It's Time for Premier League to Take the Carling Cup More Seriously

Controversy about fielding ‘weakened’ sides in the League Cup looks set to rage on after this weeks patchy results for Premier League teams. Increasingly it is starting to look like a very bad idea, not so much in principle because its good to give squad players a game and get some experience, but more because the simple fact is, most club’s reserve team players are, with a few exceptions, not really very good, certainly little better than the best players in the lower division as we have just witnessed.

Add to that the fact that you’re bringing them in to play in a line-up they have never played in before, playing a team that is often highly motivated and it’s often a recipe for humiliation.

Surely managers know this, so what exactly is the reason for sending out a so-called weaker side? Is it to rest the 1st team players? This seems odd in September as players haven’t played very much. Surely they can’t be tired already? Surely this is the extreme end of over-protection of players. They are fit, strong young men who have played at most five league games in the last seven weeks. They do not need resting, surely.

The argument that the League Cup is a good competition to blood youngsters and bring them on in form and experience is a much better one. However, it relies on the fans being complicit in the notion that the League Cup doesn’t really matter much so if the experiment fails, then no-one is that bothered.

However, while this notion was popular for a time amongst some sides, it is increasingly not the case. Increasingly, fans want to try and win some silverware, especially fans of non-Champions League teams. There are only three trophies to win for them; the league is almost certainly out of the question, so there are just the two cups. Why not try and win them with your best side? Surely it’s better to field a weaker side in a league game because you have 38 games to rescue your season but only one chance to win a cup game.

And anyway, the League Cup is a fine competition to compete for. I loathe this scaling up or down of competitions as more or less ‘important.’ If clubs lose interest in competing for trophies and settle merely for trying to preserve their league status, then the whole point of the game is undermined.

It’s not so much the losing that should hurt today for the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City but rather the fact that they have exited a competition with a whimper purely through poor team selection and false notions of priority.

The weakened team is a fashion that has had its day. It disrespects the competition, the fans and indeed, football itself.

17 thoughts on “It's Time for Premier League to Take the Carling Cup More Seriously”

  1. I think it depends on the side. United tend to play younger players and experiment in the League Cup, but have still had tremendous success. As a fan, I like getting the chance to see a Bebe get a run out and would have liked to see Eikram get some time as well.

    However, if I were a supporter of a team that hadn’t won anything in a while (cough), I’d be very frustrated fielding a weaker side and getting knocked out early.

    1. Yeah it’s great that United won with such younger players as Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, and Michael Owen. If only they brought Neville and Giggs out they could have played the U-21’s.

        1. Of course you’re right. It’s nice that they enjoy the bench rather than the opportunity to play somewhere else full time. But hey, money talks.

  2. But why is it “a fine competition to compete for?”

    And why on Earth would you risk injury to a first-team player in this competition if you are fighting for CL, Europa League, top 6 finish, or fighting off relegation?

  3. I don’t care about the League Cup. I was unhappy when Harry risked Lennon and some others in such a meaningless game. I’d much rather see the younger players run out there.

    1. You’re just upset b/c you can picture the lost DVD-sales revenue for Spuds. Here’s to continued success against Spuds this year! Harry isn’t fit to hold Arsene’s jock

  4. I think that you are looking at tiredness too narrowly. As I read the “surely” paragraph, the idea seems to be that resting is a reaction to tiredness that has developed over past games. Now, I do think that players might be tired at the outset of a season when they haven’t found their legs (on analogy with difficulties at the beginning of a run vs a few miles in), but that’s still only half of the story.

    Tiredness is also a proactive move. Champions League clubs know they have more important fixtures in the league and CL, and that they want their players to be fresh then. A few extra days off midweek now can mean fresher legs then (note also that tiredness is scalar, not binary). Further, it can help prevent injuries, fresher players tend to injure themselves less often than tired ones. High caliber clubs resting players has more to do with the next few matches than with the previous few.

  5. How about the competition is only open for teams that didn’t qualify for Europe?

    *BOOM* problem solved.

    Oh, and this year is an anomaly. The Big Four would put weakened teams out in years past, but would win. A lot.

  6. I know this is probably the wrong post to ask this, but what was up with the stream of the fixture last night on There was no commentary and worse there was no score listed. It made viewing the game difficult unless you were able to sit and follow the entire match. For me, with two young children, ages 3 & 10 months, I don’t have thy luxury. I usually have to keep the match running and follow passively.

    Do you know if will make these changes for the next set of Carling Cup ties?

  7. Perhaps the top four may field weakened teams but for everybody else in the Premier League it’s going to be their only real shot at silverware and getting into Europe. And it’s always great to see the big boys fall to smaller clubs, whatever the competition. Everton are licking their wounds after they fielded their first team and lost to Brentford.

  8. “The Carling Cup is not our priority. We have a very big game this weekend. We wanted to give an opportunity to our young players to improve their skills and rest some of the first-team players. I am not so disappointed.

    “We did our best. I am disappointed for the result because we conceded four goals but the performance was good.”

    — Carlo Ancelotti

    That right there tells you that the Cup is not considered important and maybe shouldn’t even involve the clubs who qualify for Europe. I think that’s an excellent suggestion.

  9. I am stealing this from 7AMkickoff but it sums it up best

    “It’s just down to finances, pure and simple. Winning the League Cup carries prize money of just £100,000. Second place? £50,000. I don’t have to tell you that £100,000 is not even enough money to cover one week of Mario Ballotelli’s salary, much less pay for an entire team of mercenaries like Manchester City.”

  10. I think it’s a tad over the top to say “most club’s reserve team players are, with a few exceptions, not really very good, certainly little better than the best players in the lower division”. There’s a huge gulf in talent between a Premier League team’s reserves…Liverpool’s team last night had five full internationals, four of whom played at the World Cup. One shock upset doesn’t change that.

  11. It’s time for MLS clubs to take the US Open Cup seriously….
    wait, oh…..

    From what I have seen, cup competitions are sagging around the world. If the sponsors were to be as equally behind a cup as they are a league, then you would see an influx of teams trying harder for the cash. What’s the incentive? Why get fixture congestion, lose a big player, etc. It’s until the gains outweigh the losses is when you will see stronger sides.

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