English football's fixture congestion is a constant source of debate among managers and pundits, owing to the presence and the importance of two major knockout tournaments - the FA Cup and Carabao Cup - in addition to the demands of the Premier League and the European competitions.
FA Cup has been regarded as the premier cup competition of the two, leading to a number of managers often overlooking the tournament. In fact, there has been an increase in the number of coaches complaining about the congestion the competition causes and the toll that it takes on their players’ fitness.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has led the club to multiple League Cup triumphs since taking over the reins at the club. But he is one of the biggest critics of the competition and the fixture congestion it causes.
"Eliminate competitions. Take them out completely - so less games," Guardiola said.
His opinion has been echoed by Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp as well, who has time and again spoken out against the tight schedule that exists within English football.
So, is it time for the secondary cup competition to be cancelled?
A whole different ballgame
First and foremost, one must take into consideration that the footballing pyramid in England is much larger than the other top leagues in Europe. There are, in total, 72 clubs outside the Premier League that can also participate in the League Cup and are happy to do so, given that it helps generate revenue due to the gate receipts and stadium hospitality.
For clubs outside the Premier League, that is the major source of income, so it makes sense that they would want to hang onto the competition. Moreover, the fact that they are not involved in European football frees up their calendars for the additional tournament as well.
But for clubs in the top flight, that is not the case. Especially for those who are close to the top and bottom ends of the table.
The question beckons then – should the self-interest of some Premier League clubs outweigh that of a large number of lower-division outfits? That is a debate that will rage on for years.
But for the benefit of the players and football in general, the League Cup needs to be scrapped. While it's true that with its cancellation, fans might be deprived of the odd shock upsets in David vs Goliath contests that are part of the competition, the reduced fixture congestion would also mean players are fitter and less prone to injuries, which would directly lead to more competitive league fixtures.
Carabao Cup a tough squeeze in 2020/21
Moreover, given the current climes across the globe, it becomes imperative for the FA and the EFL to consider scrapping the League Cup.
The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in suspension and postponement of the 2019/20 campaign. And when it returns, players will already be put through a rigorous schedule to get the season across the finish line, and with a minimal amount of break, footballers will be back in action for the 2020/21 season.
As things stand, the Premier League is planning for just a two-week break between the seasons, meaning no holidays, no pre-season. Moreover, given that the current season is likely to eat up some time set for the upcoming term means there will be a cramped schedule for 2020/21.
And with the European Championships postponed to summer next year, players will not be entitled to long breaks even then, which makes it imperative for the leagues to reduce the burden on footballers and protect them from fatigue and burnouts.
The only way to do that could be by scrapping the Carabao Cup for the next season at the very least. Once the stakeholders involved get a clearer picture of the repercussions of the cancellation, a decision on the tournament’s long-term future can be taken upon. But for the 2020/21 campaign at least, the League Cup should be a no-go.
As Guardiola puts it aptly, "Less games, less competitions, less teams, more quality, less quantity. The people are going enjoy it.”
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Thanh Nguyen
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SportsAdda.