Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The League Cup is good

Tottenham v Arsenal in the league is an intense battle of North London rivalry, with abuse being thrown from the overpriced plastic seats, and the chance for a player to become a hero amongst their own fans, but also a villain to the opposition supporters.

Luckily for William Gallas, he probably won't play a part in tonight's League Cup encounter, so the main opportunities for terrace hatred will be in the form of David Bentley for the Arsenal fans and Arsene Wenger for the Spurs lot. Wenger may find himself closer to these fans than he had originally planned, with a possible touchline ban looming.

Apart from this, the players on show tonight will provide a different challenge for supporter abuse than a regular league match would, due to the fact that most supporters won't have seen them playing football before. There will probably be the usual collective shout of "Who?", when the teams are read out, which is usually reserved for a visiting European side bringing on their back up utility defender. Tonight sees a return to the League Cup which is often used by top managers, especially Arsenal, to field a reserve side, saving their stars for the more (financially) important competitions such as the Premier League and the European Cup. The fans will have to think of new songs quickly, and extra praise should go to any Spurs fans who manage to come up with an anti-Jay Emmanuel-Thomas ditty.


The Reserve, i mean League, Cup has been derided for this reason. Managers don't seem to take it seriously so why should anyone else? Why should fans fork out to watch the second string in a senior competition? Sandro, Jake Livermore, Carlos Vela, and the aforementioned Emmanuel-Thomas are several reasons why they should.

The harsh financial implications of not doing well in the league and not getting into Europe mean that managers won't take chances on young, up and coming players, in these competitions. Even if some of these players have been performing out of their skin in reserve football, it's still not worth the risk to most.

The League Cup provides an outlet for these players to show their skills and show that they merit first team football, and also provides fans with a glimpse into the future of their club. A lot of these players will become valuable additions to the first team in years to come, and will be more financially viable than chancing an import for £5-15m. It gives them experience of top level English football, and a good performance may mean they get a place on the bench for the next league game, which in turn could mean coming on for Fabregas when he injures himself in the act of scoring, or giving Ledley King's infamous knee that bit of extra rest.

Sometimes there is more excitement and unpredictability in this competition than there is in a regular season game, and more opportunity across the board for new players and new teams to experience some kind of success. Just look at the Chelsea versus Blackburn quarter-final from last year, which was one of the best games of the season.

Can't think of a song for Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.

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