After the Carlin Cup 3rd round matches midweek, pundits roundly criticised Manchester United’s squad depth. I appreciate such criticism as much as anyone else, mainly because it helps us biased fans see what we might have missed otherwise – what with the rose-tinted specs and all.
So in the spirit of fighting fair, I thought I’d check up on the actual playing squads of the teams each of the top 4 had sent out on Tuesday and Wednesday. Let’s compare notes, shall we, and then you can all tell me how crap Manchester United are in the comments.
Carling Cup Squads from Midweek
Let’s see the squads first, and compare / analyse later.
Arsenal’s Carling Cup Squad
Fabianski, Justin Hoyte, Eboue (Diaby 64), Senderos, Traore, Diarra, Denilson, Song Billong, Walcott, Bendtner, Eduardo (Perez 90).
Subs Not Used: Mannone, Lansbury, Gavin Hoyte.
Chelsea’s Carling Cup Squad
Cudicini, Belletti, Ben-Haim, Terry, Ashley Cole (Bridge 65), Wright-Phillips (Joe Cole 49), Essien (Makelele 73), Sidwell, Kalou, Sinclair, Pizarro.
Subs Not Used: Hilario, Shevchenko.
Liverpool’s Carling Cup Squad
Itandje, Finnan, Carragher, Lucas (Hobbs 89), Aurelio (Riise 69), Arbeloa, Benayoun, Sissoko, Leto, Crouch (Gerrard 77), Torres.
Subs Not Used: Martin, Putterill.
Manchester United’s Carling Cup Squad
Kuszczak, Bardsley (Brown 45), Evans (Carrick 56), Pique, Simpson, Nani, Martin (Campbell 45), O’Shea, Eagles, Dong, Anderson.
Subs Not Used: Heaton, Eckersley.
Arsenal: Apart from Fabianski, Traore and Bendtner, all players starting for Arsenal are players who’ve had playing time in the senior team last season and / or this season. Song had a ‘goodish’ loan spell at Charlton, Bendtner did well in the Championship.
Chelsea: Apart from Sinclair, every other player has decent first-team experience, either at Chelsea or elsewhere (Sidwell).
Liverpool: Itandje, Lucas and Leto don’t usually feature even in rotation but all other players on the pitch have, once again, had decent first-team experience, either at Liverpool or elsewhere (Benayoun).
Manchester United: Evans and Simpson have Championship experience, Pique has La Liga experience, Anderson has his time at Porto, Bardsley has his Aston Villa time, Nani has featured regularly, Kuszczak is relatively experienced and O’Shea of course has been around for a while.
Now I want you to look at all four squads and point out ‘regular starters’ – or, if you wish, members of the senior squad – for each club. Go ahead.
Chelsea, apart from Scott Sinclair and Steve Sidwell, are filled with regular starters (and Sidwell was a regular at Reading before he moved to Chelsea.
Arsenal have players who are usually rotated – I wouldn’t call anyone except Eboue a regular, although him along with Senderos have played relatively less this season.
Liverpool also have regular starters all over apart from Itandje, Lucas and Leto.
Manchester United‘s regular starters? O’Shea is experienced so we’ll add him here, Nani has played regularly this season so he comes in (although as a new signing he’s still being eased in and would be equal to, or perhaps slightly ahead of, Eduardo in acclimatisation) and if you want to stretch it, you can include Kuszczak and the subs (Brown and Carrick).
Now you should go back again, and see which teams fielded squads who’ve played games together.
Arsenal‘s squad, once again, has it’s share of ‘fresh’ kids but they’ve all had time on the pitch and more importantly, time playing together.
Chelsea and Liverpool – both squads have been playing regularly and as teams.
Manchester United – well, considering that we had a new back four (all other teams had at least 2 relatively ‘experienced’ defenders, even Arsenal with Eboue and Senderos), only O’Shea in midfield (Arsenal’s midfield was weak too but I’d rate Denilson over O’Shea and possibly Diarra at a par or at least with a lot more potential than O’Shea) and Anderson and Dong up front (Arsenal, as they’re the only team with a comparably weak squad, had Bendtner and Eduardo up front, both of whom are better than Dong and more experienced in English conditions than Anderson).
Compare the squads above and draw your own conclusions (and share in the comments) – for me, the following points are worth noting:
- Chelsea and Liverpool fielded relatively senior teams, but since they were playing away, I won’t hold that against them. To have it claimed that those two teams have ‘squad depth’ is a bit of a joke, since we didn’t get to see that squad depth.
- Arsenal fielded their second string, and I have to admit here that those kids showed good composure to beat a nearly full-strength Newcastle United. One thing working in Arsenal’s favor is that they had relatively experienced players on the pitch, but you could never in a million years take away anything from that performance, it would great. Newcastle didn’t find the target, but that’s the rub, I guess, and you can’t hold that against Arsenal.
Senderos, Eboue, Denilson, Walcott, Eduardo – all 5 can be classified as second-string – still, a very young squad.
- Manchester United fielded an XI with a majority of the players either not used to playing with each other or not even classified as ‘second string’. Bardsley is not the second-choice right-back, Wes Brown is. Evans and Pique are not second-choice defenders – Brown, O’Shea (and when fit, Silvestre) are. Simpson is not second-choice left-back, Silvestre or O’Shea is. Lee Martin and Chris Eagles are not second-choice wingers – Nani, Park and Fletcher are (assuming that Giggs and Ronny are first choice). O’Shea qualifies as a second-choice midfielder but he’s 5th in the pecking order (6th if you count Giggsy being picked ahead of him). Dong and Anderson are not second-choice strikers – Fergie rotates the top 3 and uses Giggs or Ronaldo as support strikers when necessary.
In terms of playing in position, the only three players I’d call as ‘second-string’ are Nani, Kuzczak and O’Shea.
- The question here is not of quality, but experience playing together and actually playing a real second-string side instead of pretending that you’re doing so. Manchester United’s second string is mostly injured (Silvestre, Fletcher, Park) and with several first team players injured (Hargreaves, Neville, Rooney till recently, Saha with his ‘issues’), United have had their squad stretched a bit and as a result players who might have started this game (Brown, Saha, Carrick) sat on the bench or in the stands preparing for next week’s game against Roma.
I know I’m inviting a lot of criticism here, but go ahead and tell me where I’m wrong in this analysis. I welcome your comments, as long as you comment about something I’ve written here and do so after reading everything. Calling me an ass help no one (you can go here and call Daniel Taylor an ass if you want to).
Looking forward to reading your analysis