The League Cup has long been considered the scrawny cousin of the FA Cup and in many respects that is true. It certainly doesn’t hold the same prestige as its older relative and it does not allow for teams such as Havant & Waterlooville to travel to Anfield and give the boys on Merseyside a scare.
This has caused it to lose a little bit of its panache in the last few years as the top clubs use it as a competition to rest players and give young starlets a chance. That doesn’t seem that big a problem when you consider it gives other teams a chance to succeed such as Birmingham City in 2011, Middlesbrough in 2004 or even Tottenham in 2008. It also does not seem to have affected the bigger teams too much in recent years with Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea all winning in the last ten years on numerous occasions.
The worry has arisen when teams such as Southampton for example rest their entire first-team squad almost in a deliberate attempt to exit the completion and throw all focus into staying in the Premier League. Some have called for it to be scrapped as it takes up precious time in a busy schedule and ‘nobody takes it seriously’ anyway.
This week the League Cup has fought back.
Never in the history of the FA or League Cup has a team scored five goals and still gone out of the competition but at the Madejski Stadium Arsenal’s forgotten men Andrei Arshavin, Maraoune Chamakh and Theo Walcott (with a little help from their friends) suddenly remembered that they are actually very good at football and helped inspire Arsenal to a 7-5 win in Berkshire. The Royals were left rueing defeat in perhaps on the most entertaining games in football history.
Then last night Chelsea and Manchester United played out a massive grudge tie that saw another nine goals netted as The Blues overcame United and their youthful centre-back pairing in a 5-4 victory. Add to this League Two side Bradford City making the quarter-finals of the competition and Leeds United’s continued resurgence via Neil Warnock in the competition and few can deny that the League Cup is certainly regaining its electricity. While the ‘Alan Hansen’ types out there will be mystified at how one can be pleased with 37 goals in just eight fixtures there is little doubt that it was thoroughly entertaining stuff.
The League Cup has bit back this week and if the quarter-finals are half as good as the Fourth Round then we are in for some more entertaining football.
Here is the draw for the Carling Cup Quarter-Finals…
Leeds United v Chelsea
Swansea City v Middlesbrough
Norwich City v Aston Villa
Bradford City v Arsenal
Should be a cracking round of games once again.
image: © joncandy