Clubs, nowadays, play in a lot of different tournaments each season, and they try to sort their way through all of it with at least one trophy. That is, at the bare minimum, the expectation of the ‘big four’ in English football (i.e. Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Manchester United). And after the appointment of Jürgen Klopp, we could even add Liverpool to that list.
Clubs are picking and choosing competitions because they do have a very busy calendar year, and it is very unlikely that their strongest starting eleven will remain fit if they do start in every match in every competition. It would just be cruel, from a manager’s perspective, if the owners made you start your ‘superstar’ starters, so to speak, every game for the sake of entertainment and competitive edge.
Furthermore, this would mean that there would be even fewer opportunities for the youth to foster, and thus, if you want to look at this in the long term, it will mean that the overall footballing quality will decrease. To make this more understandable, let’s put it this way: If a youngster doesn’t get his chance when he feels that he can make the most of it, then as he gets older, he will suffer from the lack of experience, and eventually, lose confidence in his own ability to perform. Thus subsiding into the aforementioned end-result.
So, what clubs have started doing is add more depth and quality to their squads, as they all realized that the whole season, put into perspective, is actually a marathon instead of a 100m sprint. But since that is actually very hard for English clubs to do due to the competition that they face from their neighbors, courtesy of the Premier League, they opt to play their youngsters in games that are either easy wins or doesn’t matter’s. The number of competitions is rarely scarce for even the worst team in the Premier League, such as Aston Villa currently, who have participated in three so far.
Clubs generally divide the competitions based on two main elements:
- Sentimental Value – What it means in terms of publicity, global popularity, and how the players connect and feel about it. The UEFA Champions League would be a good example in this case as it has often paid dividends in a player signing for a particular club that plays in this competition as opposed to another club that doesn’t play in this competition, but was willing to offer more money.
- Monetary Value – The prize money that a club gets when they play in a certain tournament. Often, some competitions have a payout exponentially larger than others. The above mentioned UEFA Champions League and the Premier League, with its new TV-rights deal, are perfect examples in this regard.
And so, when one looks at it, and I mean really takes a hard look at it, the big four are more than justified for their lack of focus in the competition that is probably third on their priority list (the FA Cup). Though given that it is the job of every football club to entertain fans, we should, in a sense, try to live with the fact that clubs are going to field the youth in cup games that are really resting times for the first-team starters. And though the FA Cup has a high sentimental value to the fans, football, in the end, is a business.
So, as supporters, when we do see our clubs prioritizing the FA Cup, it means either one of two things: 1. They have no hope of finishing in a respectable position in their first two priorities (Prem and Champs. League), or 2. They are destined for greatness and desire to win the treble. In that sense, you, as a fan, should either be very concerned or very pleased with the way your club is doing.