This week’s Carling Cup fixtures got us thinking….wouldn’t it be great if we dropped the tired old pretence and just called the tournament what it really is? A Squad Cup; a chance for managers to give their first team regulars a mid-week breather and utilize their strength in depth. Each season we have to endure the same pathetic justifications from gaffers as they make wholesale changes from the previous weekend and field weakened sides when the truth is we don’t care that they don’t take the tournament very seriously. Because neither do we.

The Cutter firmly believes that the Carling Cup’s best chance to flourish and establish itself once more as a relevant competition is to turn its primary failing into a positive. To give itself a unique point of interest and identity and just come right out and say that it’s for the squad players only. No first-team superstars allowed.

In fact, at the beginning of each campaign the managers of every top flight club (because this ruling will only apply to the Premier League clubs) are forced to hand over their first choice XL who will be exempt from the competition right the way through. Not only would this make the Carling Squad Cup more of a level playing field it will eradicate the slightly unsavoury sight of a fringe player performing wonders in each round only to be unceremoniously dropped when his club reaches the business end of the semis and beyond. Furthermore if the lists were made public prior to each season it would soon become an event in itself as fans discovered who their manager regards (at that stage of the season at least) to be his strongest, preferred side. A decent talking point and a nice bit of annual publicity for a beleaguered tournament. The Carling Squad Cup omissions would become a much-anticipated announcement and additionally help cement the competition further into our consciousness.

It’s time for the League Cup to drop it’s needy, runt-of-the-litter insecurity

Lastly, it offers greater status and gravity to the squad players and aren’t we always being told it’s a squad game these days?

It’s time for the League Cup – as some still refer to it – to drop it’s needy, runt-of-the-litter insecurity that has long held it back and firmly embrace it’s niche in the market. Because the niche is there and we’ll still watch.


But who would win it? Or, at least, who would be favourites?

We’ve concentrated on the top six simply because they have the strongest squads.

The criteria we have set is a presumption that every player of every team is fully fit and we’ve chosen what we believe to be the six club’s best starting eleven…and then discarded them. From the rest of the squads we’ve then chosen the best players left available. For the purposes of this exercise each team employs a 4-3-3 formation.


GK – Manuel Almunia

RB – Carl Jenkinson

LB – Kieran Gibbs

CB – Laurent Koscielny

CB – Johan Djourou

M – Emmanuel Frimpong

M – Aaron Ramsey

M – Tomáš Rosický

A – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

A – Andrey Arshavin

A – Marouane Chamakh

A well-balanced side packed with seasoned quality and promising youth. With a plethora of exciting teens (who Wenger would usually blood) as back-up, not to mention Squillaci, Benayoun and Park Chu-Young, you can expect the Gunners to go far. 9/10


GK – Ross Turnbull

RB – José Bosingwa

LB –  Ryan Bertrand

CB – Paulo Ferreira

CB – David Luiz

M – Josh McEachran

M – Raúl Meireles

M – Florent Malouda

A – Daniel Sturridge

A – Didier Drogba

A – Romelu Lukaku

A slight weakness in defence but compensated by a formidable midfield and the energy of Sturridge and Lukaku playing off Drogba makes Chelsea a fearful proposition. Romeu and Mikel are the two notable omissions but there’s very little cover at the back should they succumb to injuries. 7/10


GK – Doni

RB – Martin Kelly

LB – Fábio Aurélio

CB – Sebastián Coates

CB – Martin Škrteľ

M – Jay Spearing

M – Jordan Henderson

M – Jonjo Shelvey

A – Craig Bellamy

A – Maxi Rodríguez

A –  Dirk Kuyt

A pick-n-mix side that may not gel, particularly across the back. The midfield has a decent balance though there’s scant options on the bench whilst Bellamy and Kuyt will always cause problems up front. 7/10

Man City

GKCostel Pantilimon

RB – Pablo Zabaleta

LB – Aleksandar Kolarov

CB – Kolo Touré

CB –  Stefan Savić

M – Owen Hargreaves

M – James Milner

M – Gareth Barry

A – Adam Johnson

A – Carlos Tevez

A – Mario Balotelli

An imposing line-up that could arguably fare very well in the Premier League in their own right. City possess by far and away the most explosive strike-force and with Barry and Milner pulling the strings behind them it adds up to an impressive, experienced side capable of going all the way 9/10

Man Utd

GK – Tomasz Kuszczak

RB – Chris Smalling

LB – Fábio

CB – Phil Jones

CB – Jonny Evans

M – Park Ji-Sung

M – Darren Fletcher

M – Ryan Giggs

A – Michael Owen

A – Dimitar Berbatov

A – Luis Antonio Valencia

Strength, big-game players and bags of experience right the way through. There’s even decent cover in Gibson, Macheda and Wellbeck. 9/10


GK – Heurelho Gomes

RB – Kyle Walker

LB – Sébastien Bassong

CB – Younes Kaboul

CB – William Gallas

M – Tom Huddlestone

M – Danny Rose

M –  Steven Pienaar

A – Aaron Lennon

A – Jermain Defoe

A – Roman Pavlyuchenko

Question marks will always remain over the all-or-nothing Gomes but him aside this is a redoubtable line-up that makes a mockery of Redknapp’s constant whinging about lack of players. Especially when you consider talents such as Kranjcar and Dos Santos are warming the seats in the dug-out. A frightening front three. 8/10