It’s a bit surprising that Manchester City have won just one FA Cup trophy in the last 10 years. The Blues have dominated English football in the last decade rising steadily to become an undeniable heavyweight in the game.
Yet, despite winning back-to-back Premier League titles, and the Carabao Cup for four years straight, the team has been inconsistent in the oldest competition in world football.
City’s average performance in the FA Cup is surprising given the fact that the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea have won it a combined six times in the last decade. The Gunners have won it four times.
Arsenal and Leicester City are the most recent winners of the competition. Sure, they are good teams in their own right but nowhere near City in quality. The Blues should absolutely be dominating the competition, not Arsenal.
One explanation that can suffice for the “failure” is that no one can have it all. Focusing on several trophies each season is extremely difficult.
In fact, Pep Guardiola deserves commendation for managing the squad so well to keep the players motivated and consistently giving their best.
However, getting knocked out of the Carabao Cup after numerous years of success seems to have shifted attention elsewhere, winning the FA Cup.
That’s the best way to explain the surprise decision to field such a strong team against League Two side Swindon Town. A team that came into the game with just one win in their previous four matches.
The opponents presented little threat to City and the team could have progressed even by playing several academy players as was the case against Wycombe in the Third Round of the Carabao Cup.
The whole back four consisted of academy players in the game plus Palmer in midfield. After substitutions in the second half, six out of the 10 outfield players for City were from the academy. Yet, the team won the game 6-1.
For a City first team that Guardiola has complained about fatigue and tiredness after a rather lucky win at Arsenal, the expectation was that the Catalan manager would rest most of his key players for this one.
The fact that all of Luke Mbete, Romeo Lavia, James McAtee, Oscar Bobb, CJ Egan-Riley, Kayky and Cole Palmer were dressed for the game meant at least four of them could have made it to the starting lineup. Yet, only Palmer was picked to start.
Except for the exclusion of first choice goalkeeper, one could have been forgiven for thinking this was the Chelsea fixture upon seeing the starting XI. It looked like an overkill to play such a strong lineup against such lowly opponents (with all due respect to Swindon Town) in the Third Round of the competition.
Although the scoreline was 4-1 in the end, 23 shots on goal and 77% possession proved that.
What the selection did give away though, is just how seriously the manager is taking the competition this time around. Having been eliminated from one competition, it seems focus has shifted to winning the FA Cup.
With the Premier League title looking set for a return to the Etihad Stadium, another domestic double will be a welcome development.
Having been paired with Championship side Fulham, don’t be surprised to see Guardiola’s best XI against the Cottagers. And with Thomas Tuchel trying really hard to copy his City counterpart, while Jurgen Klopp and Antonio Conte want to make a statement too, it promises to be an interesting scramble for the silverware.