ASTON Villa are in the FA Cup Final. But will that affect their league form? Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) was keen to find out.
WLB Analysis | The Cup Final Effect
Aston Villa are in a relegation battle in the Premier League, but they’ve also just qualified for their first FA Cup Final for 15 years. The lure of a Cup Final is massive for most clubs but may have a detrimental effect on league form. I wanted to see whether similar unexpected FA Cup Finalists saw a dip in league form.
Two sides qualify for the FA Cup Final every year, but in truth I’m only interested in those who aren’t expected to reach Wembley, and Aston Villa fit that bracket. Reaching an FA Cup Final, whilst an honour, wouldn’t rock the foundations of clubs like Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal.
So to help my analysis on Villa I had a look at ‘smaller’ clubs who’ve qualified for an FA Cup Final over the last seven years and crunched the numbers.
I looked at their Points Per Game (PPG) in the league up to the day they reached the FA Cup Final and their PPG tally between reaching the final and their big day. The results are disconcerting for Aston Villa.
2008: Portsmouth v Cardiff
While Pompey were an established Premier League club at this point (no, honestly, they really were) they hadn’t won a trophy for many years so fitted this study. Cardiff, mid table in the Championship, likewise. Both saw their form drop off in the weeks leading up to the Final.
Portsmouth: 1.65 PPG up to semi-final win. 0.66 PPG between semi-final and final.
Cardiff: 1.40 PPG up to semi-final win. 1.33 PPG between semi-final and final.
Chelsea and Everton met in 2009 and the following year it was the Blues and Portsmouth. While they hadn’t won a trophy for 14 years I did dismiss Everton from this as they were a consistent Top 10 club. Portsmouth were relegated in 2010 but having won the trophy two years previous I felt the 2010 occasion wouldn’t have meant as much to the club.
2011: Man City v Stoke
Stoke were the perfect example for this. They’d never reached an FA Cup Final before and had only recently returned to the top tier. Sadly for my theory they prove the exception to the rule and their form really improved between Wembley dates. Why? For me, Tony Pulis. That man just wouldn’t have accepted a drop off in form.
Stoke: 1.18 PPG up to semi-final win. 2.00 PPG between semi-final and final.
2012 brought together Liverpool and Chelsea so we move onto 2013.
2013: Man City v Wigan
Little Wigan eh? Playing in a Cup Final. What an achievement. They got hammered yeah? No, they won! Party time! Well, not quite they got relegated hours later and reaching the Cup Final may have caused that.
Wigan: 1.00 PPG up to semi-final win. 0.80 PPG between semi-final and final.
2014: Arsenal v Hull
There’s a train of thought to suggest that Hull haven’t really recovered from surrendering a 2-0 lead to Arsenal in last season’s FA Cup Final. But that’s another story. Steve Bruce’s side’s form fell off a cliff after their semi-final win last season.
Hull: 1.06 PPG up to semi-final win. 0.20 PPG between semi-final and win.
Well, you can’t really make a conclusion here, but this evidence definitely suggests that the Cup Final casts a long shadow over sides not acquainted with it.
From the five examples above, four of them indicate that these sides’ league performance dipped. If that occurs again, then Aston Villa’s Premier League survival is under real threat.