Lies Damned Lies and Statistics

Friday, 11, April, 2014
The FA Cup trophy prior to the 2013 final

Benjamin Disraeli once said, “there are lies damned lies and statistics” but then again the FA Cup was only in its infancy when the famous politician and writer passed away in 1880 so perhaps the former Prime Minister had yet to appreciate their full value.

We prefer to look at things from the point of view of George Bernard Shaw who once said “the sign of a truly educated person is to be deeply moved by statistics.”

While we at WembleyStadium.com do not claim to be the ‘truly educated’ (my flapjacks were an epic failure in GCSE home economics) we do enjoy a good stat and believe them to be a window into the past and, occasionally a portent of what might be about to come.

So, with that in mind, let us take a statistical look at each of the four clubs involved in this weekend’s FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley.

Wigan Athletic 

Wigan are playing in only their second FA Cup semi-final - we won’t insult your intelligence by telling you when the other was.

The Latics are vying to become the seventh club to retain the trophy (Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Chelsea are the others in case you were wondering).

It has been 34 years since a team outside the top flight won the trophy, that was West Ham United, and Wigan will be hoping for a double success this year. The Latics are currently fifth in the Championship and are vying for an immediate return to the Premier League. Should they achieve a Cup and promotion double they would match the feat of West Bromwich Albion in 1931. The Baggies are the only side to have been promoted and lifted the FA Cup in the same season.

Unfortunately for Wigan they currently hold a far less admirable place in the history books as the only team to have won the FA Cup and been relegated in the same season.

If the holders are looking for lucky omens ahead of the weekend they have one in their ranks in the form of Jean Beausejour. The Chilean has won his last three games at Wembley Stadium for Chile, Birmingham and Wigan themselves.

Arsenal

By virtue of qualifying for this season’s FA Cup semi-finals Arsenal are already making history. They will compete in the last four of this famous old competition for the 27th time matching the current record holder Manchester United’s haul.

Arsenal’s tie with Wigan will, of course be settled on the day even if the match has to go all the way to penalties. However the Gunners were involved in the last FA Cup semi-final replay, not that they’ll thank us for reminding them of it. They lost that epic match in 1999 2-1 thanks to a magnificent solo Ryan Giggs strike. If it helps heal the wounds we just reopened by mentioning that particular night, Arsenal then went on to win three of the next six FA Cups after that season.

The Gunners have a couple of players boasting excellent FA Cup records, Per Mertesacker has never lost an FA Cup match, the big German having played in eight now.

Olivier Giroud is the Arsenal player who will probably be subtly mentioning his statistics to Arsene Wenger in the build up to Saturday’s clash. The French forward has scored three goals in just 42 minutes of FA Cup football this season!

Hull City

Hull, like Wigan, are appearing in just their second FA Cup semi-final but unlike the Latics Hull have had to wait much longer to reappear in the final four.

City’s last appearance came way back in 1930 when they took Arsenal to a replay before losing. For that reason they may be rather happy to have avoided the Gunners in this season’s draw.

Many may see Hull as favourites this weekend given they face League One opposition but few should underestimate the enormity of the achievement should the East Riding outfit make the final.

Hull have never made a major cup final in their 104 year history and, until recently, were the largest city in Europe never to have had a top flight football team. We imagine the Hull fans will see it as a matter of, one down, one to go!

Hull’s most prolific player in this season’s cup has been something of an unlikely hero.

Curtis Davies has hit two in three FA Cup games so far, to put that feat into perspective the defender hit two goals in three years as a West Bromwich Albion player between 2005 and 2008.

Sheffield United

Where to start with Sheffield United? The Blades could make so much history with a victory on Sunday against Hull.

A United win coupled with a Wigan win over Arsenal would result in there being no top flight team in the FA Cup Final for the first time ever.

However, regardless of whether the Latics can defeat the Gunners, the Blades can make history of their own.

No third tier side has ever made it all the way to the FA Cup Final although Plymouth Argyle came mighty close back in 1984 when Watford eventually saw them off in a tense game 1-0 at Villa Park. The Blades will look to go one better this weekend.

There have been sides from the third tier in the semi final since Plymouth. The most recent (prior to United getting there this season) was when Wycombe made the semi-final back in 2001 only to be beaten by Liverpool 2-1 at, again, Villa Park. The Blades will hope Wembley proves a luckier ground.

Sheffield United last made the FA Cup semi-finals back in 2003 when they were beaten 1-0 by Arsenal. Rumours are Paul Peschisolido still wonders how David Seaman kept out his late header to this day.

It’s a little longer since the Blades last made an FA Cup Final though, 78 years ago in fact. On that day United lost 1-0 to Arsenal thanks to a Ted Drake goal. Could they get the opportunity to get their revenge this season?