The rotation of players by Guus Hiddink for Chelsea’s win against West Ham this weekend was unsurprising now that Chelsea now have a minimal chance of winning the league and a crunch game against Barcelona in midweek.
Fortunately for Chelsea fans the players deployed were of sufficient calibre to defeat West Ham and included in the starting XI were a strong backbone of regular starters accompanied by one or two squad players.
This situation got me thinking about the order of importance of the competitions that teams compete for in the league. I believe that teams should play to win every game avoiding the fielding of absurdly weakened sides in certain competitions or situations.
Whilst I have no problem with the rotating of squads to keep players fresh and to blood youngsters I think that in the case of old adversaries Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson this policy has gone too far. For example the recent FA Cup semi final saw Manchester United field a severely weakened team showing no respect to the eroding traditions of the competition and costing the team a place in the final.
Therefore it is obvious that not all competitions are equally weighted in the importance for each club, many sides including those outside of the top four have chosen to rest players in certain competitions/situations both European and Domestic in nature.
The competition I covet most as a football fan is the Premier League as winning the league is the true sign of dominance and power nationally which as a fan in England is vitally important.
The league is a real test of a team 38 games against teams of varying abilities and aspirations in the sparkling sunshine and driving rain, sleet or snow. It tests the abiity to beat the best in league as well as the ability to pick up points to the minnows of the league on cold and windy nights in subzero temperatures.
The Champions League seems to rise in prominence every year particularly now that English sides have grabbed a real stranglehold in the competition with for the third season in a row English clubs representing 3 of the 4 semi finalists (stats here).
However the competition is no longer the ‘Champions League’ but a much broader competition with 4 English teams entered each season. The competition has grown and evolved and maybe the stubborn streak in me feels that this cheapens the competition just as the UEFA cup is now a shadow of its former self and much maligned a stigma the Europa league will inherit.
I do rate the Champions League or UEFA Cup’s above the FA Cup in importance due to their international significance but I am still embroiled in a love affair with the FA Cup.
Teams from all walks of English life competing often against teams multiple divisions above them in the FA league pyramid is fascinating and continues to thrive in a country that loves the underdog.
I love that any team can win the competition or progress from a lowly position to secure a fixture against Chelsea, Manchester United or any of the Premier League big boys.
That moves me onto the League cup a competition that has lost most of its merit in recent years with few clubs at any level taking it seriously unless they by some accident/miracle end up in the final stages of the competition.
This competition is where most teams blood youth or squad players which may provide a look to the future particularly with the cavalier adoption of the use of the tournament for youth players used by Manchester United and Arsenal, it does little to project the values of English football.
On the evidence outlined above I would rate the competitions I value on the desire for a club to win or progress in as follows.
1) Premier League
3) FA Cup
4) League Cup
So to conclude unlike many fans I have spoken to who have a great knowledge of other European Leagues and therefore in my opinion a bigger appetite for European football, the league should always be more important to me than Champions League glory.
Whereas in the league luck plays a small role and the best side usually prevails the other three knockout competitions can be won by underdogs such as Porto and Liverpool in the Champions League.
For this reason the league will always be top of my competition hierarchy.
Is the Premier league more important to win for the Big 4 than the Champions League?
If given no choice would Alex Ferguson choose Champions League or Premier League glory this season?
How important is the FA Cup in modern football?
Does the hierarchy of the fans match that of the board?