The FA Cup used to be of great importance. But nowadays it’s a quasi-reserve competition, with all but a small number of clubs safe enough in their league positions (top or bottom, any division) to risk their first team. Competitions are as important as teams choose to take them, and few take this seriously anymore; that’s not Liverpool’s fault. The FA Cup is an irrelevance in 2019. Liverpool have bigger fish to fry, quite frankly. Going out is never nice; but being out is good.
The BBC commentary was driving me nuts, to be frank; it’s important to them as broadcasters because it’s the only thing they get to show live. Liverpool had already just played Wolves away, Newcastle at home, Arsenal at home and Man City away in the previous fortnight, in a stupidly busy and tough festive period which allowed no room to rotate. The Reds have Bayern Munich home and away soon, with a defensive injury crisis.
Liverpool don’t need more games. Liverpool don’t need more injuries. Liverpool need greater preparation time, more recovery time, a warm-weather training break – and to me, even the Champions League could be a problem this season (I’d bin that off, too, but I know it’s not possible for managers to do that. Again, you don’t want to lose, but being out could help). To stay in both cups and try and win the league with a smaller squad than the much wealthier main rival would be tough.
And Jürgen Klopp’s last five early-round domestic cup games have all been against Premier League opposition. (Being able to play Rotherham or Tranmere would be nice, to take it easier.) In his first two seasons there were massive fixture pile-ups and injuries in January due to the League Cup semifinals, the FA Cup and the overkill festive fixtures.
To jeopardise a Premier League title challenge just to have a run in the FA Cup to win a devalued trophy that few people care about would be insanity.
And momentum is meaningless. As soon as Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, Mo Salah, Gini Wijnaldum, Bobby Firmino, Andy Robertson and Sadio Mané step back into the starting XI the buzz is back. Vitally, they all got some rest.
If this was a priority for Liverpool they would all have started; and not the three teenagers who made their debuts. (Commentators moan about kids not getting enough chances in English football, then moan when the competition is “disrespected” when someone plays them. They moan about too much football in the season for the England team whenever they crash out in the summer, with no midwinter break, then moan when stars get rested for minor cups in midwinter, straight after a crazy festive fixture list. They want it all, in this greedy, dumbed-down age, where everything has to be framed as a mistake.)
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