After what feels like a lifetime, Manchester City return to action at the weekend against championship side Fulham in the FA Cup, a competition that has seen recent relative struggle for the blues.
Of course winning the trophy twice in the last eleven years is a fantastic achievement in itself and if you had told city fans as little as 20 years ago, they would have taken that haul in their lifetime. However, compared to the 5 premier league titles and the 6 league cups since the takeover, the FA cup represents the weakest return for the club.
Since Guardiola has taken over, the blues have won the trophy once in a 6-0 demolition of Watford during the year that the blues won the once ‘impossible’ domestic treble. A 1-0 defeat away at Wigan represents the manager’s lowest moment in the competition so far. But with City eliminated from the league cup for the first time since the 16/17 season, this could be the year when City once again pick up the oldest trophy in England.
The FA cup has often had the increased pressure of being the competition that runs along the hype of an unprecedented quadruple. Whilst most reasonable City fans would never burden the side with such pressure, Guardiola has often faced numerous questions from the media about achieving the feat. Despite being adamant that these distractions do not affect the side, the fact that this won’t even be a possibility could reap rewards for the FA cup campaign.
Another factor that could bode well for City is the fact that Guardiola treats the competition with the upmost respect. Despite reports that City were suffering a number of covid cases, Guardiola still played a full strength side that was almost entirely made up of first team regulars. This insistence to always play his strongest side and ignore the urge to rest key players vastly reduces the chances of falling victim to an upset. This mentality is likely to rub off on the players, who will in turn take every match with equal importance.
It will not be easy however. The draw has given many of the ‘big clubs’ simpler paths into the next round. Premier league sides are set to face teams such as Middlesbrough, Kidderminster, Plymouth and Cardiff. Whilst there are no easy games in the FA Cup, it would be fair to assume that there will be some ‘big clubs’ in the next round. City themselves face a free scoring Fulham side in front of a sell out crowd.
Can this be the year that City win the FA Cup once more?