YES – Guy Giles NO – Tobi Sanbe
GG: Ah, the FA Cup debate begins again. For a good few years now the football community has been at odds over the apparent decline of interest in the world’s oldest football competition. The glitz and glamour of competitions such as the Champions League and the desire for a better league position over cup glory, among other factors, has meant that clubs have simply not been taking this sacred competition seriously enough. However, on the weekend of January 24th, we were treated to one of the best few days of football in recent memory. Chelsea 2-4 Bradford City. Manchester City 0-2 Middlesbrough. These just two among many fascinating results proving that the FA Cup might have just regained that magic we know so well.
TS: Those results were amazing and watching Chelsea fans act like they didn’t care about the result was very enjoyable, trust me. However, I don’t think the FA cup ever lost its magic in the first place. It’s no secret that it’s not as important as the Champions League or the Premier League, but it is still a major competition that everyone cares about and it has always been ‘magical’. Whether it be the 2004/05 final where Vieira won the trophy against arch rivals Manchester United with his last kick in an Arsenal shirt *sheds a tear*. Or the 2010/11 final when City won their first cup in ages and officially announced themselves as the new kids on the block. The FA Cup has produced timeless memories in recent years and has always been an important part of the game unlike the Capital One Cup which no one actually cares about.
GG: First off let me say that I’m with you on the Chelsea fans! Personally, I have always held the FA Cup in high regard. Just looking at its rich history as football’s oldest knockout competition it is hard to merely disregard its impact. That being said, the massively increased financial flow into these other competitions has led to focus being turned away from the FA Cup. This in turn has led to teams making wholesale changes – as seen this weekend with Chelsea and Spurs both making 9 each and losing – and thereby disrespecting the prestige of the competition. If you look at viewing figures, their steady decrease in recent times, particularly since the millennium, illustrate the fact that this ‘magic’ was lost. Lets just hope this season can change that, starting with Bradford’s unbelievable comeback win against Chelsea, which, in my opinion, was rightly described by Robbie Fowler as the greatest cup shock ever.
TS: The bigger teams do change their teams a bit but this is to be expected when they are playing opposition from lower leagues and it makes more sense to rest players against Bradford than against City or PSG. The rotation is more of a necessary part of the game rather than disrespect to the competition, and I doubt managers themselves really want to rotate their teams for FA Cup games. Also I think that managers still field teams that they think are strong enough to win the games and with players like Oscar, Cech, Cahill and Azpilicueta starting I don’t think Mourinho was taking the game lightly. Honestly I don’t really know why the views for FA Cup games have reduced, but I think regardless it still holds a great importance in the modern game. Scholes recently said that during his playing years the FA Cup final was the biggest day in English football. Furthermore, Arsenal coming back from 2-0 down to beat Hull and win their (our) 1st trophy in 9 years was a huge deal and showed that the magic never left.
GG: I understand that changes are expected to be made but I feel sometimes there is a lack of commitment to the competition, if disrespect is maybe a step too far. Yes, teams of the likes of Bradford and Middlesbrough don’t pose the threat of Champions League giants, but history tells us they should be taken seriously. Maybe these results we are seeing this year will bring teams to such a realisation. Scholes may have said that but the heyday of his playing career was the late 90s and the early part of the new century, when the FA Cup was certainly considered in higher regard than it is now. Remember the 2013 final between Wigan and Manchester City? There was absolutely no fanfare at all. I for one hope that teams start to respect this storied competition once again, and hopefully this will be the regenerative year for the FA Cup.
TS: It would be good to see teams field their strongest lineup in all FA cup games but truthfully I think this would make the competition more boring. If Chelsea had started Hazard, Costa, Terry and Fabregas they probably would’ve had a higher chance of winning, and if they won it would’ve been another expected, boring result swept under the rug. Hence the rotation actually spices up the tournament as we see ‘underdogs’ like Middlesborough and Bradford beating huge teams. The 2013 final wasn’t a particularly great game, but again the fact that Wigan (who got relegated in the same season) won against reigning league champions City shows how unpredictable and crazy the cup is. Unlike in the Prem and the Champions League we may not see the strongest starting XI’s every game, but this makes the competition more interesting. At the same time I feel that all teams involved genuinely want to win it and this duality creates a unique and unpredictable competition which has never, and will never lose its magic.