Premier League betting can be affected by numerous different factors. Pundits claim playing in the FA Cup and pursuing the dream of winning a trophy could be one such factor. Open to all clubs in the English league system, the FA Cup is the oldest soccer competition in the world. The knockout format used means underdogs can beat teams several places, or even leagues, above them in a one-off game.
It may be a prestigious competition, but a decent cup run is sometimes seen as a distraction that burdens teams with extra fatigue that they then have to deal with in league matches. So does progressing in the cup negatively impact a team’s Premier League betting odds? Does being eliminated early mean a team can focus on the league and offer bettors value?
Performing well in the FA Cup but not the Premier League
In the 2016 FA Cup final, Manchester United defeated Crystal Palace. Before their first FA Cup game on January 9, Manchester United were in 5th position and averaging 1.65 points per game (PPG) in the Premier League. At the end of the season, they finished 5th and averaged 1.83 PPG from January 9 onwards.
Crystal Palace, however, fell from 7th in the league and 1.55 PPG before their first FA Cup game to a 15th placed finish and a 0.61 PPG average at the end of the season. The negative impact of progressing in the FA Cup is highlighted further by the fact that they only managed to win 2 of the 18 EPL games they played after their FA Cup journey began.
The beaten 2016 FA Cup semi-finalists - Watford and Everton - faced a similar struggle to Crystal Palace. Everton’s 11th placed league position didn’t change, but they went from an average of 1.37 PPG to 1.10. Watford fell from 9th to 13th whilst playing in the FA Cup and their PPG average dropped from 1.45 to 0.88.
The table below shows how teams reaching the semi-final or further in the FA Cup have been affected in terms of performance in the league over the last four years:
It would appear there is a mixture of results in terms of how success in the FA Cup impacts performance in the league. The likes of Arsenal and Sheffield United - playing in League One at the time - enjoyed a marked improvement in terms of PPG but overall, success in the FA Cup had a negative effect on these teams.
Out of the 16 teams to reach the semi-final or further in the last three years, ten saw a decline in their average PPG in the league. There is an average -0.04 PPG differential from when team’s started the FA Cup compared to the end of the season - something that should be considered by anyone looking for value in Premier League betting odds.
The benefit of being knocked out of the FA Cup early
Being eliminated from the FA Cup is often seen as a negative thing. Sometimes it can come in embarrassing circumstances - getting beaten by a team several leagues below - but there might be some positives to take from being knocked out of the competition.
In the 2016 FA Cup, Southampton, Newcastle and Sunderland were knocked out in the third round of the competition - Premier League clubs enter the competition at this stage.
The 17 teams analysed have an average +0.09 PPG differential between before and after they were knocked out of the FA cup.
Southampton were 13th before being knocked out on January 9, averaging 1.20 PPG. The Saints finished the season in 6th and had an average of 2.16 PPG from January 9 onwards. Newcastle’s PPG average improved from 0.85 to 1.11 after being eliminated, although their league position of 18th didn’t change. Sunderland were 19th when they were knocked out and finished 17th thanks to improving their average PPG from 0.75 to 1.33.
The table below analyses the change in league position and average PPG for every Premier League team knocked out in their first FA Cup game of the season in the last three years:
Teams Eliminated in the First Round
Similarly to success in the FA Cup, those eliminated early have seen various levels of impact on their league performance. Southampton averaged almost a point per game more (0.96) after being knocked out of the cup and West Ham saw their PPG average improve by 0.63.
The negative impact of the FA Cup is highlighted further by the fact that Crystal Palace only won 2 of the 18 EPL games they played after their FA Cup journey began.
Although Newcastle had a -0.77 PPG differential after being knocked out in 2014, the overall impact of being eliminated from the FA Cup is a positive one. The 12 teams analysed have an average +0.09 PPG differential between before they played in the FA cup and from when they were knocked out. This kind of information gives bettors a chance to take advantage of such teams being undervalued in Premier League betting.
Even though the above examples might represent a small sample size, there is still evidence to suggest the FA Cup does affect a team’s league performance. It is impossible to give a conclusive judgement on just how much the involvement, or lack of involvement, in a cup competition can help or hinder domestic exploits, but it is certainly something that should be taken into consideration
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