It seems there has been a sea change among Premier League clubs in recent seasons.
All of a sudden top-flight clubs, especially the so called ‘big teams’ are fielding strong line-up’s in the much-maligned League Cup, or Capital One Cup for the sponsors.
Even that great loather of the League Cup Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger fielded a relatively strong line-up in his team’s third round clash with arch-rivals Tottenham on Wednesday night.
The veteran French boss realised that a win against Spurs, no matter what competition, would raise morale and a defeat would add further questions about Arsenal’s performances this season.
The League Cup has been the competition that Wenger has used to test out his young talent and field his squad players. Granted the Frenchman fielded a few squad players against Spurs, but the line-up was nothing like in previous campaigns.
Even Premier League leaders Manchester City fielded a line-up which included the likes of Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne in a 4-1 win at Sunderland.
The League Cup is a competition that is often derived and usually the last priority of most Premier League clubs. It is the competition that most top-flight clubs do not take seriously unless they get to the quarter-finals stages, when suddenly it becomes interesting.
Maybe Premier League bosses have realised that there is not a lot of silverware that is on offer to them. While the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United dream of the Premier League title or even European glory there is little other silverware on offer.
The FA Cup carries more prestige and honour because of its history. However, it only offers the same footballing reward as winning the League Cup, which is entry into the Europa League, another under-valued competition by some clubs.
Realistically there are some teams who will not be able to challenge for the Premier League title, so the cup competitions are the next best thing. For the clubs still left in the competition it offers them a real chance of picking up rare silverware.
One prime example of a club in need of silverware is Everton. The Toffees are traditionally one of the powerhouses of English football, but are a club who have been left behind in terms of finances and trophies.
Evertonians are desperate for silverware, having endured the longest trophy draught in the clubs modern day history. The last piece of silverware the club lifted was the FA Cup in 1995, and 20 years is a long wait for fans of a club with such a history of winning silverware.
Everton defeated Championship Reading 2-1 in the third round. An average performance from the men from Merseyside was made better by superb goals from Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu.
Roberto Martinez’s side have been handed a home game against Norwich in the fourth round and the Toffees will be confident of progression to the last eight.
Even the Toffees Merseyside rivals Liverpool could do with some cheer at the moment. The Reds drew 1-1 with League Two Carlisle on Wednesday night at Anfield and needed penalties to progress.
The pressure will now be ramped up on Brendan Rodgers, who fielded a strong side against the lower league opposition. If Rodgers survives the chop in the next few months, some silverware may buy him time, but even that may not be enough to silence the restless Reds fans.
The fact that all eight teams in the quarter-finals of the League Cup could be Premier League sides says a lot about the evolution of the competition in recent years.
Last season not only did Chelsea win the Premier League, but they also won the League Cup, which suggests it is not the worthless competition that some cynics have painted it to be in recent years.
The Blues despite the fact they seemingly had bigger priorities, managed to take the competition seriously and won the trophy for the fifth time last season suggests that the competition is still worth winning.
The last 16 teams in the competition are as strong a line-up as the League Cup has seen for a while at this stage. A last 16 containing all the Premier League title contenders, and also the likes of Everton and Liverpool suggests that teams are taking the League Cup seriously.
For all its critics and naysayers, the League Cup may just be worth winning after all, even if there are some people out there who still call it ‘The Mickey Mouse Cup’.
Is there value in winning the League Cup?