Nothing to play for
The FA Cup has been the cause for a lot of debate recently. It's not the competition it used to be; certainly not for Premier League clubs anyway.
February 18th, 2014
Sadly, the lucrative amounts of money awarded for participating in England’s top division and a chance to compete against Europe’s elite means that the country’s biggest domestic cup competition is being pushed further down the pecking order.
I’m sure there are plenty of teams who place a very high importance on the FA Cup. For some, a decent run in the competition or a dream draw against a much bigger team can mean balancing the books or financial security for months to come. That’s not even mentioning the potential upsets and giant killings – the stories you’ll tell your future grandchildren; the “I was there when” games.
Up until the weekend, Southampton fans had reason to be optimistic. In stark contrast to last season the Saints have secured their Premier League status and are sitting comfortably in 8th place, eleven points above Swansea in 10th.
It’s easy to see why Southampton fans could have been forgiven for thinking that this was their chance at giving the FA cup another good old go. Perched carefree in the middle of the table, Southampton could afford to divert their attentions where some (probably most) could not.
Take Saturday’s opponents as a prime example. Currently sat in the relegation zone, Sunderland could have been forgiven (some may disagree) for seeing their involvement in the cup as something of a hindrance and fielding a weaker team as a result.
Fielding the strongest eleven available to Mauricio Pochettino would have given Southampton a much better chance of progressing to the quarter-finals of the competition.
It is true that Saints didn’t play well in a game that did not make good viewing for either team (apart from the goal), and if Rickie Lambert had managed to convert his chance from point-blank range we might now be looking at a replay.
We’ll never know whether a full-strength team would have been strong enough to book a place in the quarter finals of the FA cup, but it would have been nice to really go for it.
Instead, Southampton finds themselves with only the league to focus on. This, in a week where Pochettino himself said that he didn’t want to qualify for European competition because the Saints squad isn’t big enough to cope with it.