It’s not long to go until the domestic English season gets underway, and we’re covering all the ante-post markets to give us a season-long portfolio of bets. The FA Cup is known as the most historic and romantic cup competition in football, and although European tournaments steal the limelight in today’s game, the famous trophy is still dear to the hearts of both players and fans.
Manchester United won the cup last season but it wasn’t enough for Louis van Gaal to keep his job, after what was ultimately a disappointing year for the Red Devils. The fifth-placed finish was deemed inadequate and the Dutchman has been replaced by Jose Mourinho. It could have been much worse for the Old Trafford club as they had to rely on a late comeback to overcome a spirited Crystal Palace side. Jason Puncheon gave the Eagles the lead in the 78th minute but Juan Mata’s equaliser three minutes later took the match to extra time. Jesse Lingard, on as a late substitute, scored probably the most important goal of his fledgling career with ten minutes of extra time remaining to secure the trophy for United.
The Red Devils are among the favourites again this year, and the addition of Mourinho and Ibrahimovic can hardly damage their chances, although they may well be more focused on other competitions. Arsenal won back-to-back FA Cups in 2014 and 2015, and if you fancy Manchester United to do the same, they’re a best price of +800 .
Manchester City head the market, unsurprisingly, at +600 but they haven’t won this competition in five years since beating Stoke 1-0 in the 2011 final. Considering the resources at their disposal, one might have expected a better record than that, but it possibly reflects the priorities at the club. The Premier League and the Champions League are the focus at the Etihad, and one suspects that Pep Guardiola has been left under no illusions that he will be expected to win one of those titles this year. They are plenty good enough to win this competition again, but at short odds and with priorities elsewhere, they are easy to pass over.
Chelsea come next at +700 and with no European distractions, they could be a much better bet. They’ve actually won four of the last ten FA Cups, with success coming in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012. Antonio Conte has been charged with picking up the pieces from a terrible season, and he is another manager who will be expected to bring instant success. While we fancy Chelsea to do well in the Premier League, you have to wonder how much focus they will have on the FA Cup if they are in title contention come the business end of the season.
Finally Arsenal are rated a +900 shot with several bookies, and they also have a good recent record having claimed back-to-back trophies in 2014 and 2015. Once again though, the FA Cup will be seen as scant consolation for a supporter base which is desperate to see success in the league again and a better showing in Europe. Arsene Wenger has never been shy to field weakened teams in this competition over the years too, so a bet on Arsenal comes with plenty of risks.
The Value Bets
The Reds appeared in two finals in Jurgen Klopp’s first season in charge, losing out in the English Football League final to Manchester City, and Sevilla in the final of the Europa League. An eighth-placed finish in the league table leaves them without European competition this season, so Klopp will be able to fully focus on domestic affairs. He will be expected to put up a much better fight in the league, and a Champions League place will probably be the target at least. Meanwhile a good run in this competition will also be very welcome, and Klopp has already shown that he is a great cup manager.
The second of our early bets is on merseyside neighbours Everton, who have a live outside chance at +3300 with Coral
Would it be fair to describe Everton as a ‘sleeping giant’? Once considered one of the big five of English football, the Toffees have fallen from grace somewhat over the years and are now generally considered a mid-table team. The Roberto Martinez years were largely unsuccessful and last season was particularly poor, as they looked incredibly disorganised. Ronald Koeman has made the switch from Southampton which came as a surprise to many. He has had a good time with the Saints and led them into the Europa League again this season. The fact that he has given that up to move to Goodison could well say something about the respective ambitions of the club.
One thing that Koeman is sure to do is to organise his side. As things stand he has the services of Lukaku, Barkley, Baines and Mirallas, as well as young talents such as John Stones. Some of those players could move over the summer, with rumours surrounding Lukaku and Stones. However, if Koeman keeps them he will have plenty to work with next season, while if he loses them he will have a boatload of cash to spend on replacements.
A resurgence from Everton this season wouldn’t be entirely unexpected and they’ll be aiming for Europa League places along with a good cup run.
Liverpool to Win the FA Cup
Everton to Win the FA Cup