The FA Cup Third-Round-Will Wenger ever learn?
The FA Cup took center stage as usual during the first week of January, with the Premier League giants entering the famous competition, holding hopes of competing for another trophy.
In years gone by, the integrity of the FA Cup has often been called into question, with the so-called ‘bigger clubs’ from the Premier League often fielding weakened teams and prioritizing the League or Champions League, which are now seen as the bigger success.
This season, to a certain extent, that has once again been the case, with the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur all resting some key players. However, unlike before, there was still plenty of talent on show, with the ‘big six’ showing there is still magic in the cup.
Man United and Liverpool were amongst the first two Premier League clubs to enter the competition, edging past Derby County and Everton respectively to move into the fourth-round. Jose Mourinho selected a strong side, with the likes of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku featuring against Championship opposition, whilst Jurgen Klopp fielded a strong Liverpool side for the Merseyside Derby, with £75m central defender, Virgil van Dijk, featuring and even scoring the winning goal for the Reds.
Van Dijk’s goal to make it 2-1. Up the Reds! What a dream debut for the Dutchman. YNWA pic.twitter.com/CWfEnpm0nP
— Liverpool Sana Sini (@LiverSanaSini) January 5, 2018
As Saturday came, Manchester City overcame a tricky clash with Burnley, with Pep Guardiola taking no chances in his hunt for trophies, with Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane and David Silva amongst those to feature in a strong City line-up.
Later on Saturday, a strong Chelsea side were held to a draw by stubborn Championship outfit, Norwich City, but Antonio Conte’s team selection proved that the FA Cup still means something to the Blues, despite the likes of Eden Hazard missing out at Carrow Road.
As an exciting round of football ticked into Sunday, the Premier League’s North London contingent entered the FA Cup, with Spurs entertaining AFC Wimbledon at Wembley and Arsenal travelling to the City Ground to face Nottingham Forest.
Mauricio Pochettino’s strong team selection was rewarded, with Harry Kane putting Spurs firmly in the fourth-round with a goalscoring brace, with the 24-year- old starting 2018 in similar form to how he ended 2017, amongst the goals, which will delight English supporters heading into a World Cup year. For the Spurs striker to continue his domestic form on the international stage, he is priced at 16/1 with bet365’s international football betting page to be the competition’s top goalscorer.
However, unlike Pochettino, Arsène Wenger, who helped his side to FA Cup glory last season, was punished for fielding an extremely weak line-up, as Arsenal went crashing out at the hands of Forest, who were well worth their 4-2 victory over the Gunners. Wenger will receive plenty of criticism following his third-round exit, and rightly so, as Arsenal have no thrown away another opportunity of winning a major trophy, with the Europa League and League Cup now their only realistic targets.
The experienced Frenchman, who has so often succeeded in the FA Cup, should be disappointed, and right now, needs to be looking at the bold selections of the likes of Guardiola, Mourinho, Klopp and Pochettino, who have taken the early rounds of the competition seriously, further highlighting their desire to win trophies this season.