Liverpool haven’t done it the easy way in the FA Cup this season. They needed a replay and two late goals to beat Bolton, while they needed another replay and a piece of Philippe Coutinho magic after 70 minutes to see off Blackburn. The Reds also got pegged back by AFC Wimbledon in January and needed a second half comeback to beat Crystal Palace.
Arsenal, on the other hand, have swaggered through the tournament like a man coming off the dance floor at a wedding after absolutely destroying ‘Jump On It’ by the Sugar Hill Gang. The Gunners saw off Hull and Middlesbrough with ease and always looked in control away to Brighton and Manchester United. Compared to Arsenal’s disco swagger, Liverpool are the drunk uncle who fell into the buffet and has gravy down his shirt, but the fact is both sides remain on the dance floor, and these stats shouldn’t put you off backing Brendan Rodgers’ men.
Arsenal’s dominance this season is emphasised by the fact that for 70 per cent of their run they’ve been winning, and along with Aston Villa, have never been behind. But does such dominance equate to FA Cup glory? Not necessarily.
Yes, last year Arsenal went into this stage of the tournament with an even better record, leading 71 per cent of the time, and of course they went on to lift the cup. But in the last 10 years only two other sides – Chelsea in 09/10 and Liverpool in 05/06 – won the cup after having the best winning percentage at this stage. That’s a strike rate of just 30 per cent and is hardly a trend that would fill you with confidence.
Liverpool, on the flip side of this FA Cup mythbusting piece, have been winning for just 19 per cent of their cup run so far. The only team to have a worse record in the last 10 years and still make the semi-finals was Portsmouth in 09/10. Pompy had been ahead for just 16 per cent of the time – they’d been losing for 23 per cent – but still went on to make the final against. In fact two sides who went into the semi-finals with the worst record – Portsmouth in 07/08 and Arsenal in 04/05 – went on to win the FA Cup.
So what does this mean as a punting angle? In all honesty, not a whole lot. We’re not going to bulls*** you and say that Arsenal’s dominance lends itself to FA Cup success, because the trends suggest it doesn’t, while Liverpool’s stumble to the final four hardly puts them completely out of the picture either. Both sides are odds on to make it safely through the semi-finals this weekend (the double is 10/11 for anyone who is keen) while the Gunners are 8/11 favourites to lift the cup, with Liverpool 7/4.
If both teams make it through to a Wembley showdown, Arsenal’s price is unlikely to move while Liverpool’s may go ever so slightly shorter, so the value punt might be on the Reds if you think they can overcome some recent bogey form with Aston Villa. The bottom line would be not to worry too much about the run in to the semi-final – the next 180 or so minutes are all that count.