In the wake of Chelsea’s 5-1 win against a Manchester City side littered with a number of debuting young talent on Sunday afternoon, a debate has begun as to whether the FA Cup has lost some of it’s magic.
The short answer is yes. The long answer is to follow but it’s also not really that surprising that even the oldest club competition in the world has lost a little of its shine, but it’s due to a number of factors.
Starting with the media and the hype of the competition, the moving of games for TV hasn’t helped at all. Place like the BBC are desperate to air an all-Premier League tie like the one on Sunday but with both teams also in Champions League action, neither were happy with the news.
The fact that the next round will very likely be competing with Premier League games, along with Football League games, means that some attention has been drawn away and can make a league like the Championship look like a mess. Some teams have played 29 games, some have played 32, which is going to cause a pile up of fixtures for a team.
The competition itself hasn’t adapted out of stubborness and calls that it would harm it, but stagnating it hurts just as much. Replays are a nightmare for schedulers despite the money-rolling opportunities for smaller clubs, which is literally the only benefit other than for the fans of said club.
As I’ve already mentioned, scheduling them on a weekend also doesn’t seem to work when there’s league fixtures on too. Why not move them to the mid-week, when they’ll be appreciated more, or in a more drastic move, change the league fixtures to a mid-week?
It works in literally every other big European country. Spain, Germany, France and Italy all have their big club competition in the week, two of them even have two legs and the fact that the League Cup already does it means it shouldn’t be too big of a shift, especially as that finishes in late February.
We can still have it start on a big Saturday in January too, much like the Coupe de France does, before moving to a mid-week schedule before the final on it’s own Saturday. It may mean the semi-finals have to be away from Wembley as that would be a scheduling nightmare but it would help give the competition more prestige.
The cup’s importance has also dropped below the league for pretty much any team. Hull City of the Championship made 10 changes because promotion is much more important to them than a cup run and rightfully so, they aren’t likely to win it and the money they’ll get from going up will be enormous.
Big teams have to rotate at least because of how much are on their plate but even smaller Premier League teams do as they want to stay away from relegation. It’s always difficult to balance it correctly, the likes of West Ham have probably shown it the best, but the very top clubs have to make sure they make the Champions League and that means there tends to be an impact.
So how do you change things? A stipulation on having a certain amount of “first-team” players is absurd. It’s slightly insulting to those who do start, a club would simply promote them if they didn’t meet the criteria and it will promote teams keeping a large squad together.
A Champions League place is an interesting thought but too much of a risk to the co-efficent. The fact that it could have been won by Wigan a few years ago shows you how it could drastically harm the English league and no other country does it.
In the end, something needs to give. Manuel Pellegrini’s side was clearly a message to say that something needs to be done. It has a little bit of dust on it but with a few little shakes of a duster, it could become as good as new.