With Accrington Stanley narrowly beating Boreham Wood this week, Leeds United learned their opponents for Saturday’s FA Cup fourth round. A winnable tie, for sure, but is FA Cup progression beneficial to the Whites?
A chance to push forward
Leeds have won the FA Cup on one occasion, in 1972, but have in recent years have had a poor run in the competition. According to transfermarkt, the side have failed to reach the fourth round for the last five seasons running. This season the team have managed to reach that elusive round and so many would argue that Leeds need to take this opportunity seriously, as Accrington are a favourable tie and a realistic opportunity to reach the fifth round for the first time since the 15/16 season. While this season has been pretty forgettable for Jesse Marsch’s side in terms of the league, this weekend offers a slice of positivity for the club looking forward. The cup, as many know, does not hold the same allure as it has in the past, but getting deep into such a historic competition could give Marsch a chance to build the confidence of many players that could be carried into the Premier League.
Progression – Could it affect the league?
Progressing deep into the competition does mean more fixtures for the squad to endure, which could have a detrimental effect on the team when it comes to fitness. The Premier League is obviously the priority for the team, with the Whites sitting in 15th, just one point away from the relegation zone. Could the cup run prove a distraction, and could it put players at risk? As we saw against Cardiff, Summerville picked up an injury which ruled him out for a significant amount of time. Playing these extra games only heightens the chance that players are ruled out via injury which could prove to be an issue going forward in the league.
Prepared – Are Leeds in a position to battle on both fronts?
As we have seen with this January transfer window so far, the board have backed Marsch with the signings of Wöber and Rutter, both of whom have added depth and quality to the squad. As a result of this, the Whites should have enough depth to be able to compete in two competitions and succeed. The FA cup allows a perfect opportunity to integrate young players into the side, and has proven fruitful for players like Sonny Perkins, who netted against Cardiff to secure a third round replay. One of the strengths of Leeds in recent seasons has been the development of young players, with established youngsters such as Joe Gelhardt and Sam Greenwood proving that. Extra games in the cup mean more opportunities to play young talents, and for those breaking into the first team already, like Wilfried Gnonto, added time to gain confidence playing at a high level.
A great prospect – progression in the cup
While the discussion of the importance of cup competitions is unlikely to end any time soon, it is safe to say that Leeds United have a fantastic opportunity to right the wrongs of recent FA Cup history and progress far into the competition. The club have many young players to call to and give them valuable experience that can be carried over to the Premier League, as well as giving more senior players a chance to gain confidence again on the field; something severely lacking this campaign.