FA Cup tips: 14-time winners Arsenal look a big price, while longshots Millwall could go deep

The Premier League clubs enter the FA Cup this weekend - Andy Schooler delivers his outright betting verdict on the 2021/22 competition.

The so-called Big Six had lifted the trophy 11 times out of 12 before Leicester's success last season.

Will there be another surprise again this year? Let's take a look at the main contenders - and those best-placed to spring a surprise.

Best bets for the 2021/22 FA Cup

Arsenal to win - 12/1

Wolves 40/1 E/W

Millwall 200/1 E/W

Manchester City

Vincent Kompany lifts FA Cup Man City May19

Odds (with Planet Sport Bet): 10/3

FA Cup form (last 10 years, most recent first): SF-SF-W-R5-SF-R5-R4-QF-RU-R3

Despite being English soccer's dominant force over the past decade and regularly going off as FA Cup favourites, City have lifted the famous trophy just once in the last 10 years (when they thrashed Watford 6-0 en route to the domestic treble in 2018/19).

Manager's record: In his five seasons in England, Pep Guardiola has been able to put out pretty strong teams in this competition, albeit he has always been blessed with great quality across his squad. He's often fielded star men when he might have rested them and while he's only won the cup once, his City have made the semis on four of five occasions so favourite backers seem likely to get a run for their money.

Priority list: As with virtually all the big clubs, the FA Cup will not be particularly high on the priority list. The Champions League remains elusive for City and that returns in February (the fifth round of the FA Cup is sandwiched by the two last-16 legs) and focus will be on that. City must also keep things ticking over in the Premier League - they are on course to defend their title having opened up a significant lead in recent weeks.

Third-round fixture: Swindon (away, Fri) - Going well in League Two but City rarely struggle in such games.

Chelsea

chelsea lift FA Cup May18

Odds: 11/2

FA Cup form: RU-RU-R5-W-RU-QF-R4-R5-SF-W

Chelsea have been a model of consistency in this competition, reaching four of the last five finals, albeit only one has been won. As shown above, they've lifted the FA Cup twice in the last decade.

Manager's record: Thomas Tuchel has only been in England a year but he made the FA Cup final in his first season, taking the competition pretty seriously with his team selections.

Priority list: Having fallen 10 points off the pace in the Premier League following a miserable December, it could be that Chelsea are out of the title race come the business end of the FA Cup tournament. However, they will hope their form has returned in time for the Champions League knockout stages - they will be determined to keep their grip on Europe's biggest prize.

The Blues are also still in the EFL Cup, the two semi-final ties come either side of this weekend's FA Cup opener so a weakened team can very much be expected on Saturday.

Third-round fixture: Chesterfield (home, Sat) - Top of the National League but any non-league side at home was to be considered ideal.

Liverpool

Steven Gerrard Liverpool FA Cup May06

Odds: 13/2

FA Cup form: R4-R5-R3-R4-R4-R4-SF-R5-R4-RU

Liverpool's recent record in this competition is frankly poor - just one final appearance (and no win) in the last decade. Indeed, you have to go back to 2006 for their last success. The last time they made the quarter-finals was 2015.

Manager's record: Jurgen Klopp took over at Anfield in 2015 and in his six FA Cup campaigns, the Reds have exited before the last 16 on five occasions. A fifth-round showing is Klopp's best with defeat suffered at the hands of Wolves (twice) and West Ham. Weakened sides have been the norm and it's hard to like them at the price.

Priority list: As suggested above, Klopp isn't too interested in the FA Cup and right now it has to be in position four of four. Liverpool will be genuine contenders for the Champions League when it resumes next month, while they certainly haven't given up hope in the Premier League (they are 11 points behind Man City with a game in hand).

The EFL Cup - a competition in which Liverpool have progressed despite lots of team changes - will surely take priority this week with the Reds facing Arsenal in the semis either side of their FA Cup opener.

Third-round fixture: Shrewsbury (home, Sun) - Mid-table League One sides are the sort even a Liverpool second-string should see off at Anfield.

Manchester United

David De Gea Man Utd FA Cup May16

Odds: 15/2

FA Cup form: QF-SF-QF-RU-QF-W-QF-R3-QF-R4

United's competition consistency, under a host of different managers, is noteworthy - they've made at least the quarter-finals in the last seven seasons, winning the trophy once.

Manager's record: Ralf Rangnick has made a name for himself without winning that much silverware and his only domestic cup success was in Germany with Schalke in 2011. Not long in the door at Old Trafford, he's already been grumbling about the English cups, suggesting the League Cup should be scrapped and welcoming the abolition of replays in this season's FA Cup. It would be no surprise to see him putting out fringe players.

Priority list: United sit only seventh in the Premier League and are once again facing a big fight to secure a top-four finish. The Champions League is also back next month so surely the FA Cup will be playing third fiddle.

Third-round fixture: Aston Villa (home, Mon) - Awkward. Villa won at Old Trafford in the league in September.

Arsenal

MIkel Arteta FA Cup Arsenal Aug20

Odds: 12/1

FA Cup form: R4-W-R4-R3-W-QF-W-W-R5-R5

Arsenal are the most successful club in FA Cup history, having lifted the trophy a record 14 times. More significantly in terms of this preview, they've won four of the last eight competitions - a superb strike-rate.

Manager's record: Mikel Arteta won the FA Cup twice as a player and in his two years at the helm, has already guided the club to victory as a manager, seeing off Chelsea in the 2020 final having beaten Man City in the semis. Likely to take things more seriously than some of his counterparts.

Priority list: Crucially, Arsenal do not have European soccer to contend with in the spring so they should be able to get this competition a proper crack. Yes, focus will be on the Premier League in which the Gunners currently sit fourth but their fixture schedule is unlikely to be anything like as packed as the other leading contenders. They are still in the EFL Cup though.

Third-round fixture: Nottingham Forest (away, Sun) - Tricky. Forest have picked up since Steve Cooper's arrival in September and famously beat the Gunners 4-2 at this stage four years ago.

Tottenham

Antonio Conte lifts FA Cup with Chelsea

Odds: 12/1

FA Cup form: R5-R5-R4-SF-SF-R5-R4-R3-R4-SF

The FA Cup, Tottenham, Chas 'n' Dave. That was the game when I was growing up in the 1980s but the fact is Spurs haven't been to the final of this competition since 1991. They have made three semi-finals in the last decade but it's a fairly unimpressive record for a club which has been consistently in Europe during that period.

Manager's record: Hard to fault. In his two previous seasons working in England, Antonio Conte reached two FA Cup finals, winning one. Maybe it was easier to progress with the greater squad depth he had at Chelsea though…

Priority list: As things stand, there's no Europe for Spurs - but backers should be aware Tottenham are still pondering an appeal which could see them reinstated in the Conference League. Whatever happens on that front, the Premier League will surely take primary focus - Spurs sit sixth, just two points outside the top four, having made major strides since Conte replaced Nuno Espirito Santo.

There's also the EFL Cup semi-final with Chelsea which will overshadow this weekend's FA Cup tie.

Third-round fixture: Morecambe (home, Sun) - A home tie against a side embroiled in the League One relegation fight looks ideal for Spurs to rest some players yet still progress.

Leicester

Youri Tielemans Leicester FA Cup May21

Odds: 16/1

FA Cup form: W-QF-R3-QF-R5-R3-R5-R3-R-4-QF

Not part of the traditional Big Six but have got in among those clubs in recent years, most notably in this competition last season. The holders have now made at least the quarter-finals in three of the past four seasons.

Manager's record: Like most managers at this level, Brendan Rodgers has looked to make changes in the FA Cup but he's done so without having to put out entirely new XIs, hence the results. Has safely negotiated the early rounds in both FA Cup campaigns to date with the Foxes.

Priority list: Will doubtless look to improve their league position over the second half of the season - they are currently 10th after a disappointing, injury-hit campaign thus far.

However, at present there looks a good chance they won't be battling for a top-four spot come the latter rounds of the FA Cup. The Foxes will, however, be back in European action next month just before the fifth round of this competition takes place.

Third-round fixture: Watford (home, Sat) - Draw could have been better but they are at home against a side likely to be more concerned with improving their worrying league form.

Verdict - Top pick

Emile Smith Rowe Bukayo Saka Arsenal Dec21

You'll hear plenty of talk of romance, but the big clubs have routinely won this competition for some time now and it makes strong sense to side with one of them.

I'll happily back Arsenal, who look chunky at 12/1.

They don't have the same quality as City and Chelsea but neither do they have the hectic fixture list of those clubs.

The Gunners have a boss who has already won the trophy as player and manager and a lack of European soccer means plenty of focus can be placed on the domestic cups - Arsenal have already made the last four of the EFL Cup.

Their form has been excellent for several months with a core of good young players, including Bukayo SakaEmile Smith Rowe and Kieran Tierney. That's before I mention Ben White and Aaron Ramsdale, both of whom have proved to be strong summer signings.

All things considered, Arsenal look worth backing to win this competition for what would be the fifth time in nine years.

Verdict - Outside chances

Wolves team with Bruno Lage Aug21

Next in the outright market are West Ham (22/1), who haven't won the FA Cup since Trevor Brooking's famous header in 1980 (look it up, youngsters).

David Moyes is a manager who has given the FA Cup plenty of respect over the years, making the final with Everton in 2009, but the Hammers will also be fighting in Europa and, they hope, for a top-four league finish.

Aston Villa (30/1), Brighton (33/1) and Crystal Palace (40/1) have all shown some good moments this season and it wouldn't be difficult to make a case for them enjoying a strong second half of the campaign.

However, all three have awkward away ties to negotiate in round three.

Newcastle (40/1) have a much kinder draw (Cambridge United at home) and with January signings likely in abundance, they will doubtless have their backers.

However, surely total focus at St James' Park will be on securing their Premier League status.

Wolves look a much better bet at the same price - odds of 40/1 don't appear to do their first half of the season form justice.

They've struggled for goals but have also been defensively very solid and that combination has seen them eke out plenty of good results.

They sit eighth in the Premier League ahead of third-round weekend with new boss Bruno Lage building some momentum.

He's already overseen wins over Manchester United and West Ham, while there was also a recent draw with European champions Chelsea.

Wolves won't be anywhere near the relegation scrap come March, while you wonder whether a potential Europa League/Conference League spot would be enough for Lage to be leaving too many out of FA Cup ties.

I guess Lage's attitude to the competition is the unknown but with a winnable home opener against Sheffield United in store, I believe Wolves are worth a tentative each-way bet at 40s.

Finally, for a real long shot, consider Millwall at 200/1.

OK, no Championship club has made the final since Cardiff in 2008 (Millwall did so before that in 2004) but the Lions have often punched above their weight in this competition and could do so again.

They host Crystal Palace this weekend in a south London derby which should get the juices flowing - and Millwall have beaten three Premier League sides in the FA Cup in the last five years, namely Everton, Leicester and Watford.

They've made two quarter-finals in that period and were also semi-finalists in 2013.

Millwall sit bang in mid-table in the Championship and while you are never that far away from potential success or failure in that division, they look more likely than anyone right now to see their league season peter out fairly early.

Yes, of course it's a long shot, but few teams at a three-figure price in this market have the FA Cup record of Millwall in recent years and some loose change on Gary Rowett's men may just reward.

READ MORE: Newcastle and Everton among five Premier League clubs who look ripe for an FA Cup giantkilling

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