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EFL Cup Semi-Finals: Which of Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool is most in need of winning the trophy?

The EFL Cup occupies a curious place in the firmament of English football. The first trophy of the season and for some coaches the perfect way to get into the habit of winning in the spring, but few would dispute that it sits below the FA Cup in club and club affection. supporters.

Ralf Rangnick isn’t the only one wondering if a secondary cup competition even belongs on the schedule. However, Pep Guardiola, the Manchester United head coach’s counterpart, might not agree. He has appropriated the trophy in recent years, winning six of the last eight, including his last four finals.

For City it’s often base camp for extra silverware, but Guardiola’s side were knocked out two rounds ago in this edition, and for this season’s semi-finalists, he can to be the best silverware hope the season has to offer. The Premier League trophy already appears to be headed for the Etihad Stadium as the two North London representatives in the semi-finals currently have no European football to look forward to in 2022. Whatever its status, a trophy is better that nothing but who needs it most?

4. Liverpool

For some reason, the EFL Cup (and maybe even FA Cup competitions in general) never seems to have won over Jurgen Klopp. Since his first season in English football, where he lost to Manchester City on penalties in the League Cup final, he has only led his side to two semi-finals, both in that competition. It’s easy to see why Klopp’s attention might be elsewhere. The European Cup has always held special power over Liverpool and a first league title in over 30 years has become an obsession for this club before 2020.

Everywhere you look there are signs that Liverpool simply have higher priorities than the EFL Cup. Jurgen Klopp will hand over the pre-match press conference responsibilities to assistant Pep Ljinders before naming a squad largely made up of fringe and young players. This is a competition for Takumi Minaminos and Divock Origis, not Mohamed Salah, who has played just over an hour of League Cup football since arriving at Anfield.

The latter will of course play no role in this meeting after joining Egypt for the African Cup of Nations (CAN), just like Sadio Mane and Naby Keita. Meanwhile, Alisson, Joel Matip and Roberto Firmino missed Sunday’s draw with Chelsea after positive COVID-19 tests.

But from the players who are there, it seems possible that Klopp, who won’t be in the dugout after testing positive himself, is inclined to go a little harder against Arsenal this time around with the semi-finals. placed on either side of a third of the FA Cup. Round tie with Shrewsbury Town of League One, where rotation seems an obvious choice. This is hardly Liverpool’s top priority – even after reaching the semi-finals, Klopp professed he would be happier giving Arsenal the home advantage on one leg than playing two games – but the schedule of encounters could offer him encouragement to chase a first National Title Cup.

3. Arsenal

Arsenal have grown into an accomplished cup team, although they haven’t won this trophy since 1993. For much of the years since their relative lack of EFL Cup success, this reflected the decision of Arsene Wenger to field teams of academy graduates, although in recent years they have generally gone one step further in a competition which has seen Arsenal managers give the squad players minutes.

Mikel Arteta has largely continued this approach this season with Eddie Nketiah and Nicolas Pepe among those taking the opportunity to shine against what has been a rather favorable set of opponents. The first scores on average more than one goal per match in the EFL Cup and seems a likely candidate to start at least one of the semi-finals with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at CAN.

When it comes to placing the competition in Arsenal’s priorities, it might be worth noting that their constant slippage from the top two teams to the top four and top eight has not come at the expense of cup competitions. Gunners winners. No one at Emirates Stadium needs to remember that this is a group of players who have historically proven they can score a result against the best opposition. Rather, the show has enjoyed sustained success over 38 games.

Of course, they are eminently capable of balancing league commitments with up to three EFL Cup games and whatever the FA Cup has in store for them. They are an important team built with a European fixture list in mind, which has not been on the calendar this season. However, the best way for Arteta’s squad to show growth at the moment would be to emerge victorious from the race in fourth place, even if a trophy offers that moment of ecstasy that an honorable end to the championship does. not offer.

2. Chelsea

It’s Chelsea. It’s a trophy. Few clubs are as determined in their quest for silver as the Blues, who under Jose Mourinho had a Guardiola-like attitude to this competition, winning it twice as they sought to build momentum for the race. They may only have won it once. since then but they have tended to be more often at the end, reflecting the deep wells of quality in Chelsea teams.

This particular competition could also come at an important time for Thomas Tuchel. Who knows what state his tenure will be in the final on February 27, but for now the German could win. Not that he is under significant pressure from the Chelsea hierarchy; instead, beating Tottenham on two legs would offer a welcome boost to the season just as their timbre appeared to be shifting.

COVID-19 injuries and absences may have derailed their title challenge, while Romelu Lukaku’s interview in Italy has drawn too much attention to Chelsea for Tuchel and his system to the manager’s liking . The German has the support of the club and his players for the way he has treated them, but recent events have served as a reminder of how thin any head coach’s grip on power can be at Stamford Bridge.

As such, the stakes are higher for Chelsea in this competition, not because it is a priority for them to hang on to Wembley later this year, but because they have lost at the moment, especially facing their former manager Antonio Conte at the head of one of their big rivals, would only put undesirable pressure on West London.

1. Tottenham

There was a time when Mauricio Pochettino was absolutely right, that winning a national cup competition and in particular the EFL Cup would not provide any great justification for his Tottenham project. The Spurs side of the second half of the 2010s were one of the best teams in Europe, a benchmark for success in the modern era without superstars names. They were aiming for Premier League and Champions League glory, not a competition that earned you the right to play in the Europa Conference League.

It was then. It is now. EFL Cup glory wouldn’t undo the wrong turns Tottenham have taken since the momentum from Pochettino’s best years began to crumble. It would, however, offer something tangible for fans who have waited long enough and for a group of players who may have always needed to make a habit of winning things after 13 years of their trophy cabinet gathering dust.

After all, they didn’t hire Antonio Conte because he fits perfectly into their attractive, possession-oriented football plan (although his tactical approach has always been easier to watch than he thinks) , but because recent history suggests that it is. rare managers in Europe who bring with them a cast iron guarantee. As a manager, he’s won nine, including league titles in each of his last three jobs, to go with the 14 he’s won as a player. It was a running joke at the time of his appointment in November that this job would offer with him Tottenham’s biggest test of their ability to get in their own way; if they could stimulate him with Conte at the helm, surely there was no hope for them.

The first signs were indeed impressive, with eight games unbeaten in the Premier League, but Conte insists it’s a long way to silver: “I think for everyone it is always very important to win trophies – for the club, for the players, for the managers On the one hand, I have to tell you this.

“On the other hand, I think you have to build to earn trophies. You can earn trophies by talking and saying you want to win. But then you have to be good and build something ready to win.” Those comments seem to have at least one eye on the January transfer window, where Conte will expect new hires to bolster his squad. Likewise, you don’t appoint a manager like the Italian with long term team building goals.

Tottenham want silverware, surely more important than the EFL Cups. But after so long without any trophies, surely Spurs need this competition more than any other semi-finalist.

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