After a weekend which has even been described as the most freakish set of results in FA Cup history, we now find ourselves approaching the fifth round draw having already lost Newcastle, Hull, QPR, Everton, Burnley, Tottenham, Southampton, Swansea, Manchester City and, astonishingly, Chelsea.
Indeed, out of the current Premier League top 10, Arsenal and West Ham are the only teams definitely through to the next round, with Manchester United and Liverpool both only managing disappointing 0-0 draws with Cambridge United and Bolton respectively.
The fourth round has produced fantastic, unimaginable drama, and for many is only renewing the continuing romance between fans and the FA Cup.
Encouraging or worrying?
Surely even the most die-hard Bradford City fan could not have expected at 2-0 down away from home that their League One side could beat Chelsea 4-2. Middlesbrough beating Manchester City is perhaps less of a shock, but still surprising given the hugely differing amounts of money that have been spent assembling each squad.
So what are we to take from this weekend’s results? Is this evidence of the sheer strength of the human spirit, the fighting underdog simply ‘wanting it more’? Or is this an indication of a more worrying trend within British top-flight football?
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Good to see lower-league clubs shine - but...
Personally, I doubt that any Premier League managers actively disparage and ‘give up’ on the FA Cup. Squad rotation aside (which is an inevitability in top-level football anyway), I would be very surprised if any professional managers would actively encourage their teams to get knocked out.
Perhaps the top clubs lack the fight, grit and determination to win in a backs-to-the-wall cup game, where everything depends on 90 minutes? Have the realities of Premier League success/survival been so bred into them that they simply lack the true understanding that after a cup game - once lost - their position can’t be rescued (unlike in the league?)
Probably not, but amongst all the deserved celebrations and renewed love of the FA Cup, there may be signs of a worrying trend growing in the English top flight.
Having said that, if this means that teams such as Bradford, Middlesbrough, Blackburn and Sheffield United can enjoy their moment in the sun, then this isn’t a bad thing.