UnVARgettable Weekend in the FA Cup

Another exciting weekend of FA Cup football is behind us and we can safely say that the decision to only have VAR available at the Premier League grounds was somewhat questionable.

At the Millwall v Everton match they had their own unofficial version of VAR, it’s a pity that the referee team didn’t make better use of it though. Apparently you can’t overturn a decision based on a giant replay of the incident seen by thousands inside the stadium, but it is OK to overturn the decision if it’s an official VAR system.

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Is there no common sense in football these days? Surely if a member of the referee team sees something that leads to a wrong decision he should alert the referee. How can he go on knowing a wrong decision was taken regardless of the manner in which he received that information. In this instance it was a massive game changing incident allowing Millwall to draw level late in the game with a clearly illegitimate goal. Instead the 4th official just signaled vigorously for someone to turn the replay off.

Another Premier League team to crash out of the Cup was Spurs, their 2nd cup exit in a week after their defeat by Chelsea in the League Cup semi-final. Despite the different circumstances from the Everton game both Premier League teams deserved to leave the competition based on their performances alone.

Spurs obviously have problems with squad depth with Kane and Ali injured and Son on international duty. If they had played if they were available is another question. For the spurs players and fans I imagine this Cup exit will be less painful than the League Cup exit. Especially after being 1-0 up against Chelsea from the first leg. Having one foot in the final and then having it taken away again could have played a part in their poor FA Cup exit also.

One team prancing their way to the 5th round is Man Utd after their 8th straight win since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took after a month ago. In his first few games Man Utd may not have dispatched all the teams with ease but they’ve kept winning and that will breed confidence throughout the squad. With away wins at Spurs and Arsenal, they have their tails up. They are playing with a much better flow than a few months ago and seem a more unpredictable outfit, with all the forward players contributing. I can see them going on to win the FA Cup now, with Man City being the only team that could stop them.

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Man Utd must go to Chelsea in the next round but should still play with the same nothing to loose attitude as slight underdogs. Chelsea on the other hand may feel under pressure and have some problems scoring goals at the moment. Higuain is considered to be the solution to their problem. Personally I’m always skeptical about big name strikers coming to the Premier league so late in their carriers. Shevchenko, Falcao and Morientes to name but a few who have arrived late and flopped. Sari has worked with Higuain before so maybe that familiar face will be the difference between Higuain and those aforementioned strikers.

This years FA Cup has been something special so far with the lower league teams providing a lot of value with several cupsets. There are only 7 Premier League teams left and many of them playing away to lower league opposition in the next round. There could be a few more cupsets to come.

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Blooding the Youngsters

Every year when the cups kick into action the old debate arises about the big clubs playing youngsters and exiting the competition at an early stage and then being accused of not respecting the competition. Of course if they proceed in the competition playing those youngsters then everything is good and nobody cares.

I think that managers should be able to manage their squads however they see fit. They should not be forced to pick the best 11 players for every match of the season and who determines exactly what each team’s best 11 is anyway. Part of the excitement of the cup for me is seeing young players given their chance at competitive football and if they can handle the pressure. Giving these youngsters their chance in the Premier League is not always viable for some teams as avoiding relegation or staying in the top 4 is the top priority and it’s difficult to test youngsters until they are in a safe enough position to do so.

The other argument is that with the amount of games that the top teams are playing with European and domestic games included players are more likely to get burned out. So why not give the youngsters a chance in the cup games. I would even go so far as to say put a cap on the amount of senior players you can use in the cups, at least start with the League cup as a trial. This will give more youngsters more chances to breakthrough and level the playing field a little so that lower league teams have a chance in the cup. This could also benefit youth football in general as it always seems like an area the UK are lacking in compared to other top European footballing countries.

The other thing we have to remember is that most other European countries don’t have 2 cup competitions unlike England. This is a perfect reason why we should reserve this competition for youth players only. Many people complain that youngsters aren’t getting enough chances and others are complaining that the cup competitions aren’t being respected. We can’t have it both ways. Make the League Cup a youth competition for U21’s only with maybe each team being able to play a maximum of 3 senior players. This way youngsters get their chance to play higher level competitive football which may eventually give them a quicker route into the Premier League teams.