We’re finally getting there. With most of Europe’s top leagues returning, sorry France, we are finally going to get a conclusion to the 2019-20 season. With all the attention focused on getting the league and European campaigns finished, the plan to restart the FA Cup has gone a bit under the radar.
Yes, it has lost some of its prestige over the years: mainly due to the big six not taking the competition seriously. But as I’m sure you’ve been told many times this is England’s oldest cup competition and coming from a QPR fan, whose cup run normally consists of losing in the third round to MK Dons or Blackburn, it is still an integral part of the English football calendar.
Prior to the COVID-19 stoppage the 2019-20 edition had reached the quarter- final stage, and while there is no opportunity for a lower league side to win the trophy, with this being the first all top-flight quarter- final since 2005-06, there's still plenty of teams that could go on to lift the famous trophy in front of 90,000 empty seats at Wembley.
So, with that being said, let's have a look at the eight teams still in the competition and my pick to win it.
Despite having the very likeable Daniel Farke at the helm and playing an attractive style of football, Norwich’s return to the Premier League hasn’t really gone to plan. At the time of writing the Canaries sit bottom of the table and barring a minor miracle look set to be back in the second-tier next season. They have fared better in the cup, however, having knocked out Tottenham in the fifth round, albeit on penalties, and with the possibility of another upset at home against Manchester United in the last eight, could Norwich pull a Wigan and win the FA Cup despite getting relegated?
Surely it’s not only me who finds United’s struggles since Alex Ferguson left absolutely hilarious. While in the noughties it felt like their success meant they had more fans in London than Manchester, success hasn’t really been United’s thing since Sir Alex retired, with them regularly missing out on the Champions League and only picking up three major trophies compared to eight in the seven years beforehand. This season it looked for a long time that United would again miss out on Europe’s premier club competition, but a run of seven games without defeat has put them in top four contention and on this form the Red Devils are one of the favorites to add some silverware to their season in the FA Cup.
I can honestly say watching Sheffield United become the Premier League’s biggest surprise package this season has been a joy, and the thought of Chris Wilder standing on the touchline in the Europa League is very amusing. The Blades have defied all expectations in their first season back in the top- flight since 2006-07 and genuinely could be going on a European adventure next season. Should they not finish in the European places, an FA Cup win could give them a plan B and despite not being in great form since football returned, Wilder’s men are capable of pulling off a major upset.
Like United, Arsenal’s fall from grace has given me a few chuckles. Once a team heralded for its famous invincible season of 2003-04, a decline in success and the rise of the shouty roadman Youtube channel Arsenal Fan TV has turned the club into a meme. Once a staple of the top four, the Gunners have failed to qualify for the Champions League for the last three seasons and that doesn’t look to change this year with them sitting in ninth at the time of writing. However, their one success in this period has been the FA Cup, with their 2016-17 win breaking the record for the most FA Cup titles. While it will be difficult to beat quarter-final opponents Sheffield United away, especially with a defense containing David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi, a fourteenth FA Cup triumph may shine some light on a glum season.
While Sheffield United have been one surprise package in the Premier League this season, Leicester have been another. For a more in depth look at the Foxes wonderful young team I will give you a few minutes to go and read my piece comparing Leicester’s current team to the title winning squad of 2015-16. Ok you’re back good, so now you know that Brendan Rodgers team has been brilliant this year storming up to third in the table and looking like they will be playing Champions League football, for the second time in five years whenever the 2020-21 season starts. The only way this season could get better for them, would be to add a major piece of silverware. After being robbed of a trip to Wembley by Aston Villa in the League Cup semi- finals earlier this season; the Foxes will get another chance in the FA Cup.
Their opponents in the quarter- finals are Frank Lampard’s Chelsea. Look, as you can probably tell from the club I support; I don’t like Chelsea very much. The thought of writing anything nice about them has kept me up for weeks, but the show must go on and so through gritted teeth I will continue. A combination of a transfer ban and club legend Frank Lampard arriving as manager has seen Chelsea abandon all their principles and finally give some of the five million youth players a chance to showcase their talents. While it remains to be seen if they hold onto the fourth spot, they currently occupy in the Premier League it is a stark contrast to their spend all the money approach of recent years. While the loss of Eden Hazard hurt them, the news of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech arriving in the summer will give them a boost and after knocking out Premier League champions elect Liverpool in the last round the FA Cup may provide a chance for Lampard’s first silverware as Blues boss.
It's been a funny season for Newcastle. Their quiet push up to mid- table in the Prem has been overshadowed by the news that public enemy number one Mike Ashley may finally be ousted as owner. The only problem is that the Saudi Arabia- led takeover of the club has come under criticism for reasons which I’m not sure Golear would be too happy with me explaining here. Either way, Newcastle look to have secured their Premier League status for another season and now look to progress in the FA Cup. With Manchester City as their quarter- final opponents, I’m not going to sugar coat it; they are probably the least favourite to win the tournament but should they beat big bald Pep’s good citizens they might fancy their chances a little more.
Yes, I know it’s a boring choice, but Manchester City are my pick to win the whole thing. They’re just the best team left in the competition guys. Pep Guardiola’s City has been one of the most dominant teams in Premier League history, as Rafa Benitez would say that’s facts. Over the past few years, the Sky Blues have won two Premier League’s, recording 100 and 98 points respectively, a hat- trick of League Cup, including this year, and are the current holders of the FA Cup. Yes, their pursuit of a third league title hasn’t gone well, with Liverpool running away with it, but with the title race being over and their primary goal of winning the only trophy they haven’t, the Champions League, not being a worry until after the domestic season now; bald fraud Guardiola has now set his sights on retaining football’s oldest trophy: the FA Cup.
This article was written exclusively for golear.co.uk.