This year’s FA Cup is the best in a decade, according to former Football Association CEO Alex Horne.
He told Business Insider that a combination of semi-finals between four of the biggest clubs in the Premier League and fairytale runs for non-league clubs, such as Sutton United, has created a heady cocktail.
“The FA Cup matters,” Horne told us at a recent Cogress Investor Club event in London. “It matters to the fans, it matters to players, and it matters to managers.”
He added: “We have had some fabulous draws and some successes. In many ways this might be the best FA Cup season we have had for a long while, certainly since the move back into [the new] Wembley [in 2007].”
The semi-finals take place at Wembley Stadium in London this weekend, starting with Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, and Arsenal vs Manchester City on Sunday.
Mauricio Pochettino will be determined to underline Tottenham Hotspur’s burgeoning reputation as title contenders, while Antonio Conte will be eager to finish his first season at Chelsea with a trophy.
Pep Guardiola may have been expected to have performed better in the Premier League so an FA Cup win could relieve any fan and media pressure that has developed.
“There’s always been a Portsmouth or a Hull City in the mix in the semis so it is rare that you have four of the top six teams competing for a place in the final,” Horne said.
Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, faces constant scrutiny over his every move and a third FA Cup trophy in four seasons could win back some of the support he has lost in recent months.
“All four of those managers want it,” Horne said. “Especially Wenger… Wenger really wants three FA Cups [in four years and seven overall].”
Rise of the minnows
The battle for a place in this season’s final on May 27 may involve familiar protagonists but Horne believes the so-called magic of the cup has been evident at all levels.
“We have had and enjoyed the fairytale stories,” he said, a clear reference the progress of non-league clubs Sutton and Lincoln City, who made the fifth-round and quarter-final respectively, but were both knocked out by Arsenal.
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