Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Mid-season Victory!

Okay, this is not a neutral post but my team happened to win a trophy over the weekend! I thought Liverpool would see more finals after losing to Milan in the Champions League final in 2007 but power in football shifts quicker than we realise. 

Here's a few quick thoughts:
  • We won on penalties again. It seems that in Liverpool's recent cup finals, we've had to battle through tense games which have been entertaining and decided by the most dramatic scenario in football (not the golden goal people): penalties. 
  • The League Cup is not the best domestic trophy Liverpool can win but as seen last year, winning a trophy does stop the following line from being mentioned to infinity and beyond: "X team has not won a trophy for X years." If Arsenal emerged victorious in last year's League Cup final, the criticism aimed at Arsene Wenger and his team would most certainly be comprised of alternative angles. 
  • Cardiff City were worthy opposition. Cardiff have been near promotion many times in recent years, this team was play-off finalists in 2010 and semi finalists in 2011. Let's not forget that this side was also in the FA Cup final in 2008 against Portsmouth. They should be respected. 
  • Liverpool overcame Stoke City away, then Chelsea away and finally Manchester City over two legs before reaching the final. That should be enough to credit Liverpool with this cup victory apart from the actual fact of winning the competition itself. 
  • In a final all you can do is beat the opposing team and add to the history of the club.
Can cup final victories provide a spring to further success? Much has been made of Liverpool's string of League Cup victories in the 1980s alongside successes in loftier competitions but that Liverpool side was far better than the current one. I'm not sure if this victory is enough to start a renewed era of success for Liverpool. Mid-season trophy success doesn't always turn poor sides to average ones and average sides to good ones. Middlesbrough won the League Cup in 2004 and reached a UEFA Cup final in 2006 before relegation in 2009. Birmingham won the League Cup in 2010 before being relegated in that very same season. It must be noted that none of those clubs possessed Liverpool's spending power, fan base or league standing at the point of these respective trophy wins.

What may be different is when the bigger teams are looked at following mid-season domestic cup success. Jose Mourinho's first trophy at Chelsea was secured against Rafa Benitez's Liverpool in the League Cup final which would be the start of many tense cup battles between the two men and clubs respectively. More importantly, with some games left in the season, it gave Mourinho's squad a taste of victory and ensured confidence remained intact to secure Chelsea's first domestic league title in 50 years. However, Chelsea did not secure the Champions League Roman Ambramovich so ardently desired. The League Cup winners were defeated by League Cup runners who eventually won a final which was won in legendary circumstances.

Arsenal looked in good shape last season before succumbing to a shock defeat against Birmingham City in the League Cup final. Since Arsenal lost to Manchester United in Arsenal's second league fixture in December, the club was unbeaten in the league, had a home leg Champions league victory against Barcelona and a home replay against Leyton Orient. After the League Cup final, Arsenal were knocked out of the Champions League; lost in the next round of the FA Cup to Manchester United and won only two of the club's remaining eleven league fixtures to finish fourth in the League. This was a side I was impressed with up to that critical point.

I'm not sure winning the League Cup final can lead to greater success over a longer period of time but the position of the final can make it difficult for England's leading clubs. It becomes only a worthwhile distraction if victory is gained in the final to bring prestige to the club. The club's fans enjoy a fantastic day where the club dominates the sports pages in the warm, fuzzy glow of mid-season glory but beware! Unless the two sides are evenly matched, there can be no other way to paint defeat as anything but a disaster which may leave untended psychological wounds with further battles ahead.


  1. Congrats on the win - Interestingly Spurs won the Cup in 2008 and went on a dreadful close season run of games then at the start of the 08/09 season that is famously coined "2 points from 8 games".

    1. I remember that cup win under Juande Ramos. Many thought that the victory justified Levy's decision to dispense with Jol and move for Sevilla's impressive coach.

      It's incredible how reputations can change in just a season. That run was terrible and it culminated in the appointment of Redknapp which has been a good move.

      Ramos won a trophy but he'll never be fondly remembered as Redknapp who may or may not win a trophy at Spurs before his inevitable appointment as England manager.

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