FA Cup Preview

FA Cup Preview

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On April 20, 2009
  • Geoff Reid

Editor’s note: Geoff Reid appears on WVHooligan.com every week. He tackles all things soccer. Today he previews the FA Cup, which as Geoff sees it as the English version of the Open Cup here in the States. As always feel free to leave Geoff a comment below.

The Football Association Cup is the oldest knockout competition in the world and famous for its romance also known as shocking upsets. Quite simply their is no other tournament like it. The World Cup is the biggest honor of them all and every player from the amateur level all the way up wants to represent their respective countries and rightly so to play for national pride. The European Cup/Champions League is the biggest club competition on the planet and itís why all the best players ultimately head to Europe because the best competition is there as well as tradition, history, importance and significance.

However, all of that is different compared to the FA Cup. Thereís a reason why the FA Cup has much more significance compared to the Copa Del Ray in Spain or the Copa Italia in Italy. Where else will a club like Kettering Town FC get the chance to play Manchester United FC in a meaningful game? Or Havant and Waterloo getting the chance to go to Anfield to play Liverpool FC?

Much has been made about how seriously the competition is taken by the big clubs and Sundayís semi-final between Everton and Manchester United is proof to that with Sir Alex Ferguson leaving Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo out of the match squad and Dimitar Berbatov and Paul Scholes on the bench. This whole idea started after United won the treble in the 1998/99 season because they pulled out of the competition due to the World Club Cup competition in Brazil and it was the first time a club has ever forfeited the famous knockout competition.

Looking at this past weekendís two semi-final matches certainly the entertainment value for the average fan wasnít as good as the Chelsea vs Liverpool Champions League tie earlier last week. The Arsenal vs Chelsea match on Saturday was a brilliant chess match none the less between two of the very best: Arsene Wenger and Guus Hiddink and ultimately what became the difference was Chelseaís depth.

For the last few seasons weíve been told by Mr. Wenger his kids will come good and we are still waiting and so are the loyal gunners faithful. Clearly having Theo Walcott gives Arsenal another dimension and if they can get him and Arshavin in the same team that will be frightening for defenses. The trouble the north Londoners had and Arsene said so in his post match comments was they simply couldnít handle Didier Drogba who has found a new lease of life under Guus Hiddink. With Hiddink saying heís gone at the end of the season itíll be interesting what happens with Drogba. What will also be interesting is where will Frank Lampard end up because we all know remember Jose Mourinho saying he would try getting ĎLampsí this summer after a failed pursuit in 2008. With Chelsea winning 2-1 it was no real surprise.

The second semi-final between the toffees from Merseyside and the Red Devils right down the M62 was predictable if anything. Even with all the players Sir Alex was resting, David Moyes and Everton knew that they still couldnít win on talent alone so they did what every good side that is technically less talented then their opponents do: press very high, donít give United room to breathe in the midfield and stay physical. Both sides didnít create any clear cut chances, only half chances at best. Not the prettiest football and Paul Gardner must have hated this. Tim Howard showed why heís the pride of New Brunswick, New Jersey making two good saves to help Everton to their first FA Cup final since 1995.

There is one dilemma that is out there and itís important what peopleís opinions are on this. Compare this seasonís semi-finals to last seasonís. The final four this season were: Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton and Manchester United. Last season it was Portsmouth, Cardiff City, Barnsley and West Bromwich Albion. Last season only one club was from the Premiership. As a casual fan, would you rather see the big boys compete like this season or would you rather see the true meaning of the cup and the romance with three clubs outside the top division competing in the final four like last season? Makes a very interesting debate. What we do know for sure, is that advertising for the US Open Cup must be a lot better then what it is and treated with much more respect because it is the closest thing to the FA Cup in this country.