Since I am a millennial, I completely understand that people in my generation complain a lot. We all know it’s true so there’s no point in denying it. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s fair to say millennials are the only generation of complainers. In fact, the older generation of people seem to do a lot more complaining these days.
In America, there seems to be a certain type of person who loves to complain that baseball just isn’t the same anymore. They say things like “in the old days the guy who started the game pitched the whole thing, we didn’t have this nonsense of constant pitching changes.”
Well guess what. I have some news for you. That type of person is not exclusive to America. In fact there are a bunch of people in England and all around the world and they too like to complain about how football was just better back in the day. Their complaints usually revolve around the FA Cup and how the competition just isn’t what it used to be.
It’s now become an annual occurrence. Every winter when the Premier League takes a week off for the FA Cup, we’re treated to piece after piece of writers either complaining that the FA Cup has become an excuse for Premier League managers to throw out the reserves and youngsters, or running back the same old “is it even worth it for clubs to try and win the FA Cup anymore?” question.
At this point, not only is that lazy from just about every pundit, but if they shut their mouths and opened their eyes they’d realize the FA Cup, and English football is closer to the olden days than it’s been in a long time.
Just two weeks ago, I wrote that despite Chelsea having already wrapped up the Premier League title this was shaping up to be one of the most exciting Premier League seasons ever. That still rings true as the battle for the top four and relegation are as tight as they can be with many teams competing for not many spots.
That excitement isn’t just exclusive to the league but has carried over to the FA Cup where a historically great FA Cup is unfolding right before our eyes.
Just look at the field that is remaining in the competition. Three of the top six teams in the Premier League have booked places in the quarterfinals and that number could rise to five should Arsenal and Manchester City win their ties. They’ll also be joined by a League One side in Millwall, and possibly a Championship side if Huddersfield Town defeat Man City.
And then there’s non-league Lincoln City, who could be facing another non-league side in Sutton United if they can shock Arsenal. Should that happen, we’ll be guaranteed a non-league team in the semifinal. With Manchester United taking Chelsea in the next round, we’re guaranteed to have a giant in the semifinal and if Arsenal advance past Sutton, there is still the possibility of a North London Derby in either the semifinal or the final. From strictly a storytelling standpoint, what more could you want?
Fans love to lament the fact that back in the day, each team did everything they could to win every competition they entered, but these days the FA Cup is more of an opportunity to get your second choice goalkeeper 90 minutes between the sticks.
Yes, this past weekend the likes of Claudio Bravo, Michel Vorm, and Sergio Romero all featured for their team but it’s harsh to label them all as second choice keepers. Bravo was a big money signing whose poor form has relegated him to the bench. Vorm was a very formidable first choice goalkeeper in the Premier League for Swansea before signing with Tottenham. As for Romero, back in 2014 he started the final of a small competition called the World Cup, ever heard of it?
All over England this week, the Premier League’s best threw strong sides onto the pitch. So what if a teams best player like Eric Dier, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, or Paul Pogba weren’t playing. It would still be hard to argue that a team that features Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford is a rotated side.
The seriousness goes beyond the FA Cup as well. Last week in the Europa League, a competition many English teams usually throw away, both Tottenham and Manchester United fielded very strong sides, a sign that they are both taking the competition seriously.
If you’re an old school football fan this is great. There’s a great league race going on but teams have not let that outweigh the other competitions. More managers are no longer trying to rest all their players at once, and instead are going in to every game trying to win it, regardless of the competition.
Maybe if we all just stopped complaining about football not being what it used to be we’d be able to appreciate it a bit more.