After witnessing champagne moments in Latics’ victory at Southampton on Saturday, up comes another match. It is the Capital One Cup, the latest name for the Football League Cup. Will it be champagne or mere morsels this time around? One recalls the heroics of the 2005-2006 Latics side, knocking out Arsenal in the semi-final, only to be undone by Manchester United in Cardiff. It was not so much champagne football with that Latics side in their first Premier League season, but it was exuberant and exciting.
I liked the name of the “Milk Cup”, that the tournament had in the 80’s when sponsored by Dairy Crest. The League Cup is still with us, despite the sparse attendances it has suffered since its introduction in 1960. In those days the FA Cup was a big thing, drawing in the crowds. Maybe they thought the League Cup could get on that same bandwagon? The reality has been that most Premier League clubs have repeatedly put out weakened teams in this competition, so “giant killing” has been prevalent, at least on outward appearance.
I really enjoyed the Southampton match. Two well taken goals, but more than that it was an oozing of sheer class by Latics that sticks in my mind. There was a spell in the second half where Latics just wouldn’t let Southampton get the ball. The passing ability of Latics’ defenders defies belief compared the norms of previous eras. Robert Martinez has got his team playing stylish, skillful football whilst maintaining a steely, competitive edge. How ironic that Brendan Rodgers has been lauded for the good football his Swansea team played last season. No disrespect to Rodgers, who did a great job taking Swansea into the Premier League and having a good first season. However, it is the Martinez stamp that reigns indelible on the Swansea style of play.
When I trawled the Latics news on the internet a few minutes ago I found headlines such as “Martinez set to rotate squad” and “ Martinez set to test squad depth”. Hardly a surprise. In the old days it would be said that he is putting out his reserve team. I suppose the difference now is that those fringe first team squad players rarely play for the reserves .
So it is an opportunity for squad players who have not started so far this season. If so a possible line-up could be: Pollitt – Lopez, Golobart, Kiernan – Stam, Watson, Fyvie (or Jones), Beausejour (or Jones) – Crusat, Boselli, Miyaichi (or McManaman). Not to forget Mustoe and Redmond plus players from the development squad. On paper this looks like a strong enough lineup, but in reality it would be a team that has never played together. On the more positive side Latics have a way of playing that these players can fit into. Martinez continues to view these matches as opportunities for players to show their mettle and their willingness to challenge for a place in the starting lineup. In reality we have seen some abject performances in the cup competitions over the last few years.
Nottingham Forest finished 19th in the Championship last year. They have won one and drawn two of their matches this season. Like Wigan, they also need to look at upcoming fixtures. One cannot predict what type of lineup they will put out. How things have changed over recent years. Forest were twice European champions under Brian Clough when Latics were still newcomers in the fourth tier of the Football League.
It would be nice to have another great run in the League Cup. However, performance in cup competitions under Roberto Martinez has been mediocre – it has clearly not been a priority. However, one hopes that those players who make the lineup tonight will play with the passion, skill and professionalism that the first choice lineup showed at Southampton at the weekend.