Arsenal beware? The fallacy of resting key players

With FA Cup weekend upcoming, will title chasers like Arsenal lose momentum or gain by resting key players against Coventry this weekend?

It is an widely held faith among football managers that players need resting. However I believe the opposite is true: that you should play your strongest team as much as possible in order to build up momentum.

This was a point I made last year, when Arsene Wenger rested players in the FA cup against Blackburn, lost, and then got hammered a few days later by Bayern Munich.

My point then was that Wenger ensured his team went into that game in a negative mindset. I feel this is a very important point about football, one that is under explored and underappreciated.

First of all, given the amount players earn, is it so unreasonable to ask them to play as much as possible?

In a free market, which football is and has benefited from becoming, the more you pay the better quality of service you can expect.

For example if an investment bank pays new graduates £45,000 a year, it is not unreasonable to expect them to put in at least 60 hours a week. So if players earn a basic salary of say £30,000 a week, or £1.5 million pounds a year- more than most fans will earn in their lifetime, and at the lower end of the Premier League pay scale, they can fully well in my view play two or three games a week between August and May, and can press on even if they are feeling a bit under the weather.

Before the Premier League, players earned a lot less, but were much tougher. As more and more money has come into the game, players have become more and more primadonna-like. The quality of the football played has improved but at what cost?

You could argue that during Manchester United’s 1999 treble season, the large number of fixtures actually helped the team, as they gained a head of steam that carried them over the finishing line in all three competitions.

In fact in 2011 Rio Ferdinand said he felt his manager’s decision to rest players prior to the 2009 Champions League final actually hurt the team, as they had too long a period between games and were rusty by the time they faced the might of Barcelona.

Secondly, the recent experience of Sam Allardyce and West Ham proves my point. Allardyce put out a weakened side, which included many young players making their debuts, at Nottingham Forest with their upcoming games against Manchester City and Cardiff City in mind. The result was they got hammered 5-0.

This meant that his side went to Manchester City with the whole club in a downward spiral. Imagine if he had played his best side, and won the game!

What a lift it would have given them before such a difficult away game. The FA Cup third round is often a missed opportunity for managers whose teams are in relegation trouble.

Frequently they play a second strength team against lower league opposition, with a view to the league fixtures, and get beaten or taken to a replay.

It is my opinion that they often miss an important chance to get their season going again. What a lift it could give any team which has had a tough winter period, if they could win heavily again some lower league opposition?

image: © wonker

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