Pandora Hughes has the latest FA Cup betting advice ahead of the 2021/22 season.
The FA Cup is the world’s oldest soccer competition, dating back to 1872, and is widely regarded as the world’s most prestigious domestic cup tournament. The advent of the Champions League and shifting priorities in European football may have reduced its significance, but it is still a significant domestic honour and has been won by some of English football’s biggest clubs.
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Given the dominance of the big clubs in this competition over the last few years, it is no surprise to find that the betting for this year’s tournament mirrors the Premier League rankings.
Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City lead the way with bettors, while Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool are close behind. A little further back are the teams regularly in and around the top six: Arsenal, Tottenham and last year’s winners Leicester City.
What to Look for in an FA Cup Winner?
The appeal of the FA Cup lies in its simple format and the fact that, in theory at least, even the smallest club in the country has a shot at winning the silverware. There are several qualifying rounds before the bigger teams enter in January at the Third Round stage, and that format has thrown up many shocks and surprises over the decades.
Yet while it is technically possible for a small team to win the FA Cup, the odds against it are astronomical. The last time a non-league team won the FA Cup was 1901 and there hasn’t been a winner from the second tier of English football since West Ham in 1980. In fact, no team from outside the Premier League has even reached the final since Cardiff managed it in 2008.
Theoretically, the fact that the big clubs no longer prioritize the FA Cup should provide more opportunities for smaller clubs to reach the final. In reality, however, the top Premier League teams have such deep squads that they can afford to play reserve teams in the early rounds of the tournament and still be sure of progressing.
Instead, it is the mid and lower-ranking teams who tend to fall victim to FA Cup shocks these days, as they focus on Premier League position.
The result is that it usually pays to focus on the big names. In fact, of the 21 FA Cup tournaments played this century, 18 have been won by just five clubs: Arsenal (7) Chelsea (5) Manchester City (2) Liverpool (2) and Manchester United (2).
Which of the Big Names are a Good Bet for the FA Cup?
Arsenal’s impressive FA Cup record suggests they might be a good bet, but their steady decline as a Premier League force makes them vulnerable if they come up against any of the top four clubs in the final, and with more upheaval expected over the next few months, their current odds don’t appeal.
All of the remaining four regular winners of this competition have the depth of squad required to win this tournament, and a case can be made for each. Manchester City remain the team to beat, but they are laser-focused on the Champions League this time around and their odds are not appealing.
Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool all have the resources to maintain a deep run in the FA Cup along with their push for Premier League success and it is hard to separate them, though the suspicion is that the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford may lead to United’s odds being a little shorter than they should be as bettors may overreact to his potential influence.
It is hard to argue with anyone who fancies Chelsea to lift the Cup, given their heroics last season and their stronger squad this time round, but I will be siding with Liverpool, who still have a Premier League winning calibre squad and yet are the biggest price of the four.
Are there any Outside Bets for the 2021/22 FA Cup?
The Premier League relegation struggle often involves as many as ten teams, so any club from the middle and bottom ranks of the Premier League is not likely to risk their best players in FA Cup clashes, while Championship teams simply lack the quality to compete in the later rounds.
So, when it comes to the FA Cup, outside bets are usually confined to teams in the top half, on the fringes of the top six. Leicester are the archetype of this class of team, winning the FA Cup last year and finishing fifth in the Premier League, but they will once again be campaigning on multiple fronts and their overwhelming priority after twice missing out, is to make the top four.
A better outside bet for the FA Cup is Tottenham. Spurs are level with Chelsea in the all-time FA Cup winners list, but they haven’t claimed this – or any other – trophy since 1991. In their current phase of rebuilding, the FA Cup remains their most likely piece of silverware, and in Nuno Espirito Santo, they have a manager whose style of play lends itself to cup progression.
He led Wolves to the semi-finals of this competition in 2019 and the quarter-finals of the Europa League in 2020. Crucially, he will have Harry Kane available after the club legend’s transfer to Manchester City fell through.