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Capital One Cup: Is Anybody Watching, Should Anybody Care?

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26:  Kenny Dalglish manager of Liverpool and Jamie Carragher celebrate with the trophy  after the Carling Cup Final match between Liverpool and Cardiff City at Wembley Stadium on February 26, 2012 in London, England. Liverpool won 3-2 on penalties.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Michael CummingsWorld Football Lead WriterOctober 29, 2012

Quick: Who won the Football League Cup last season?

Take your time. Google it if you have to.

Ready?

The answer, of course, is Liverpool. The Reds defeated Cardiff City in the final at Wembley on Feb. 26.

Unless you're a supporter of either club, though, you probably didn't remember any of those facts right away—much less that the match went to penalties.

The title was Liverpool's eighth in League Cup history, a record. As Liverpool are one of England's most famous and historically successful clubs, the Reds' success in the cup hints at its relative importance.

After all, if the competition—now known as the Capital One Cup for sponsorship reasons—holds little importance, wouldn't we expect to see lower-division clubs dominating the winners' list?

With that said, it would be a stretch to suggest the Capital One Cup has any real significance to England's biggest clubs today. Just last week, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger took an indirect shot at the competition (via Arsenal.com):

We speak about trophies. For me, there are five trophies - the first is to win the Premier League, the second is to win the Champions League, the third is to qualify for the Champions League, the fourth is to win the FA Cup and the fifth is to win the League Cup.

I say that because if you want to attract the best players, they do not ask: 'did you win the League Cup?', they ask you: 'do you play in the Champions League?

That attitude pretty much sums up the Capital One Cup for England's big clubs.

When clubs like Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United (the latter two of which play each other) take the field for the competition's fourth round this week, they will likely field younger, less experienced squads than they did over the weekend in the Premier League.

Different clubs have different reasons for this. Winning the Capital One Cup does not bring with it a financial payout comparable to Champions League qualification. And like Wenger said, new recruits are more interested in playing on the biggest stage than winning a domestic cup not named the FA Cup.

And yet, for a club like Arsenal, the Capital One Cup could serve as an outlet to satisfy frustrated fans. The Gunners have famously gone more than seven years since winning a trophy, and their most recent chance at silverware came in the 2011 League Cup final (it was then known as the Carling Cup).

Arsenal lost to Birmingham City in that 2011 final, and trophies (besides Wenger's top-four finishes, that is) have proved elusive since then.

Once in the final, bigger clubs tend to play more senior players, as Liverpool did last season. And after the Reds won the Cup, those players were clearly thrilled with the prospect of taking home silverware for the club.

But the Carling Cup title wasn't enough to save manager Kenny Dalglish's job. Results in the Premier League proved much more important to the club's directors.

So, then, should top Premier League clubs take the Carling Cup more seriously? And if they're not taking it seriously, should fans care?

Vote in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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