Tonight sees teams in cup action around the UK as both the English Capital One and Scottish Communities League cup take centre stage. Generally considered the lesser of the domestic cup competitions, both north and south of the border, many of the bigger sides have treated their participation with less care in recent years. However, with the pressure to win a trophy intensifying on some clubs, could drastic squad rotation provide too much risk of an early exit?
By Marc Eadie – @Eadie84
Arsenal are notorious for fielding a young side in the League cup. With Champions League matches spread between a calendar of Premier League and FA cup games, not to mention the half-dozen or so internationals that encroach on a season, it’s not difficult to see why managers like Arsene Wenger sacrifice the Capital One cup. But is it a sacrifice worth making? The Premier League is so strong that there are no longer two or three sides challenging for honours but a solid five, six, even seven, and as such the value of a trophy of any sorts surely increases.
I still expect Arsenal to ring the changes for their trip to Reading tonight but it can depend on the fixture. For example, take Chelsea, who host Manchester United in their fourth round tie only three days after a controversial clash with the Red Devils; revenge must be on the agenda after the 3-2 defeat and not knowing what side the opposition will field can Roberto Di Matteo really risk playing a weaker side which could not only be defeated, but annihilated?
The draw itself very much dictates team selection too. Take Rangers and their home tie against Inverness in the Scottish Communities League cup. This, for Rangers as a third division club, is one of their hardest matches so far this season and gives them a genuine chance to continue their pursuit of a trophy – something that would be unattainable for any other side in their division. Similarly, Inverness, although an SPL side, will see the opportunity of eliminating Rangers – who are still recognised as a ‘big club’ in Scotland – as a massive coup and would put them one step closer to a rare trophy. As a result I’d expect both sides to field their strongest sides.
While squad rotation can be key if not pivotal to a successful team over the course of a season, the margins between success and failure have reached a point where it can take only a handful of bad results to see a manager out the door. Many may still perceive the League cups as less meaningful or worthwhile but a harsher reality may be that on an increasingly competitive playing field no one is exempt from passing up the chance to win a trophy, whatever it’s significance.
If you were a manager would you use the cup competitions to rotate your squad? Has this been part of the reason why certain competitions have lost their appeal in the football calendar? Tweet us @talkingbaws or comment below. Watch out for Nicky Boyle’s blog tomorrow.