Over recent seasons many Premier League clubs have treated cup competitions at best as unwanted distractions and at worse like deliberate attempts to derail their seasons.
Take for example Paul Lambert's comments before the third round FA Cup tie against
Sheffield United. Lambert's message to his side was essentially don't worry about playing badly the cup doesn't matter to us. Only the league is important.
Big Sam Allardyce's West Ham had the same attitude for the FA Cup tie away to Nottingham Forest and the League Cup semi-final first leg at the Eithad. They also lost their games.
The managers will say publicly that these cup defeats don't matter too much. Premier League survival is king. This is true. However, the importance of the league is why managers should treat the cup competitions with more respect.
Before losing to Sheffield United, Villa had just got their first win in five. Included in that five match winless run were defeats to rivals Stoke, Fulham and Crystal Palace. After the FA Cup defeat Lambert's man followed things up by losing to Arsenal.
If only Lambert had treated the FA Cup as a chance to build some momentum. With an opportunity to win a second game on the bounce, Villa would have gone into the Arsenal game with back to back wins under their belts.
Doing this would surely have given them a better chance of getting a result then coming off the back of a tame defeat. Villa only lost by one goal. The buzz that a home cup win would have generated might have allowed Villa to bridge that one goal gap.
Equally, with West Ham 5-0 and 6-0 cup thrashings cannot have been great morale boosters for the crucial match against Cardiff. Yes ,West Ham beat Cardiff but it was hardly a great performance. It was hard to look at that performance and argue that West Ham are likely to stay up.
Image the confidence that West Ham could now be playing with if they had beaten Nottingham Forest and lost by only a couple of goals against Man City (I'm not going to argue they could have won). You cannot argue that treating the cup competitions as more important would not have increased their survival chances.
If you want a positive example of the power of the cups I would suggest you have a
look at Sunderland.
Gus Poyet treated the cup competitions as an opportunity to build some confidence. As such Sunderland won 3-1 and 2-1 at home to Carlisle and Manchester United respectively. They then took this feel good factor into the relegation 'cup final' away to Fulham and trounced them 4-1.
Would Sunderland have got this result if Poyet had told the players that the cup competitions didn't matter? I don't think so and now they go into a home game against Southampton in great form.
By ignoring the cups Lambert and Allardyce have just made their tasks harder.
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