I don’t know what to make of the League Cup right now. Fans seem delighted to win it, but then it doesn’t ruin their weeks if they are knocked out in the early stages. That’s a good thing.
But then, top Managers don’t seem to care despite what they may tell you. Home fans aren’t particularly bothered, and the noise (or lack of) from the home end at Anfield yesterday qualifies that.
It is though a good opportunity for younger fans to get tickets and has become an opportunity for families to visit at affordable prices, which is a good thing too of course, although the late finishes, especially if there is extra time, can be a problem for them as much as it can cause travel chaos for all fans particularly away fans who have long journeys back to their home town.
The opportunity for a wider net of teams to have a shot at reaching a major Wembley final is a great thing for football, as teams capitalise from some of the bigger sides fielding weakened teams.
That benefit has a flip side to it…
When 21 of the 22 starters of a match were not selected to start by their managers on the previous Premier League weekend the tournament can only be seen at that moment to be taking another knock.
I was at Anfield last night watching Liverpool Vs Tottenham and aside from Liverpool going through I’m struggling to understand much else either side got from the game.
The Anfield ‘Scarf Show – De Luca’
The positives will be of course that it gives a runout to squad players and the old favourite ‘a chance to see some of the younger players’. The latter is becoming overused and I’m not sure of the value a manager gets from seeing them in this environment.
From a Tottenham perspective last night, 8 of the starting 11 were under the age of 23. So you could argue that’s a positive if you wanted provided they put in a reasonable display. What we learned yesterday is that Spurs have 5 or 6 fringe players in the squad who are decent enough footballers, based on the possession statistics and some of the parts of the game where they were able to keep the ball for periods. Great. I’d expect that from a squad player of a top 6 club anyway.
I assume though that when a younger player is thrown into this competition that a manager is looking to see how close they are to being ready for the bigger games and bigger tournaments. Which leaves my question…How can he establish that when the opponents are reserves or a lower division side too? And also, his teammates will all be of lesser quality than the players he would be surrounded by if he ever needed to be thrown in.
How does that affect his level of performance?
Josh Onomah for example had comfortably the worst game I’ve seen him play for Tottenham, has he sunk to the level of his team mates and opposition on the night? Or is he actually not that good after all? The manager can’t know after last night so is it a pointless experiment?
I was looking forward to seeing Carter-Vickers in the flesh, a highly-rated youngster with a possible great future ahead. What I saw though was an entirely changed back 4, with him paired with Kevin Wimmer who has not played all season either. How do I know then who was really at fault for a horrific defensive display in which Tottenham were carved open several times and struggled massively when asked to play out of the back? How then does Pochettino?
Surely there would be more benefit in making just 3 or 4 changes and seeing the player in the environment they may find themselves in of they were called upon? Tottenham’s best chance of silverware each season is the league cup, that’s a fact. Liverpool’s too. The same for every team in fact. It was the only trophy Manchester City picked up last season for example. I can’t help but feel last night was a surrender of a trophy opportunity by Tottenham but not a lot gained in return in terms of knowledge or valuable experience.
Liverpool won the match last night and deservedly so and the difference was the one player of genuine quality on the pitch who could get into most teams in Europe’s match day squads although bizarrely doesn’t seem to be wanted at Liverpool.
The league cup a useful platform for him to remind his manager of his quality.
The League Cup is a great opportunity for so many positives for a lot more teams and it would be nice to see the FA and the clubs work together, make some rule changes and commitments around squads, ticket pricing and scheduling, to make the most of a rare opportunity in football where everyone at all levels of the club, and the fans, can benefit, enjoy the game and not feel the lasting pain of a defeat.
The League cup can be a great tournament, for more clubs, for more fans, for more players and for the future of football. Without closing the opportunities for smaller clubs to compete, the people at the top of the game should pledge to do more to make it so.
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