The “Weakened Side” a Key Tactic
By Peter Herrnreiter
Simply stated, Mick McCarthy should be red hot and up in arms over the £25,000 fine levied against his Wolverhampton side for him fielding a “weakened side” against Manchester United last December. Not due to a largely arbitrary, and in my view- excessive amount, but for the premise that such a tactic is (or should be) illegal and which in Arsene Wengers words, “threatened the international credibility of the Premier League’’.
Photo from fOTOGLIF
I find it somewhat ironic that the very idea of the EPL’s “international credibility” comes from the league’s exhausting and very involving schedule. With EPL, Carling Cup, FA Cup and European matches to fit into a roughly 9 month long schedule, with breaks for international duty, players are stretched far beyond their limit.
Why then should Wolverhampton, who admittedly have few internationals, sit certain key players, especially when their midweek form as been poor enough to not even warrant worry from their staff? Well, simply because the risk of injury and physical fatigue is too great.
Most squads, namely the Big Four, do have the depth and the skill to cover such a diverse schedule without incident. Hull on the other hand have already seen major injury blows to key players, like Jimmy Bullard. The worry then is for the newcomers to hold onto their lead position and to stave off their slide into the relegation zone. This fact was obviously lost of most EPL managers and fans alike.
While I wouldn’t appreciate seeing any side, much less the one I support play a starting XI that is akin to a kick about league, the idea clear. Start your top players at your own peril. Even Wenger stated this worry himself not long ago when he criticized FIFA’s ruling that players must report to international duty. The often mocked but never imitated Frenchman was furious after his side was leaved by injured after players reported for international matches.
The league and others world wide might want to seriously investigate the matter, not for its impact on the local game, but on the game as a whole. To what end, do leagues, FAs and fans want their men to run themselves ragged, day in and day out? No wonder Thierry Henry is finished by 30.