Often managers get criticised for their substitutions.
They either do them too late, too early, take off the wrong player, or bring on the wrong player.
Last night we have to praise Mikel Arteta for his brave substitution – taking off Ben White for Calum Chambers.
Prior to the goal, Arsenal had swung in some dangerous corners, but Ben White got no-where near any of them.
Within 30 seconds of coming on, Chambers rose high at a corner to score his first goal since 2019.
In a blink of an eye, Chambers had changed a game that was on a knife edge. Arteta changed it with the substitute.
A few minutes later, Marcelo Bielsa made a simialr change – swapping centreback for centreback. But his change did not quite work out as Arsenal went on to win 2-0 following a fabulous finish by Eddie Nketiah.
2-nil and through to the quarter finals of the 2nd biggest cup competition in England. We continue our march on to glory with Arteta as he seeks his 3rd trophy in 18 months.
This really could be a glorious era.
The League Cup is often a competition derided by fans and media as one that “top clubs do not care about”.
Since 2000, the trophy has been lifted just 5 times by times who have not been crowned champions during that era – Swansea City, Birmingham City, Tottenham, Middlesbrough and Blackburn the smaller clubs to have won it. 5 of the last 6 have been won by Manchester City.
It is not that the big clubs do not take it seriously; they almost always win it. It is that they rest and rotate players due to European commitments. They put out an XI they think will win the game. And more often than not they do.
The problem for the League Cup is those mid-table Premier League sides, relegation threatened side and Championship promotion chasing sides also end up putting out a weaker side.
Take tonight. it is West Ham United against Manchester City.
With the form the Hammers are in, their strongest XI would probably role over City’s second string in Stratford. But David Moyes will likely put out his 2nd string which will see advantage City.
We saw it yesterday as Southampton made 9 changes to the side that drew with Burnley at the weekend. Their 2nd string took Chelsea to penalties before eventually going out. Would their first string have seen off the European Champions?
I would be so frustrated if I was a fan of one of these “smaller” clubs. Seeing my manager throw away the best chance of a trophy in decades.
These sides are not in Europe, so do not have a great deal of fixture congestion.
Getting to the final adds just 4 games to the fixture list before Christmas and 3 games in the New Year. It realy is not much.
Instead they throw the game, putting out a weaker XI and denying their fans a chance of a Wembley day out and a trophy.
Arsenal and Chelsea are already through – alongside Sunderland. With the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Leicester City still in the competition, we will probably reach the semi-final stage with the “usual suspects” still in it.
Without Europe, Arteta has been putting out a second string so far in the competition- but last night was still a strong side with almost every player capped by their country.
I expect in the quarter finals Arteta will increase the strength of the side further – potentially bringing in the likes of Alex Lacazette from the start.
Enjoy your Wednesday. Enjoy 8 unbeaten in all competitions. And look forward to Leicester City on Saturday.