League Cup deserves champagne final

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Football News

In an ideal world, we'd like to think that every team that enters the Carling Cup has the honest intention of trying to win the competition.

Such is the fallacy of that statement, that it probably exists in the same world where we believe the recession will just 'go away' and that The Only Way is Essex holds genuine credence in our society.

The reality is the League Cup provides clubs with an unwanted distraction, and given that club's treat it with such derision, fielding weakened teams and whatnot, the fans are hardly drawn either.

For every team in the Barclays Premier League and the Football League, there is a bigger priority. European, play-off and relegation issues leave this competition as something of a side show.

However, if the competition does serve one purpose, it is that it provides some teams with the opportunity to regain some pride, and of course, win a trophy.

Of the 16 teams remaining, I feel there are two that are head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to desire and need to reach the showpiece in February, and furthermore, have the ability to produce a final fitting of Wembley.

Aldershot Town, the lowest ranked side remaining in the competition don't quite fall into this category. Now, I appreciate the 'need' of The Shots is perhaps greater than any of the rest, on a financial level as much as anything else.

A cup run all the way to Wembley for Dean Holdsworth's men would keep the club alive for the foreseeable future and help match the sizeable ambition for the Town manager.

But where would it leave their battle to stay in Npower League Two?

Not expected to be among the top seven come the end of the season, Aldershot will have designs on a mid-table finish, and as we saw with Birmingham City last season, and Portsmouth the year before, cup runs can have a damming affect on your league form, especially if you have a wafer thin squad at your disposal.

The Football League schedule also means teams are constantly playing during midweek, leaving a backlog of games if you embark on such a run.

Instead I've plumped for two sides who contested one of the great domestic finals of the last 20 years, Arsenal and Liverpool.

Now you may ask where these two sides fall into the criteria I've mentioned above, and also why I've gone with on the face of, two of the biggest sides in the competition rather than dreaming up a romantic final between two sides who have yet to win the competition, such as Everton and Newcastle United.

For Arsenal, many are ready to write their season off already.

Former players and bookies alike have cast aside any chance the club have of winning the Barclays Premier League and after only five games, 40/1 is already the shortest price on offer for the Gunners' first title triumph since 2003/04.


Given their struggles against Udinese in the Champions League play-off, and against German champions Borussia Dortmund, who should have put the Gunners to the sword in their opening group game, a run in the Champions League also seems beyond them.

Come the final in February, whether they're in it or not, it'll be seven years since the club claimed a trophy, a reason if there ever was one, to pick up the first trophy on offer. It was a policy that almost broke their trophyless sequence against Birmingham City, but a defensive error involving Wojciech Szczesny, now seemingly unflappable in the Arsenal goal, and Laurent Koscielny, who is now far from first choice at centre-back, allowed Obafemi Martins to net the winner.

As for Liverpool, after a spending spree totaling over £100 million since taking over, Kenny Dalglish will be keen to add a trophy to appease the ambition of the club's new owners.

Furthermore, and perhaps as a result of Dalglish taking over, the club's ethos in the League Cup is in direct parallel with their relationship with the competition they've won seven times.

The Scot has refused to rest his big hitters, with Luis Suarez and Pepe Reina, two of those involved in both of the club's ties against Exeter City and Brighton & Hove Albion.

The lack of European commitments may allow Dalglish to make such a selection, but Suarez, who played in the Copa America with Uruguay during the late summer, wasn't expected to start the season, let alone feature in every game. Given his healthy squad, it's hardly a selection Dalglish needed to make.

Like Arsenal, Liverpool aren't expected to make break for the league title, and will expect to contest with The Gunners for the fourth Champions League spot.

Such is the talent in these respective squads, that despite some early struggles, both will be there or there abouts in the league come March, meaning fourth spot won't be a lost cause if they embark on a early season cup run, perhaps shunning their league commitments slightly. Moreover, there's no doubt these two sides would serve up a mouthwatering final at Wembley, similar to the 2001 FA Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium.

No, Arsenal and Liverpool aren't two clubs facing the greatest plight or on the brink of financial ruin requiring the antidote of a cup run to cure their bleak outlook, but the craving of success at both the Emirates Stadium and Anfield could help serve up a final to remember at the home of football.

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