Wholesale changes have been subject to debate and discussion by pundits, press and managers alike, with mainly negative connotations and concerns. ‘Devaluing the competition’ or ‘playing fringe players’ are two terms that are rolled out regularly!
Eddie Howe positions and promotes the League Cup team selection in a very different way, extolling the opportunities and virtues to players. This philosophy was proven to be successful and fruitful in last season’s completion, where they reached the quarter finals, as a Championship team. Beating West Bromwich Albion in the 4th round, before losing narrowly to Liverpool in round five.
Throughout this successful League Cup run, Eddie Howe regularly selected players who hadn’t played regularly in Championship fixtures, as well as players from the AFC Development squad. Publically Howe stated that League Cup fixtures offered players the opportunity to impress him and provide him a selection headache. Subsequently performances and results were impressive throughout both the League Cup and FA Cup fixtures.
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So team selection for the away trip to League One Hartlepool United for this season's League Cup was much anticipated and discussed by AFC Bournemouth fans throughout the day.
Howe named his team and gave competitive debuts to new signings Federici, Distin, Mings and Atsu. Alongside regular Premier League substitutes Smith, Gosling, MacDonald and Kermorgant.
Match reports for the team and individual performances were full of praise, in a great 0-4 away win. With two goals from Junior Stanislas, as well as eye-catching performances from Tyrone Mings, Slyvan Distin and Lee Tomlin, will give Eddie Howe food for thought before this weekend’s Premier League home fixture against form team Leicester City.
So has Eddie Howe struck on a simple effective formula for team selection and motivation?
Regulars who are picked for Premier League fixtures get a rest, playing one game a week. With squad players getting playing team with the incentive and opportunity to impress.
Finally the fans get to see a positive cup run and to assess how effective, positive or focused squad players are.
With a small squad last season, Eddie Howe’s team selection saw them promoted to the Premier League as Championship champions, reach the quarter finals of the League Cup and the 4th round of the FA Cup, where they lost narrowly away at Aston Villa.
Inspired management or clever squad motivation? You decide!