Weekly Why: English Football, League Cup, FA Cup and the Consequences of Excess

Daniel Tiluk@@danieltilukFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2016

Adrian Dennis/Getty Images

Welcome to Bleacher Report's Weekly Why, a place where we discuss world football's biggest questions that may go neglected and/or avoided. Ranging from the jovial to the melancholic, no subject matter is deemed off-limits.

Why Does England Have Two Domestic Cups? 

The Premier League's frequent disappearing acts annoy me.

Whether for cup ties or international breaks, everything seems less important, less relevant. Occasionally, however, an interesting story is provided by these pauses, and once such instance transpired during Sunday's FA Cup offerings.

Manchester City, in the midst of a severely congested slate, were mandated to play Chelsea (at Stamford Bridge), then fly to Kiev, Ukraine, for their opening UEFA Champions League knock-out match of 2015/16. Following their European duties, they return to London to face Liverpool in the League Cup final at Wembley Stadium and finally re-engage Jurgen Klopp's men at Anfield once their EPL schedule resumes.

Some might enjoy their club playing four matches in the space of 11 days away from home, but for manager Manuel Pellegrini, it's an unwanted logjam. With injures to Kevin De Bruyne, Wilfried Bony, Samir Nasri and other vital participants, concessions were made against Guus Hiddink's side.

Incorporating seven youth players (and 19-year-old first-team option Kelechi Iheanacho) against Chelsea's best XI—the City boss led his team to slaughter. Clinging to a 1-1 draw at half-time, the second 45 minutes was an unquestioned mismatch; west London's pre-eminent footballing institution scored four goals without reply and waltzed to a quarter-final clash with Everton.

Almost knowing his fate before Sunday's opening whistle, Manuel Pellegrini looked a condemned man.
Almost knowing his fate before Sunday's opening whistle, Manuel Pellegrini looked a condemned man.AFP/Getty Images

Investigating headlines of the 5-1 drubbing, questions surrounding Chelsea's victory wern't necessarily on the defending English champions, but the respect (or lack thereof) Pellegrini showed the FA Cup. I find this question pretentious, as it's underpinned by the notion City and their manager had zero interest in winning the match.

It suggests an overt defeatist mentality. I'm not convinced Pellegrini would accept such an odious assertion. Had the Citizens drawn League One's Shrewsbury Town—or one of the available Championship outfits—at the Etihad, the narrative wouldn't be as prevalent. City's tough draw (away to Chelsea), the eventual scoreline and the FA Cup's prestige, though, have detractors taking to their soapboxes in protest.

It's an unsurprising, predictable attack to launch but, while certainly a symptom, the disease isn't Manchester City playing youngsters at Stamford Bridge, nor Pellegrini manoeuvring his club to cope with injury. The true malady is the merging of four competitions, amalgamating into an overcrowded schedule—forcing managers to prioritise one competition over another.

Ideally, those decisions wouldn't be necessary, but England is special in several ways.

Firstly, the Premier League are averse to playing matches on Friday. The rules are less stringent on Boxing Day, but Fridays haven't been on the EPL's mind. Starting in 2016/17, England's top flight will broadcast up to 10 Friday night matches, according to BBC Sport's Simon Stone, but who and when remains to be parsed.

Manchester City's loss was a result of injury and their schedule, not because of their "disrespecting" the FA Cup.
Manchester City's loss was a result of injury and their schedule, not because of their "disrespecting" the FA Cup.Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

When Manchester City are fielding players wearing:
#51
#53
#59
#62
#72
#75
#76
#77
I refuse to recognise their legitimacy in this game.

— ChelseaTalk (@ChelseaTaIk) February 21, 2016 

An argument can be made that the League Cup should be used for youth, but at the expense of competitiveness?
An argument can be made that the League Cup should be used for youth, but at the expense of competitiveness?Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Allowing flexibility for both domestic and European cups, why this development has taken ages is an actual mystery. In Europe's top five leagues, only the Premier League has been exceedingly rigid in this aspect—giving other leagues an advantage in midweek fixtures.

Excluding France, the English Football Association are the only governing body in Europe's top five leagues that have a second domestic cup. This addition is compounded by not having a recognised winter holiday. Between December 15 and January 7, the Premier League and two cup competitions are ongoing, while elsewhere on the continent, players customarily receive a holiday during most of that period.

Started in 1871/72 (and football's oldest trophy), the FA Cup is globally understood as the most prestigious domestic cup competition in football.

Eighty-nine years later, before the 1960/61 season, the League Cup was introduced. Conceived as the FA Cup's consolation tournament, the League Cup has become its own entity, despite its bronze medal in terms of importance. Only 92 clubs compete in the League Cup. For contrast: 736 clubs took part in FA Cup this season.

In many ways the League Cup, though a legitimate trophy, has transformed to further showcase England's biggest teams. To be prematurely eliminated from the competition is rarely viewed as positive but is invariably spun to mean: "We can now place our full attention on other competitions," which normally gets siege-ready mobs to lower their pitchforks and torches, but defeats the purpose of their involvement. 

In 55 seasons, only five League Cup winners have come from outside England's first tier—none since 1991.
In 55 seasons, only five League Cup winners have come from outside England's first tier—none since 1991.GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Were I tasked with solving the problem, I'd exclude Premier League teams from the League Cup.

It would give Football League clubs a greater chance at Wembley finals and winning trophies, plus eliminate the casualties presented when the EPL's cream rises in both domestic competitions and Europe. The issue, however, is Premier League clubs are the ones driving ratings, selling out Wembley and garnering investors.

Three competitions for the upper-echelon would improve the FA Cup's viability, Premier League attrition and possibly England's European performances. Moreover, adding a winter break (a version that wouldn't destroy Boxing Day fixtures) helps with fitness, while Friday fixtures improve managerial options when matches come in quick succession.

Lastly, if money's the driving force behind every decision made at this point: The concept of "more" doesn't always equate to a better product. Should tasking Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea or any EPL club with 50 games a season reduce their ability to perform at optimal levels, removing an unnecessary burden could assist in creating a better overall product—for which, in turn, a higher price can be charged.

If it makes business sense, footballing sense and common sense, you'd think it presentable—possibly even applicable.

I'm not keeping my hopes up on this one, though, I've been let down once too many.

Last WeeklyPremier League, Joleon Lescott and the Burden of Professionalism | Why Don't Players Feel Clubs Like Fans?

*Stats via WhoScored.com; transfer fees via Soccerbase where not noted.

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