For a number of years now, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has stated that the Carling Cup doesn’t particularly mean much to him in the bigger picture, using the competition as a way for the Frenchman to give his up and coming youth talent some much needed first team competition.
However, while the 60 year old has failed to bring any silverware to the Emirates in the last 5 years, he seemingly played a master stroke in not only enhancing the quality of the young players coming through the ranks of high level clubs through their selection, but also increasing the level of competition in each tie, enhancing the overall spectacle of the competition in the process.
Tuesday nights North London derby seemingly epitomised this philosophy as, although there were a number of experienced players in both the Arsenal and Tottenham ranks, both managers seemed to favour giving their inexperienced contingent a chance to show what they can do at the highest level.
Other top level clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool have also used this seasons competition to give their reserve players much needed experience and a substantial confidence boost and while some have had more disappointing results than others, the overall benefits for both the clubs and their young players can be but only a positive factor as the season wears on.
However one particular instance which has left many are questioning the squad selection, is that of Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson, whose side suffered a surprised home defeat, losing to Northampton Town on penalties. While the side put out by Hodgaon was missing the notable names of Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Joe Cole and Jamie Carragher, with David Ngog, Milan Jovanovic and Ryan Babel in the starting XI, the Reds should have had more than enough to see off lowly Northampton.
The issue for many came not in the former Fulham manager’s starting XI but his choice of substitutes, which contained very little first team experience and it was hard to see how their presence could have drastically changed the game should they have been called upon to do so.
While there are definitely positives from the squad rotation, fans and media pundits argue that with teams fielding second and third string sides in the early stages of the cup, it almost disrespects the league cup as a whole as well as the other teams involved. Yet, while many lower end league clubs wish to see the biggest names in England grace their respective grounds, I’m sure most of them (if not all) would rather their team was able to be competitive in their ties.
This mentality by the Premier League elite in fielding either young players or players looking for match fitness, seems to be a mutually beneficial process for the English game as a whole and while some teams would no doubt have much more success if they fielded their star XI, the omission of some of the first team regulars in this competition will seemingly give the players a chance to rest, ensuring they can give their all in what the fans and players see as more important endeavours such as the league and European success.
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