West Ham’s attitude to Carabao Cup a worrying indication of the power of Premier League – Andy Dunn

For a club that will soon celebrate the 40th anniversary of the last time it won a major trophy, West Ham United appear to have a curiously dismissive attitude to cup competitions.

Those fans who travelled to AFC Wimbledon for the fourth round of last season’s FA Cup (a 4-2 defeat) or to Wigan at the same stage of the 2017-18 competition (a 2-0 loss) will not have been surprised by Wednesday night’s capitulation in the Carabao Cup at Oxford United.

Nor will they have been surprised that, according to Manuel Pellegrini, ‘mentally the players were not prepared to give 100 percent’ at Oxford.



Issa Diop reacts with dismay during West Ham’s defeat against Oxford

Why would they have been prepared? Why would they have been prepared if they knew the result did not REALLY matter to the manager?

He can protest all he likes but everyone knows Pellegrini’s job security depends on one thing and one thing only … making a decent fist of a Premier League campaign.

Not winning the thing, of course not. Not finishing in the top four, that would be way too much to ask. Not even finishing in a Europa League spot, oh no.

Mid-table and a few headline victories, such as the one against Manchester United last Sunday, will do.

He is not alone, of course. There are a swathe of managers in the same position.

And Pellegrini’s was certainly not an isolated case in terms of wholesale alterations being made for a Carabao Cup tie.



Oxford fully deserved their 4-0 victory

Indeed, Sheffield United’s Chris Wilder trumped Pellegrini’s nine changes by one and contrived to lose at home to Sunderland.

But the practice, also adopted by lower tier teams (Oxford United’s Karl Robinson made six changes for the 4-0 triumph), does not have to be slavishly followed.

I was at the London Stadium for the victory over United and, for a fairly vacuous bowl, it was rocking.

Why not do everything you can to build on that momentum?

The well-worn argument goes that whatever team a Premier League manager fields, such is the relative squad strength, it should still have way too much for a League One side to cope with.

And Pellegrini’s line-up at the Kassam Stadium was hardly full of kids and rookies.

But it was full of players knowing they were only starting because the gaffer does not give too much of a toss about winning the competition.

If Pellegrini wonders why the mentality was not good enough, it’s right there.



Manuel Pellegrini said his side were not mentally prepared for the game

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There are serious and understandable reservations – expressed here previously – about the ongoing validity of the Carabao Cup, or whoever the sponsor of the EFL Cup is at the time.

And with the French abandoning their equivalent from next season, England will be the only one of the top five European countries to have such a competition.

But the French decision was one promoted by the failure to secure TV rights and that is not going to happen here.

A bigger threat would be an expansion of the Champions League, placing greater pressure on the schedule of top Premier League clubs.

But for now, for the fans, the Carabao Cup is a chance to get to Wembley, to make memories far more treasured than those of an early season win over a bog-standard Manchester United, to win a significant trophy.

It will soon be four decades since West Ham United did the latter.

And if a mid-table Premier League berth remains the be-all and end-all, it will be another four decades before they do it again.

source.



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