Five clubs who should take the FA Cup seriously: Chelsea join top four hopeful

Mount Chelsea Credit: Alamy
Mount Chelsea Credit: Alamy

The romantic answer is ‘all of them’, but we all know that isn’t the case. Which clubs really should make winning the FA Cup a priority

 

Chelsea (v Manchester City on Sunday)
It will be unnerving for Chelsea fans to be in a situation in which their club has accepted that a top-four finish isn’t everything. It goes against everything they’ve known for the last two decades. Managers have been hired and fired and players bought in a panic at the slightest indication that Champions League qualification may be slipping from their grasp.

It’s particularly odd for that to be the case after the club spent a record amount on players in the summer and are expected to splash similar sums in January. But Todd Boehly and Clearlake recognise that Graham Potter has an imbalanced squad and aren’t expecting an immediate return on their investment. Still, something to show for it would be nice.

And although Potter has been told he will be given time by the Chelsea board to enact his and their vision for the club, the fans may not be quite so patient; the FA Cup would be a nice little titbit ahead of the potential feast to come.

Winning the FA Cup would also end what is a domestic trophy drought for modern-day Chelsea, who won 13 of them between 2004 and 2018 but none since.

 

Newcastle (v Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday)
Given they have a very real chance of qualifying for the Champions League and there is a relative lack of depth in their squad compared to those fighting it out for the top four, Newcastle could see the FA Cup as an unwanted distraction. But just think of the naked, tattooed torsos at Wembley.

And surprising though it is given they’re run by a state who won’t give a toss about the day-to-day wellbeing of Sheila and family from Byker, the club and its fans are as together as they’ve been this century. FA Cup glory will do more to solidify that bond than qualifying for the Champions League a year earlier than expected.

 

Aston Villa (v Stevenage on Sunday)
“The lads are buying into the ideas and listening to all the small, little details and I think they will help us progress and get to where we need to get to,” Ollie Watkins said when asked about Unai Emery’s impact on the team.

His four domestic cups in two years at Paris Saint-Germain may not mean a great deal, but the four Europa League trophies do. Emery is one of the great knockout football managers. He’s already lifted fears of relegation in his short time at the helm and his tactical expertise can be put to better use in guiding Villa to the trophy they have won seven times but last claimed 65 years ago.

 

Brentford (v West Ham on Saturday)
After their memorable win over Liverpool, manager Thomas Frank said he went into the Premier League season knowing his side could finish anywhere between 20th and 7th. It’s likely a ‘better’ squad than Brentford’s will be relegated this season. Frank and his team are doing a fantastic job.

They’ve beaten Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United and have lost just one game – 3-0 to Arsenal – against the Big Six. It’s those grand scalps, rather than pie-in-the-sky thoughts of European football, that the fans live for. And if they can treat FA Cup ties like those big games they will fancy their chances against anyone, particularly if they can welcome oppositions sides to the Community Stadium cauldron.

 

Brighton (v Middlesbrough on Saturday)
Similar to Brentford in that they’re in no danger of relegation but are likely to fall out of the European reckoning when it comes to the crux, Roberto De Zerbi has Brighton in the sweet spot for FA Cup dalliance. And what better way for a man the fans are so ready to laud as a better manager than Graham Potter to show it than winning a major trophy before him with far fewer resources.

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