Arsenal's and Manchester City’s triumphs in this weekend’s FA Cup fifth round has shown that the magic of the FA Cup is still very much alive, even for the bigger teams.
Both Arsenal and City had recently lost significant games to their respective opponents, Liverpool and Chelsea, which had raised some serious doubts over the credentials of both Arsenal and City’s title challenge.
So being given the opportunity to exact revenge over the very same teams who cast these doubts was just what the sports psychologist had ordered. Arsenal had to bounce back and win a game against a team who thrashed them a week ago for two important reasons; losing in the manner that they did at Anfield was very damaging for their team’s confidence at a time when they need to feel and play their best, so beating Liverpool was integral to regaining their confidence, particularly when their next game is against Bayern Munich - the defending champions of a competition Arsenal have yet to win.
Secondly, they needed to regain their fans’ support and prove that they have pride and respect for their club, something that was absent in their display against Liverpool a week ago.
Similarly, Manchester City had to beat Chelsea to show that their home defeat to Chelsea two weeks prior to yesterday’s match was just a blip in their bid to win an unprecedented quadruple.
Even more important than this was to prove to themselves that they could beat their main rivals Chelsea because on each of their previous meetings they have failed to do so, which gave reason to believe that Chelsea are the stronger of the two teams - a notion that City’s performance on Saturday’s game has rightfully cast doubt upon.
In addition, it cannot be ignored that there is no love lost between Jose Mourhino and Manuel Pellegrini, so for Pellegrini perhaps this was an even sweeter victory because City’s victory over Chelsea was largely down to Pellegrini’s tactical nuance. In other words, he beat Mourhino at his own game.
In contrast Arsene Wenger and Brendan Rodgers do not share the same animosity that fuelled the encounter between Pellegrini and Mourhino’s teams, but they both take pride in nurturing their young talent to shine in big games and that’s exactly what Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Yaya Sanogo did.
The way both Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sanogo played showed great maturity and ability, not only because of the gravity of the match but the fact that they understand that cup competitions are just as important as league games. Winning domestic cups still gains you a lot of kudos, particularly if your team has not won any silverware for nine years.
So as both City and Arsenal progress to the quarter-final stage of the FA Cup and their match schedules become more demanding with Premier League and Champions League matches, I do hope that they are not quick to forget the magic of the FA Cup and continue to field strong sides that can take them as far into the competition as is possible because the prospect of a final between two teams in the top four of the Premier league is a very attractive one for all football fans.
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