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FA Cup shock-hunter - and 28/1 outsiders...

Thursday 7th January 2021

In Across the Leagues today:

  • FA Cup 3rd round…
  • The case for a surprise finalist…
  • Saints an outside chance… 

FA Cup shock-hunter – and 28/1 outsiders…

Earlier this week we mentioned the darts. Across the Leagues member Roger responded with a nice success story.

Roger did very well for himself at the PDC Championships over New Year…

“I made £2265 this year on the World Championships on pre-match picks … Lots of value about with all the different bookies and Betfair falling over themselves to offer markets, just like the football”

Well done Roger. Always great to hear a winning story like that!

FA Cup Preview…

Back to the football now. FA Cup 3rd round weekend is traditionally one of the highlights on the calendar…

Things are a lot different this year, though.

In a season like no other, the FA Cup 2020/21 perhaps demonstrates the changes and difficulties caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, more than any other competition.

No fans, and no replays. Some teams set to field an entire team of youth players (Derby County). Others unable to fulfil their 3rd round fixture this weekend at all (Shrewsbury).

It’s an ever-changing situation. Several of the 32 FA Cup 3rd round ties could fall by the wayside between now and the end of the weekend. And there’s always the possibility of postponements due to bad weather, too.

As it stands, it’s looking like clubs not able to field a team this weekend won’t have to automatically forfeit their place in the competition. In the case of Shrewsbury, that means their match at Southampton could be rearranged.

Matters become even more intriguing/ complicated with the news that next Monday evening’s 4th round draw will be a ‘double draw.’ With the ties pulled out the hat for the both the 4th and 5th rounds. Which is another change for the competition.

That being the case, we can revisit the FA Cup Outright Winner market next week, after the draw(s) have been made. With the unusual opportunity to map out a potential route through the next two rounds.

Saints an outside chance…

One team I want to get in the book before the weekend action though is Southampton. They tick a lot of boxes for me in terms of underdog potential:

A Premier League team from outside the ‘Rich Six’… doing well this season in the league (currently 6th, having just beaten champions Liverpool). And with no European cup commitments to attend to.

Since being humiliated 9-0 at home in the league to Leicester in October 2019, Ralph Hasenhutll’s team have regrouped fantastically…

Instead of that shocking 9-0 result spelling the beginning of the end for him and his crop of players, Saints used it as a turning point for the better. And things have certainly gone well on the pitch for Southampton as time has progressed since then…

They went on to finish a credible 11th in the table last season. With significant victories such as a 2-0 win at Chelsea, 1-0 v Tottenham, and a 2-1 revenge mission at Leicester. Capped of in July with a 1-0 win against Man City.

This week’s 1-0 win over Liverpool shows that Hasenhutll’s side have got the ability and confidence to take on the big boys right now. That’s a quality that could come in very useful in the settled-on-the-day setting of the FA Cup this season…

Add in the fact that striker Danny Ings – injury permitting – is in the goalscoring form of his life. Since trudging off the Saint Mary’s pitch after that 9-0 hammering at the hands of Leicester, Ings has scored in 23 out of 44 appearances for Southampton in all competitions.

With Ings up front, a world-class free kick taker in James Ward-Prowse, and Theo Walcott enjoying a great return to form, too. Southampton have plenty of ingredients to make them worthy contenders for an outsider run in the Cup this season. Odds of 28/1 and 25/1 tick that box for me.

And talking of ticking the boxes, here’s some of the ‘outsider ammo’ that gives us cause to go after such an underdog in the oldest cup competition of them all…

The case for a surprise finalist…

The last 10 FA Cup finals have seen plenty of appearances from the big boys, with the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Man Utd and Man City all lifting the trophy at least once.

However, the top clubs haven’t had it all their own way...

FA Cup Finalists

That table shows six ‘surprise’ finalists in the last 10 years. Equating to 30% of finalists in the last decade coming from outside the very top tier of the Premier League.

With that information in mind, let’s take a look at the general Outright Winner prices for this season’s competition…

FA Cup 2020/21 Outright Winner

The table above contains the 20 Premier League clubs.

In the 29 seasons since Sunderland lost to Liverpool in the 1991/92 final, only two clubs from outside the top-flight have made the final. Millwall were runners-up in 2003/04, and Cardiff beaten in the final in 2007/08.

History and logic say we should be looking for a Premier League outfit. But not necessarily one of the ‘Rich Six’ at the top of the betting list.

As well as Southampton (28/1), other teams that could fit the criteria include: Wolves (25/1), Everton (20/1), West Ham (40/1), and Villa (40/1).

The seven Premier League sides above those five in the table above are all still involved in numerous other battles this season: Premier League title race, Champions League or Europa League, and the EFL Cup final (Tottenham v Man City).

With the 2020/21 campaign already juggling a precariously busy fixture list, something’s got to give somewhere – even for the top clubs with deep squads, like Man City.

The FA Cup could be one area where value-hunting is rewarded this season…

I’m putting up Southampton at 28/1 and 25/1 Each Way today. And we’ll be looking again from Tuesday onwards next week, once the dust has settled on the 3rd round situation – and the draw has been made for the next two rounds.

Another reason to get on Southampton now is that, aside from waiting on the Shrewsbury situation in the 3rd round, there are three all-Premier League ties set to take place this weekend. Meaning that at least three fellow top-flight clubs will be out of contention come the 4th (& 5th) round draws next week:

Aston Villa v Liverpool
Wolves v Crystal Palace
Arsenal v Newcastle

If a big name like Liverpool or holders Arsenal fall, then the price on a Premier League outfit like Southampton is likely to tumble.

3rd round shock-hunter…

The FA Cup 3rd round is made up of 32 matches. This year 14 of those ties feature a Premier League club taking on lower-league opposition (see below).

I’ve gone through the historical stats to look at the strike-rate of results over the past five seasons.

The findings tell us that on average there have been five ‘shocks’ per year in the 3rd round – with a shock defined here as a Premier League side failing to win against a team from a lower division.

Here are the numbers:

2019/20:
15 Home Wins (47%)
8 Draws (25%)
9 Away Wins (28%)

Shocks: Crystal Palace 0 Derby County 1, Brighton 0 Sheffield Wednesday 1, Fulham 2 Aston Villa 1, Rochdale 1 Newcastle 1, Middlesbrough 1 Tottenham 1, Watford 3 Tranmere Rovers 3

2018/19:
18 Home Wins (56%)
4 Draws (13%)
10 Away Wins (31%)

Shocks: Fulham 1 Oldham 2, Newport County 2 Leicester 1, Bristol City 1 Huddersfield 0, Derby County 2 Southampton 2, Gillingham 1 Cardiff 0, Newcastle 1 Blackburn 1

2017/18:
14 Home Wins (44%)
8 Draws (25%)
10 Away Wins (31%)

Shocks: Nottingham Forest 4 Arsenal 2, Coventry 2 Stoke 1, Fleetwood 0 Leicester 0, Norwich 0 Chelsea 0, Bournemouth 2 Wigan 2

2016/17:
13 Home Wins (41%)
9 Draws (28%)
10 Away Wins (31%)

Shocks: Millwall 3 Bournemouth 0, Stoke 0 Wolves 2, West Brom 1 Derby County 2, Liverpool 0 Plymouth 0, Bolton 0 Crystal Palace 0, Norwich 2 Southampton 2

2015/16:
13 Home Wins (41%)
11 Draws (34%)
8 Away Wins (25%)

Shocks: Oxford 3 Swansea 2, Exeter 2 Liverpool 2, West Brom 2 Bristol City 2, Wycombe 1 Aston Villa 1

Combined, those last-five-seasons figures add up to:

Home Wins 46%
Draws 25%
Away Wins 29%

  • Average of 5 shocks in the 3rd round each season (win or draw) 

Note: This season, a full-time draw will go straight to extra time, and penalties if needed – rather than a replay.

Potential banana skins…

Last season there were 16 ties that pitched a Premier League side against a lower-league opponent. Six of them resulted in an upset, in the shape of three wins and three draws for the underdogs.

This year there are 14 ties that meet that Premier League v Football League/ Non League criteria…

If recent seasons are anything to go by, we can expect to see around a third of these ties produce an upset, which would be determined here by a lower-level side getting the win, or the full-time draw to force extra time:

Everton v Rotherham
Blackpool v West Brom
Bristol Rovers v Sheff Utd
Burnley v MK Dons
QPR v Fulham
Stoke v Leicester
Man Utd v Watford
Southampton v Shrewsbury
Chelsea v Morecambe
Crawley v Leeds
Man City v Birmingham
Marine v Tottenham
Newport County v Brighton
Stockport County v West Ham

Two that stick out there for me are Blackpool v West Brom, and Bristol Rovers v Sheffield United

West Brom are in a relegation fight in the Premier League. What team will new manager Sam Allardyce put out for the trip to League One side, Blackpool? The 90-minutes upset is 13/5 (3.6), and Blackpool are 6/4 (2.5) To Qualify.

Sheff Utd are also in big trouble, rock bottom of the Premier League – and winless after 17 games. With confidence at a serious low for the visitors, Bristol Rovers might sniff blood here. Rovers have won three of their last four games in League One. The home win is 7/2 (4.5), and Rovers are 2/1 (3.0) and 15/8 (2.88) To Qualify.

This is certainly not a normal 3rd round, which may dampen the historical stats listed above. But with everything going on right now, a few surprises can be expected once again, as well as a few postponements.

Those are my thoughts on the FA Cup, as we head into the 3rd round. The above analysis contains plenty of encouragement, if you’re in the mood for upset-hunting this weekend.

Today’s picks

FA Cup 2020/21

Outright Winner:

  • Southampton @ 28/1 Each Way with Skybet, 25/1 William Hill, Betfred, Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook, Betway, Boylesports, Ladbrokes, Coral

Each Way terms: 1/2 odds 1-2 places.

I’ll be back on Monday with a stats update, and a look at the upcoming fixture list.

Enjoy the football…

Best wishes,

Oliver Upstone

Oliver Upstone

Across the Leagues