As the years go by, I’m finding it harder and harder to care about the Capital One Cup.
It doesn’t hold the same importance as the ‘magical’ FA Cup, which we’ve now won more times than any other club; it’s not like the Premier League, which is one of the most competitive leagues in the world; and it’s no where near the Champions League, which sees Europe’s best battle it out for one of the highest honours you can win in club football.
Instead, the Capital One Cup fixtures are something of a hassle. Take Wednesday’s tie against Spurs, for example. Slap bang in the middle of a week, which has so far seen us lose 2-0 to Chelsea, two of our players receive red cards and our first choice defensive midfielder get injured.
Playing our north London rivals just a few days before travelling to Leicester, who are flying in the Premier League right now after earning 12 points (that’s two more than us), isn’t the ideal way to recover from a controversial defeat many of us are still smarting from.
So, as time moves on, I find it more and more difficult to muster the energy to get excited about a Capital One Cup fixture, even if it is a north London derby.
However, I’ve realised that this is a ridiculous way of thinking. The Capital One Cup is still a tournament in its own right and here’s why we, as Arsenal fans, should care.
Let the youngsters ‘av a go
Before we won two FA Cups in a row, many would mock Wenger’s use of the youth squad in our league cup games. They thought he wasn’t taking the competition seriously enough and that it was our best chance of silverware, so he should probably begin playing his first team in these games. However, now many other teams have followed suit and also started to take the opportunity to field some of their second-string players, it doesn’t seem like such lunacy after all, does it?
Giving the younger players a chance to prove their worth and play in a ‘proper’ match for Arsenal Football Club isn’t just about not letting them feel left out. It gives them a taste of something they can work towards; something tangible to aim for.
Hearing the roar of the Arsenal fans, experiencing the intensity which often comes with cup matches and going through the mental preparation needed for tournaments allows them to understand what football is all about. It’s not just about getting up early and running about on a well-watered pitch before going home for a nap, knowing that deep down you won’t even get a chance to prove yourself in the upcoming match that weekend. It’s all about preparing for battle, honing your skills and knowing that you get a chance to fight for your team.
Although the chances are we’ll be putting out a mixed squad on Wednesday against Spurs with some senior and some reserve players, it gives the younger footballers a chance to train and run alongside the Big Boys.
For players who aren’t exactly having a great time on the pitch at the moment (cough Giroud cough) it’s also an opportunity to perhaps start and make an impact on the team. They can prove their worth, maintain match fitness and ultimately still feel as if they’re part of the club and not just stagnated on the bench.
Another chance for another trophy shouldn’t be squandered – not intentionally anyway. Although we supposedly now have bigger fish to fry, the league cup final takes place on the 28th February. This is a huge opportunity to not only win a trophy, but win it early so we can concentrate on the league.
The mental boost of winning a cup early on shouldn’t be underestimated. Arsenal are notoriously shaky under pressure, so with one piece of silverware out the way, they can relax a bit and just concentrate on playing their football.
Of course, although I’ll be slightly less devastated if we lost away to Spurs on Wednesday compared to say, an FA Cup match, I’d still love a win. Not just because they’re our closest rivals but because it’s another match that we need to win. After a bit of a stop-start season so far, we need all the confidence we can get to move on and really kick-start our Premier League campaign.
Plus, who doesn’t love a good cup run?