In the 1960-61 season Tottenham became the first team in the last century to win the First Division Championship and FA Cup Double. The current side still have an outside chance of emulating that team but Chelsea are the main stumbling block in both competitions. Saturday’s first Cup semi-final at Wembley brings together the two London clubs and Tottenham can make a huge statement by winning the tie.
Arsene Wenger is hanging onto his job at Arsenal despite the tide turning against him amongst most of the fans. Winning the FA Cup again is his main hope of extending his stay at the club. Manchester City look too good for the side and they can progress to the Cup Final where Tottenham await in a classic North/South clash which the London club can win – that just leaves the Premier League to win the Double.
Since the start of the Premier League era the FA Cup has been dominated by the superpowers. All but two of the finalists in the last 24 years were clubs from the top division. The average Premier League finishing position of the Cup winners in that spell is fifth. This season’s last four involves teams from the top six in the Premier League table. Despite shocks earlier in the competition the cream rises to the top.
Due to the massive investment in the new Wembley the semi-finals are now played at the National Stadium. There is an argument that the Final is devalued because a day at Wembley is special and that is certainly the case with most teams. However, when the ties involve such big clubs with huge support it makes sense to play the matches at the ground with the biggest capacity. Manchester City are the only team inconvenienced by a journey from outside London but they are good enough for that not to matter.
Another development to make the Cup more palatable in the modern era is the abolition of replays at the last four and final stage. That makes sense in a crowded schedule and I’m sure none of the four semi-finalists would want an extra match on their fixture list. The ties at the weekend will be decided by extra-time and maybe penalties if the scores are level at the end of normal time.
Chelsea or Tottenham will win the Premier League so both are still in with a shout of “doing the Double” that was a rarity for most of the last century. Arsenal won both main domestic honours in the 1970-71 season. That club did it again twice around the turn of the century and Manchester United achieved a Treble Double, winning both honours in the same season three times in the 1990’s.
Before Tottenham were Cup winners and champions in 1961 the double had only been done twice before, back in the 1890’s. The club could make history again and that process can begin by beating Chelsea on Saturday. Tottenham are four points adrift of their London rivals in the Premier League but have the momentum and are currently the best team in the division. Chelsea’s defeat to Manchester United makes things interesting but they have the buffer to hold on and thwart Tottenham.
Arsenal and Manchester City are two of the five clubs in contention to fill the other two Champions League places assuming Chelsea and Tottenham are home and hosed in that respect. Everton have sneaked into the mix but are too far off the pace so it boils down to Liverpool, the two Manchester clubs and Arsenal fighting over the scraps of qualifying for the Champions League. Its quite feasible that the sides meeting in the second FA Cup semi-final on Sunday will miss out.
It seems unthinkable that City and Arsenal will finish outside the top four but it’s far more likely than Jeremy Corbyn forming a government on June 9th. The winners of the FA Cup qualify for the Europa League which is the poor relation of the Champions League. It will be interesting to see the teams both managers select as finishing in the top four is a million times more important and lucrative than winning the Cup. Wenger and Pep Guardiola know where their priorities lie.
City should have the edge over Arsenal in the last four tie and can qualify for the Final at which point Tottenham can beat them, though winning the Double again looks beyond them as Chelsea have nailed the title.