Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert risked the wrath of football traditionalists nationwide in deliberating the importance of the FA Cup, but only a brief examination of the stats is required to show that the Scot may have a point.
The Villans’ odds to be relegated from the Premier League currently stand at 11/1, but even though such a price indicates the club are well on course for survival, Lambert doesn’t appear ready to launch a full-scale assault on a cup-winning day in the sun.
When quizzed as to whether some top-tier coaches would prefer not to have the distraction of the FA Cup – frequently dubbed the most prestigious domestic cup competition on the planet – he replied: “If they were being honest, they probably would do. Not just because of the money, but survival in the league is vital.”
Such a staunch remark regarding the change of times is certain have ruffled a few feathers, but one only needs to consider Wigan’s plight from the previous season to see Lambert’s side of the argument.
The Latics achieved one of the greatest underdog stories of modern times to win the FA Cup, famously beating Manchester City 1-0 in the final, but their silverware-winning exploits arguably played a massive factor in their top flight demise, with the season ending in the bitter disappointment of relegation.
Bolton offer another case in point. They reached the last eight of the 2011/12 instalment of the competition, before being relegated, while Birmingham dropped out of the top flight just a few months after hoisting the Capital One Cup in 2010/11.
Compare this demoted trio to some of the sides that beat the drop in the same seasons and the correlation between cup success and league misfortune for Premier League basement boys begins to form.
Sunderland finished 17th last term, three points better off than Wigan, after being ejected from the FA Cup at the first hurdle. Bolton missed out by a point at QPR’s expense the year they went down, with the R’s kissing the same competition goodbye in the second round, while Wolves had exited the cup before January in 10/11, the year they avoided the chop by one point.
With all three of those teams now marooned in the second tier, it appears forgoing cup joy in favour of solidifying Premier League status is the way to go for those battling to keep their head out of the drink.
In any case, a punt on Villa’s third round opponents Sheffield United to win at Villa Park at 6/1 may well appeal.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date
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