This week saw midweek games played in the Capital One Cup – a great competition that gives lesser teams a chance to win some silverware.
I previously questioned the mentality of English players when it comes to playing for the national side, but I now turn my attention to just how much players within top sides value competitions like the Capital One Cup.
Lack of motivation
The bigger teams clearly have a bundle of talent within their squad, meaning they can afford to rotate their sides. Managers are always attempting to stress the fact that they are taking the competition seriously, but are they really?
This week saw the holders Manchester City crash out of the competition after a 2-0 defeat against a resurgent Newcastle side. Chelsea managed to scrape through against League Two opposition Shrewsbury, but they left it late. Both sides rotated their squads heavily, but still featured the likes of Oscar, Petr Cech, Yaya Toure and David Silva respectively.
However, none of the big stars really stood out from the crowd; hardly putting in the usual top performances that you would expect to see in a Premier League or Champions League game. So does the Capital One Cup really motivate the modern day player? Or is it just a minor competition, getting in the way of the real big prizes?
The prize money for the Capital One Cup is around £100,000 for the winners and half of that for the runner-ups; a mere smidge when compared to the £2 million received for winning the FA Cup, so it is easy to see why clubs may not put in as much effort to win the competition.
When managers rotate their sides, they lose a bit of their togetherness, as players play alongside different team-mates to those they are used to. This is especially crucial for Chelsea, who included two under-21 players in their squad. With players featuring who may not be quite up to speed, due to the lack of game time and the mix of young and senior players, ultimately it leads to a slower and sloppier team performance.
Chelsea went into Tuesday’s clash at Shrewsbury having played Manchester United only two days earlier, on Sunday. They then face Queens Park Rangers on Saturday before Maribor in the Champions League the following week. Four games in just under two weeks is a busy schedule for any team.
With so many games in such a short space of time, there is a high risk of injuries. Whilst wanting to be competitive in all competitions, managers also want to rest players for the ‘bigger’ games. This was clear in Manchester City’s game against Newcastle – both David Silva and Yaya Toure had to be substituted through injuries. At the time they were unsure of the severity of the injuries, but it still isn’t an ideal situation for Manuel Pellegrini. With City at such a crucial time in their season, Pellegrini would have been hoping, more than ever, to come out of the game with a perfect healthy, injury-free squad.
Individuals looking to shine
By chopping and changing the side, it gives fringe players a chance to showcase their abilities and really give their managers something to think about. On the flip side, this can have a bad effect on your team’s performance. After watching Chelsea beat a well organised Shrewsbury side, it was clear to see that two players in particular were on solo missions. Both Andre Schurrle and Mohammed Salah have been on the fringes at Chelsea this season and struggled to cement a place in the side. You can’t knock a player for giving one hundred percent when they are given the opportunity, however, there were times during the game when the pair looked at if they were attempting to write headlines, with audacious shots from long range which rarely mounted to anything, rather than working to secure victory for the team.
Overall, I believe that the Capital One Cup provides lower Premier League teams, as well as lower league teams, a chance to grab some silverware. it can be very entertaining for the neutrals and a great way to showcase young talent. However, I do not believe that top four sides really value it as much as they claim to. Of course they want to be competitive, however, if, for example, Chelsea were to win the Premier League, but fail to clinch the Capital One Cup, would they really be all that bothered?