After a mixed bag of FA cup 3rd round ties last weekend some conclusions can be drawn. Some teams care, some don’t and some like Liverpool, Bournemouth and Brighton really don’t give a damn!
When you have 25 player squads, of course you need to rotate the teams, especially when playing against ‘weaker’ opponents but making wholesale changes of the whole team does no one any favours and just devalues the FA Cup. Liverpool almost paid dearly. Probably they were saving their players for last night’s League Cup match against Southampton. Herr Klopp should have thought about putting out a strong team for the first half to try and finish off Plymouth early and make changes for the second half. Whatever he was thinking last night’s defeat at Southampton means they now have the risk of being in no cup competitions after January.
Similarly Bournemouth, with their Champions League tie coming up against well…. nobody, decided to make eleven changes. They deservedly lost and humiliated themselves and upset their fans in the process to a third tier side, Millwall. What do Bournemouth have to play for this season? Nothing! Are they in the title race…no. Are they in a relegation battle? Too early to tell! So for your fans sake go for the FA Cup and a bit of romanticism and glory at least. Shocking, to say the least. I would sack the manager now, not for losing, but for not caring!
Brighton got away with eleven changes as they beat MK Dons 2-0. Some may say they could justify using a weakened team as they are very much in the hunt for Premier League football next season That of course is a massive prize, but does it justify putting their FA Cup status in risk when there is the chance of further glory.
On the other hand some teams do still give the FA Cup it’s true worth. Some managers realise that bringing in any silverware is a sure fire way to keep their jobs. At least for another season that is, in the results focused world of Premier League managers. So well done to Manchester United and City, both still in Europe and both putting out very strong teams. A pat on the back to Southampton and Hull who had League Cup Semi-final ties a few days after their FA Cup ties, but still managed to put out strong teams.
Even Arsenal put out pretty much their full strength team from the players they had available and injury free. Gone are the days it seems when Wenger puts out his youth team or reserve team for every round of a competition right up to the latter stages. Was this an understanding though by Wenger that he needs to keep in as many competitions as possible to keep both his bosses and fans happy. Until at least, he decides his own future at the club? And with Bayern Munich coming next month in the Champions League and a recent slide in the Premier League, the fans need something to keep them going until March at least!
So perhaps the biggest upsets of the 3rd round were not Preston getting a draw against Liverpool’s youth team. Nor was it Millwall thrashing Bournemouth’s non interested third team. Instead both Derby at West Brom and Wolves at Stoke pulled off the biggest shocks. Not huge in the history of cup shocks I know but still commendable performances. Both of these Championship sides beat full strength Premier League opponents and at their own stadiums too!
And so to Chelsea. A few changes were made by Conte but not negative ones. The masterstroke was Bringing back Zouma. Surely one of the most exciting defenders in the Premier League and his first game back for many months after injury was a welcome sight for Chelsea fans. Others were possibly trying too hard to impress. Bathshuayi, who is an undoubted talent but with only brief cameo appearances will not regain his confidence anytime soon. I bet he wishes the old Costa was back…the one always getting booked and suspended so he would get much needed game time!
Anyway you can hardly compare Chelsea’s back up players like Fabregas, Zouma, Willian, Bathshuayi and Terry etc to anything Liverpool put out last weekend. Indeed Chelsea had 37 attempts on goal and Peterborough had a commendable 12 attempts. A total of almost 50 attempts. With 5 goals and a sending off too TV programmers will hopefully think again when deciding which teams to show next in the 4th round. Those who care!