columnist Stephen Darwin looks at Liverpool's defeat in the Carling
Cup last night and wonders whether the Anfield faithful were hoping for more
from the competition this season.
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez blamed defensive lapses for his
sides defeat in the Carling Cup last night. Although despite
failing to cement a place in the quarter-finals of a competition that has been
so good to the club in the past, are Liverpool fans really concerned at defeat
or has the Carling Cup simply served its purpose as a method of squad rotation?
Even if Liverpool had triumphed on Wednesday evening, the
news that Fernando Torres managed to get through 55 minutes of playing time,
unscathed, will have certainly eclipsed the result. The Euro 2008 winner has
been an integral part of the Mersyside club's progress during the last year and
his goals will be precious to Benitez in the hunt for, shall we say more
glamorous silverware this season.
Out of the eleven that started for Liverpool in last night's
defeat, only Torres and Agger have featured on a relatively regular basis in
the Premier League. When you see what Arsene Wenger is doing with the youth-set
up at Arsenal, does it not frustrate Liverpool fans to see the Gunners' kids
produce such a polished performance while your own fringe players struggle to
cope with the limelight? Granted, a full-strength Spurs at White Hart Lane is a
tough proposition but would you have preferred to see Benitez go all-out for
Carling Cup glory?
It is fair to say that this seasons Carling Cup offers a
fantastic chance of bulking up the trophy cabinet for any team left in the
competition. With Chelsea and Liverpool now out of contention and Wenger intent
on fielding a youthful side, Manchester United would seem the obvious
favourites alongside a Tottenham team spurred on by the thought of regaining
the title under Harry Redknapp.
Despite expecting more from the weakened side he fielded, as
we have witnessed with so many other managers in the past, Rafa Benitez clearly
believes that the competition is a useful ploy for squad rotation and is quoted
as saying on Sky Sports that:
"We had to use different players in this competition because
you can't play the same ones in every game."
"When you are playing two games a week you need to rest
players and use your squad. We didn't play well today and that was the reason
why we lost," insisted Benitez.
With the likes of Gerrard, Keane and Kuyt given a full rest
in midweek, Liverpool will expect to push on in the Premier League, starting
against Bolton on Saturday. Although defeat is defeat whatever way you look at
it and with one win in their last four in all competitions, Benitez will be
desperate to get his side back to winning ways.
Although I am not going to be dragged into predicting
Liverpool's chances of success this season, Benitez certainly has an
accomplished squad that have already proved they are capable of anything. The
manner in which the Anfield club have already put Chelsea and Manchester United
to the sword thus far this term shows exactly what can be achieved – a scenario
that I assume is all too familiar with Liverpool fans. So having been dumped
out of the Carling Cup, are Reds supporters concerned at another potentially
winnable trophy that got away or do you believe you have much bigger fish to
fry this campaign?