Laudrup is right to rest his stars
A 5-0 defeat is, I think I’m safe in saying, not the ideal preparation for a cup final, let alone the first major cup final in a club’s history. Furthermore, Swansea’s loss at Anfield was 5-0 going on 10-0, such was the domination that the Reds had over the course of the ninety minutes.
February 22nd, 2013
Michael Laudrup has come in for a lot of criticism since for his team selection, which was undoubtedly weaker than he could have put out, with many suggesting that he disrespected his opponents, the league and shamed his own club by almost surrendering the game in favour of keeping his first choice players fresh for the encounter with Bradford. Some went further to invoke the fine issued after Mick McCarthy picked an even more under-strength side when his Wolves side travelled to Old Trafford.
That fine, however, and the criticism levelled at Laudrup in recent days have been ridiculous. The Premier League rules state that a club can have a squad of up to 25 senior players, but who are the rule makers to decide on how a manager should use his squad? Rotation is a much argued but generally accepted part of the modern game, and if a club considers a player good enough for their squad then they are well within their rights to use them as and when they see fit.
This is not to excuse Swansea’s performance at Anfield; they were shockingly poor from start to finish. Many of the players who took to the Anfield pitch performed far below their own capabilities, save perhaps for goalkeeper Michel Vorm who single-handedly kept the score in single figures. Laudrup can, and did, take the blame for not motivating his players, for not having the right tactical plan; and the players can certainly be criticised for putting in such a lame performance but I struggle to see why the manager should be taken to task for making the most of his squad, and resting key players ahead of what could be argued is the biggest game in the club’s history.
In truth, Laudrup claims that only centre back Ashley Williams and attacker Michu were rested with the cup final in mind, and that the other changes made were the sort of normal squad rotation that is made every week. It may well have been the case that, having seen Chico Flores suffer ankle ligament damage against Queen’s Park Rangers the previous weekend, Laudrup was in no mood to lose another key player, and rightly decided that their fitness was more crucial for the trip to Wembley.
Swansea currently sit 8th in the Premier League table. A win over Liverpool would have kept them in 7th place, but realistically that is the highest they can hope for this season. Whether they finish 7th, 8th or even 10th pales into insignificance when faced with the prospect of claiming a major domestic trophy and the place in next season’s Europa League that goes with it. They are not in a situation such as Birmingham were, in which their cup run threatens their Premier League status; I think you would be hard-pressed to find a Swansea fan who would rather finish 7th than win the Capital One Cup.
Should, as we all expect, Swansea go on to lift the silverware at Wembley this weekend, then no one will care, or even remember that they ‘sacrificed’ a game against Liverpool, and that’s how football should be. Winning trophies should be important, and Michael Laudrup should be praised for doing all that he can to ensure that Swansea do exactly that.