, as it could also be made for specific sides choosing to prioritise one competition over another.

Mauricio Pochettino Jurgen Klopp Tottenham Hotspur Spurs Liverpool FA Cup Premier League
Various comments made by Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp has given football fans a sense of their disinterest in the FA Cup

Following on from Spurs' shocking 2-0 defeat to Crystal Palace, Mauricio Pochettino caused a stir with his comments that indicated how little he thought of the FA Cup. After stating how his own quality won't be judged on winning cups, or more specifically the FA Cup, he said: "I don't agree with that. That only builds your ego. In reality, the most important thing is consistency in the top four [of the Premier League] and playing Champions League." Jurgen Klopp was seen in a similar light during Liverpool's FA Cup defeat to Wolves in the Third Round, as he fielded a team of youngsters, and stated that football fans simply don't rate teams who win the FA Cup anymore. "When people talk to me about silverware, it looks like we have to get each little thing. If we would win the FA Cup, people would still say 'but you didn't win the Premier League for 425 years", he joked. Klopp has displayed a trend for not making it far with Liverpool in the FA Cup, only going as far as the Fourth Round in every previous attempt.


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