FA Cup 2017 semi-finals: Will Wenger bow out victoriously?
The FA Cup has, in recent years, been slightly derided as a competition that no big club bothers to take seriously anymore. Tell that, though, to the tens of thousands of Gunners fans already looking forward to a semi-final clash at Wembley at the end of April.
There may well be no Champions League place on offer, and the prize money may well be relatively unsubstantial compared to that offered by the Premier League and Champions League, but this year in particular, it feels as though each semi-finalist has a lot to gain, and an awful lot to lose, as they bid to progress in the world’s most famous and beloved knock-out competition.
Let’s take a closer look at each side set to compete in this year’s semi-finals at Wembley to see what exactly it is they stand to lose from their respective fixtures.
Arsenal: bowing Out victoriously?
Arsenal are the team that arguably need an FA Cup win this season the most. Having used wins in 2013/14 and 2014/15 as a way of announcing they were ‘back’ and still a team to be treated with respect, Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have since then continued to fluff their lines, failing to use the FA Cup as a springboard to sustained success.
— Gooner Adam (@AdzCampbell91) 13 March 2017
With Wenger now largely expected to leave (in fact, in some quarters they are demanding he must leave), Arsenal would love nothing more than to end Wenger’s legacy, which has been so badly tarnished in recent years, with one more cup win.
The current FA Cup betting odds suggest that they won’t win the cup this season, with the Gunners outsiders at 9/2 to lift the cup, but it would be foolish to completely write them off at this stage.
Tottenham: A chance to be taken seriously?
Clearly Arsenal have it all to lose, but what about local rivals Tottenham, who have been teetering on the edge of seriously propelling themselves into the big time for the past few years?
If Spurs manage to defeat Chelsea and then go on to win the FA Cup this year, they could well use it as momentum for more domestic success, in a similar fashion to when Manchester City won the FA Cup back in 2010/11 before using that newly amassed confidence to dominate in the Premier League.
Underdogs Tottenham seem to be in a uniquely positive position in that they have plenty to gain, but not so much to lose; failure to go on and beat Chelsea has little risk attached to it, as fans can simply dismiss defeat as a result of the unique pressure that a London derby brings.
Manchester City: Pep’s silver lining
It’s not quite gone to plan for poor old Pep. Having made an enemy of the British press by dumping Joe Hart in favour of a foreign goalkeeper, failing to build upon a strong start to the season domestically, and with the club becoming the first to score five goals in the first leg before being knocked out of the Champions League, the vultures are circling around one of the best managers of the modern era.
Bakayoko’s thumping header sends Monaco through to Champions League quarters as the home side beat Man City to progress on away goals rule pic.twitter.com/VB0d8vq8tv
— Xinhua Sports (@XHSports) 16 March 2017
An FA Cup could, however, be the silver lining of success that allows Pep some breathing room to prove to the fans that he has the determination to succeed in England as he did in Germany and Spain. With the easiest semi-final draw, City have every chance to reach the final, where Pep will then roll the dice on having a season of success or one to forget.
Chelsea: A Chance to Prove Dominance
Last year was one to forget for Chelsea, but this year could yet see them claim the double. If Antonio Conte ends up winning the double, he’ll not only put to bed recent jibes from ‘Judas’, but will also show that this Chelsea team is on course to be a dominant force in the Premier League and other fronts for years to come.
There is a saying that success breeds success, so an FA Cup win this year could well be the springboard for the Blues winning the Champions League again next year. Watch this space!