Since the 1995-96 season the FA Cup has been dominated by the superpowers of English football. There have been only two winners apart from the Big Five of the Premier League but Tottenham Hotspurs and Queens Park Rangers could break the monopoly. Southampton would be popular winners as they are the only side in the Premier League who regularly field more English than overseas player.
Portsmouth and Wigan are the only sides other than Manchester United and City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool to have won the Cup in the last 18 years. Chelsea have won the competition four times in the last seven seasons and Arsenal, Liverpool and United are other multiple winners since 1996.
Both Spurs and Rangers have tough away ties in the third round but there is evidence to suggest they can progress and their odds will plummet if they qualify for the fourth round draw. If both sides made the final it would be a repeat of the 1981-82 competition when Spurs beat their London rivals at Wembley by a single goal in a replay after a 1-1 draw in the original tie.
In theory Spurs have really drawn the short draw as they have to visit Arsenal at the weekend. Arsenal won the FA Cup in 2005 but have not won another trophy since. Home advantage could be key but let’s not forget that the away club are given a bigger proportion of tickets for Cup games.
QPR also face a potentially difficult tie, away to Everton. However, that side have underperformed at Goodison Park in the FA Cup in recent years and this fixture may not prove to be the home banker that the bookmakers’ odds indicate. Everton are now contenders for a top four finishing position in the league and that aim could take priority over a run in the Cup.
Southampton have drawn Burnley at home in the third round. Team selection will be key to determining whether the Saints are a good thing to win the tie but they will be looking to get their season back on track after two recent defeats in the Premier League at home.
In terms of identifying potential winners of the FA Cup Spurs would have to be on the shortlist. There have been few signs to date but the club did recruit several proven overseas players when spending the money raised by the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. Two disastrous results against Manchester City and Liverpool that cost Andre Villas-Boas his job distort the statistics which point to a solid overall defensive unit.
When AVB was in charge Spurs played with one forward in Roberto Soldado. He struggled to hold the ball up and looked nervous in front of goal, possibly due to the lack of support in the attacking third. Emmanuel Adebayor was ignored by Villas- Boas and forced to train apart from the first team. Tim Sherwood’s trust in him has been rewarded by a significant contribution in a two-man attack.
Sherwood has been given the manager’s job until the end of next season. His main task will be integrating the foreign players with the English contingent of Andros Townsend, Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker. Those three players are all full internationals and in the running to go to the World Cup in Brazil with England at the end of the season.
QPR are basically a Premier League team playing in the Championship They invested in transfer fees and wages in order to become established in the top division. The project was undermined by a poor start last season and possibly the race issue between Anton Ferdinand and John Terry. Despite input from Harry Redknapp Rangers were relegated but look like coming straight back up.
Redknapp was the manager of Portsmouth when they won the FA Cup in 2008. Though he has not won a Champions League or Premier League Redknapp is proven at getting the best out of players just below the highest level. Promotion to the Premier League will be a priority but Happy Harry knows the value of a good cup run which could begin at Everton on Saturday afternoon.
English football would get a boost if Southampton won the FA Cup this season. It would be a fine achievement to emulate the 1976 team that beat Manchester United in the final but a reminder that English players can perform at the highest level. Their manager is from Argentina but has put is faith in English talent. At one point during Southampton’s recent match against Everton eight of the team were eligible to play for England.
The combined odds of the FA Cup being won by one of the five shortest priced teams in the betting ahead of the third round is less than 6/4. Recent statistics suggest that is a price worth taking but combining Spurs, QPR and Southampton could prove to be more rewarding as these three sides have plenty in their favour in the context of this season’s FA Cup.