The FA Cup third round takes place over the coming days as English football’s biggest clubs enter the competition.
The draw has thrown up some fascinating fixtures, from potential giant killings, to rivalries resumed, and a glamour tie between two of the favourites in North London.
Ahead of the FA Cup third round, we’ve looked at five talking points.
Has Postecoglou learned his lesson?
Ange Postecoglou has done plenty right since arriving at Tottenham in the summer. The former Celtic boss has had a positive start in the Premier League, with his instant implementation of eye-catching football and down-to-earth demeanour proving popular.
Among his early mistakes, however, was a meek exit from the Carabao Cup in August. A heavily-rotated side crashed out of cup competition on penalties at Fulham, ending an opportunity to win long-awaited silverware at the first hurdle. Given the club’s lack of European football this season, it was a puzzling decision to go understrength at Craven Cottage.
The defeat at Fulham might just have taught Postecoglou lessons about the depth of his squad, as a side without Son Heung-min, James Maddison, Cristian Romero, Destiny Udogie, Guglielmo Vicario, Dejan Kulusevski and Yves Bissouma from the start suffered early elimination.
If there’s one thing that could make Postecoglou even more popular at Spurs, it’s a trophy. Yes, Champions League qualification is important for long-term progress, but cup wins are the memories the supporters really cherish. Spurs, who host Burnley in a potential banana skin on Friday evening, need a better showing in the FA Cup.
Injuries, admittedly, have altered his hand in recent weeks, but Postecoglou should go for the best available.
Maidstone United look to continue fairytale run
Maidstone United are the lowest-ranked team remaining in the FA Cup, having reached the third round for the first time in the club’s history. Bivesh Gurung’s goal secured the sixth-tier side a shock win over League Two high-flyers Barrow in round two, to set up a third-round tie at home to Stevenage.
The League One promotion chasers will represent another step up in opposition for Maidstone, who are under the management of former Wolves left-back George Elokobi.
— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) December 2, 2023
The club’s cup run has been a welcome boost to a side who were relegated from the National League last season. Gallagher Stadium will be eyeing another cup upset this weekend.
Sunderland smell blood in long-awaited Tyne-Wear Derby
Rivalries resume in the North East for the first time in seven years this weekend, as Sunderland host Newcastle in an FA Cup Tyne-Wear Derby.
The former’s relegation from the Premier League in 2016 has prevented their rivalry from being regular in recent seasons, but the timing of this weekend’s showdown has set the stage perfectly for the latest instalment.
Newcastle are ravaged by injuries and on a wretched run of form, losing seven of their last eight games in all competitions. Sunderland, meanwhile, are in the Championship play-offs and pushing for promotion back into the top tier.
— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) January 2, 2024
Michael Beale has overseen a positive start as Sunderland’s new manager, taking seven points from the last nine available after a home defeat to Coventry in his first game in charge.
Sunderland’s young side will be confident of an upset in what promises to be a raucous Stadium of Light. Jack Clarke has began to fulfil his potential with the Black Cats after struggling at Tottenham, while Jobe Bellingham – the younger brother of Real Madrid superstar Jude – has impressed since arriving from Birmingham in the summer.
Giants collide at the Emirates
Arsenal face Liverpool in the headline tie of the third round, an early meeting between two teams considered among the favourites for FA Cup success. While groans will have been made by an all-Premier League tie at this stage, it’s a fixture to whet the appetite as the title-chasing teams meet in cup competition.
It will be the second of three meetings between the sides in six weeks, with the first having ended in a 1-1 draw at Anfield in the Premier League on December 23. Arsenal have wobbled since that result, with back-to-back defeats to West Ham and Fulham having allowed Liverpool to overhaul them at the top of the Premier League table.
🔴🔝 Liverpool are 2 points clear at the top of the Premier League after Arsenal’s loss to West Ham! 📊 pic.twitter.com/DKSjVtIDX4
— EuroFoot (@eurofootcom) December 28, 2023
How each manager approaches the game will be fascinating, with Liverpool lacking defensive cover and waving off Mohamed Salah and Wataru Endo for international commitments.
Arsenal, meanwhile, are struggling in the final third with Gabriel Marinelli and Bukayo Saka struggling to replicate the performances of last season. A chance to change perhaps, with the likes of Emile Smith Rowe and Leandro Trossard among those awaiting a chance.
Could an outsider triumph?
The cup competitions in English football have been dominated by the ‘Big Six’ since the turn of the century, with just seven teams outside that group – Leicester (2), Blackburn, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth, Birmingham, Wigan and Swansea – having tasted cup success in 48 finals since 2000.
With an ever-increasing focus on the Premier League and Champions League, could the sadly evident devaluing of the FA Cup from England’s elite allow an outsider a chance this season?
The #EmiratesFACup third round TV picks have been selected! 📺
— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) December 7, 2023
Aston Villa have been among the most impressive teams in the Premier League this season, but lasted secured a major trophy in 1996. For West Ham, their wait ended with Europa Conference League triumph last season, though it’s been 44 years since the Irons last won this competition.
Everton (1995) and Newcastle (1955) have also each endured agonising waits for domestic trophies, while what about Brighton? The Seagulls have broken uncharted territory this season with an impressive run in their maiden European campaign, but have never before won a major trophy.
Fulham, Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Brentford are also among the top-flight clubs to have never claimed major silverware.