Last week, almost as soon as the final whistle blew on Liverpool’s dramatic win over Arsenal in the EFL League Cup, Jurgen Klopp threatened to withdraw from the tournament unless a reasonable replacement date could be found.
A reasonable replacement date could not be found.
Regardless, we’re playing Aston Villa anyway. According to a statement from the club:
Liverpool Football Club can confirm our Carabao Cup quarter-final tie at Aston Villa will take place on Tuesday December 17, 2019.
As a result, we will be utilising two playing squads simultaneously, with one squad participating in the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar and another in the Carabao Cup.
The club would like to take this opportunity to underline that while this is not an ideal scenario, it is an outcome which was arrived at with the best interests of the competition, our fellow clubs and ourselves as the sole motivating factor.
We would like to thank the EFL for their efforts to accommodate us and we can confirm alternative dates were discussed, but ultimately none were considered suitable without compromising the scheduling of the competition itself or placing an undue strain on our playing staff.
The upshot is that Liverpool will field one team on at 7:45 PM GMT on December 17 at Villa Park, and another at 5:30 PM GMT on December 18th in Qatar.
Honestly, this is ridiculous.
Ridiculous, and difficult to see a positive outcome in the League Cup from Liverpool’s point of view.
Liverpool’s advancement in this competition has so far hinged on a good balance of experienced players and young, energetic prospects. Those experienced players will now, no doubt, be in Qatar, looking for the right to be called World Champions. And some of the young fringe players who might have been part of the traveling squad will now certainly miss out.
And throwing a bunch of kids to the wolves (or rather Villans), likely to be beaten handily by a Premier League opponent, won’t do their development a whole lot of good.
Personally, I was really hoping the club would stand by their threat. This potential scheduling conflict has been known since this summer, and the FA and EFL completely ignored it, hoping it wouldn’t become a problem.
There will, without a doubt, be cries about the “integrity of the competition” when a bunch of kids take the pitch at Villa Park with Pep Lijnders roaming the sideline.
To be honest, the EFL only has themselves to blame, and not just for the completely foreseeable scheduling conflict. Since its inception, it has always played second fiddle to the FA Cup (whose status has also suffered in recent decades). And there is a bottom line component to all of this. The prize for winning the League Cup is a paltry £100,000. By comparison, winning the third round of the FA Cup pays more (£135,000). Liverpool earned £3.8 million for winning the UEFA Super Cup, and will earn a minimum of £1.6 million for their participation in the FIFA Club World Cup (and a total of £3.9 million for winning it).
Of course money isn’t everything, but it certainly plays a factor when deciding which competitions to prioritize.
Additionally, this sets a worrying precedent surrounding fixture congestion, player exhaustion and injuries, and an inability for clubs to have a say in these sorts of matters.
The football governing bodies—FIFA, UEFA, the FA, and the EFL—all want their slice of the pie, and each takes a little bit out of the players. We might see our favorite team with our favorite players more often, but how often will we see the best out of them when they are constantly asked to dust themselves off and go again? And now we’ll get the case of seeing players in shirts we recognize, without the talent, name recognition, or cohesive style we’ve come to associate with that brand.
Yes, it will be “Liverpool” on two consecutive nights, but for at least one of those nights (if not both), the Liverpool we see will be unrecognizable.