The Football Association Challenge Cup (known as the FA Cup) is about to conclude another round, and seven of the last eight quarerfinalist teams have moved on. Chelsea will face Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspurs will face Millwall and Arsenal will face Lincoln City. All that is left to be decided is who will win the replay of Huddersfield versus Manchester City after their 0-0 draw Saturday, going to face Middlesborough. The FA has long stood as a medallion for champion winners and a coveted prize for mid-table teams, yet the competition has been known to have its negatives.
Although I appreciate the FA Cup and believe it is important for many teams, the large difference in ability between teams playing means that the smaller club often may have the motivation to win the games through malicious efforts. If a team and individual players feel like they cannot possibly win a game against a higher-level team, than injuring the opposing side may seem like the best way to move on in the competition.
Just today in a game between Arsenal and Sutton United, Alex Iwobi was absolutely clobbered and was lucky to not have been injured. A non-league side such as Sutton United has almost nothing to lose with these dangerous challenges, and as a result it can be incredibly risky for top-flight teams to field their best players or have their players go all out. This can result in injuries which would cost the players the rest of the season.
Despite this danger, the cup is still a very important competition in the long run for teams throughout the leagues. Teams that will never rise up in their leagues or go on to enter the Premier League gain a valuable opportunity to face world class competition, and teach their players more. This is crucial to improving a squad and gives them real experience with which they can grow, as well as showing them how top tier squads work as a team and operate cohesively.
On the other side of the ball, the FA Cup is an amazing way to give those players which have not broken into the first team a chance to prove themselves. The level of competition and the risks of participating are not too high. Less proven talent can play, and it is important enough that those players can impress and have something to fight for with their squad.
All in all, the FA Cup is an important competition in developing players and helping managers improve their teams, although it does come with risks for high-level teams participating. It is great that despite this, managers continue to field their players and encourage them to play strong games. Lower-level teams also make the competition great by bringing a fiery will to beat the big teams and to get the chance to play in Wembley.
Joe Burns is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.