Football

'Lack of respect' for cup competitions not the sole reason behind makeshift starting XI's

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Every year there is a debate regarding League and FA Cup games about clubs and managers not taking them seriously, exemplified by the fact that first teams are often changed two to the dozen from the ones that compete in the league fixture before.

And this is not only reduced to the Premier League clubs - more and more managers in the lower leagues are employing the same tactic in the hope or conviction that by doing this they are pretty much guaranteed to be fresher for the next league game.

Top-flight clubs, especially the ones involved in Europe, are often derided for 'disrespecting' the cups by playing 'weakened' teams - using that term is pretty disrespectful in itself - but it was the mid-table hopefuls and Championship clubs that ringed the most changes.

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For their League Cup matches last week, West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City dropped ten and seven of their players who had started their previous games respectively, whilst second-tier sides Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town rotated ten and 11 players each (dis)respectively.

However, when one compares the teams put out by Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United last Tuesday and Wednesday, they were a bit more 'respectful' overall than the likes of West Brom, Norwich, Wednesday and Ipswich, which comes as a surprise.

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This is despite the fact that the Premier League's top four all have Champions League bouts to consider - in a sense, they have every right to chop and change their sides, yet they still fielded players whom you'd expect to turn out in league matches.

Club bosses trot out the same excuse of resting players as preparation for the 'more important' league and/or European fixtures coming up, but one thing that is rarely - if ever - mentioned is that it changes are made simply to keep fringe players happy. 

Managers probably told around 90-per-cent of their squad individually when they signed them that they would be regulars, which is often far from the case.

In the days of one or no substitutions and smaller squads, managers had no choice but to play their strongest XI. As we know, that is no longer the case and although players know that it's a team game now, most will not accept, in their own minds at least, that they have a smaller part to play than others.

And even so, only three substitutes can be used, so taking the first 11 and the three subs into consideration, there could potentially be another 11 other players who will hardly feature, if at all.

Could it be the case that some managers are changing so many players around for fear of having a mutiny on their hands?

All teams should go for every competition, and if players are showing no signs of injury and tiredness then play them as much as one can without the assumption that they will suffer from these afflictions later on.

But maybe it's afflictions of another kind that is affecting who plays when and where.

This might sound naive to suggest in the cut-throat world of football, but for instance, if a side plays their number two or three goalkeeper in the cup and they reach the latter stages, including the final, then the manager usually sticks by that man. So despite the modern perception of a selfish business, there is still loyalty to the players from the manager, human to human.

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