The Carabao Cup. A competition taken so lightly by many of England’s top sides, and discarded as a competition to experiment in and rest senior players in. Well, I’m here to flip that approach. In the hope that Chelsea will take this season’s competition seriously after progressing to the next round after a 7-1 win against Grimsby.
First, Chelsea’s current squad dynamics, a spin on the norm. We come to expect in most of England’s top sides a few similarities. One is a clear hierarchy and pyramid scheme of senior older players not only being better but more influential. Secondly, for the past decade there have been cries and calls for more English talent to break into England’s top sides and until now those demands were quite understandable. It wouldn’t be uncommon to see a lineup without a single English player and if so, even more likely that they would be over the age of 25. Imported talent was at the forefront of the minds of owners and managers. A Brazilian talent playing at Santos was often scouted and watched more than a player in the U23’s just a walk away. However, the likes of Tottenham have begun to turn the tide under Pochettino in recent seasons, albeit not to the level Chelsea have taken it too after an inflicted transfer ban in the summer just gone.
The current Chelsea squad not only sees a vast amount of homegrown talent. The key here is that they are extremely influential and possess more ability and technique than a vast amount of senior older players. This influence will only continue to grow as the season goes on, with Mason Mount taking more and more of the corners, to Tammy Abraham vocally organising a defensive set-piece against Brighton. Don’t be surprised to see Reece James over the free kicks and Billy Gilmour continuing to orchestrate the team in possession, a complete flip on the norm. They are the players the manager, media and fans are favouring and more importantly, they have the stats to back it up. It’s controversial to say that the 11 players who finished against Grimsby was stronger than the starting 11 in the Premier League against Brighton.
Back in Jose Mourinho’s first season in charge of Chelsea, there was a similar vibe around the squad. A young talented team (Frank Lampard, John Terry, Joe Cole, etc.) with not much experience of winning. If you were to make your current Chelsea starting 11 it would more than likely be the same. Back then it was called the Carling Cup and it was taken extremely seriously as a method of installing a winning mentality into the team, a team that then went on to win the Premier League title back to back.
“It was the be-all and end-all at the time. To win anything in your career you have to be very lucky, plenty of footballers don’t, so you have to respect it and the day was amazing. It is still one of my fondest moments as a player, winning that trophy, it was really exciting.”Joe Cole (The 5th Stand Chelsea FC)
This could well be a Tammy Abraham or Reece James saying the same thing. For all the talent Tottenham possess in their team, a winning mentality isn’t one of them. They haven’t been put under pressure to win under Pochettino and it shows on the big stage as well as the small ones away to Colchester just recently. Listening to Joe Cole here it’s clear the Carling Cup set the tempo for success and it’s crucial even in our season of transition that we set ours.
Our Youth teams have always been successful, however playing for Chelsea is a massive step up and nothing installs confidence in your ability more than winning trophies. It allows you to say ‘we were the best’ evidence that backs up the ability. No matter what situation Chelsea have been in, they’ve always found a way to win something and it’s a mentality easily lost and difficult to gain.
A combination of patience and the introduction of young talent throughout the season combined with a ruthless attitude in both cup competitions would be the way to go. When we are at the point of resting academy graduate Fikayo Tomori for a cup game against Grimsby in September we can be sure there will be more breakthroughs as the season goes on. A ‘weaker’ cup team may not be so weak after all. This is a team that is more than capable of winning this competition.
With that, attention turns to Manchester United in the next round. Another side going down the youth road with the likes of Mason Greenwood and homegrown talents Rashford and Lingard, not as talented as our crop but a younger team nonetheless in comparison to years past at Old Trafford. A clash of long-term projects set to do battle at the Bridge and it’s critical we go into that game with a do or die mentality with this competition presenting our best opportunity of a trophy until the FA Cup kicks off in January. It’s time to gain redemption on last year’s defeat in the final, not only for the short-term success but the long-term feeling. Never has the Carabao Cup been so important. Let’s do battle!