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The League Decides What A Club's Strongest XI Is

Wolves have been fined 25,000 for fielding a 'weakened' team at Old Trafford. Mick McCarthy made ten changes for the game after they beat Spurs at White Hart Lane on December 12. Wolves promptly lost 3-0 and there was outrage. Arsene Wenger who fielded a team with the average age of 21 in a Champions League game that was crucial for their opponents and for another side in the group claimed that Wolves disrespected the competition and that United have to compete over one less games than the rest.

Never mind the fact that the Wolves XI actually put up a really good fight; never mind the fact that they actually named full internationals and proven league performers: this was a weakened team and they had to be punished! The Premier League obliged, ignoring Wolves' attempts to refer to earlier cases, such as Liverpool's 1-0 defeat at Fulham in 2007 or our second string beating Hull three days before the 2009 Champions League final.

Basically, by punishing Wolves the Premier League declared that it's their right to decide what a club's strongest XI is. Mick McCarthy felt that his tired players who had been battered at White Hart Lane, needed a rest and he gave it to them - but that, apparently, was a breach of the rule E20 which states that each participant of the competition shall field a full-strength team. Ten outfield players plus a goalkeeper, all of them members of the first-team squad, tied to the club by a professional contract - for me, that is the definition of a full-strength team.

The League, however, clearly disagrees: they think that the XI that won at Spurs was definitely stronger than the one which lost at Old Trafford. But what right did they have to decide it? United won 3-2 in Milan on Tuesday; if on Saturday Fergie opts to field Obertan instead of Park and Anderson instead of Scholes, will that be a punishable offence?

It is a dangerous precedent. And there's another angle here: all the players put out at Old Trafford by Wolves were professionals, members of the club's first team squad. This decision is an insult to them: they are treated as a bunch of 16-year-olds, bound to lose against opposition with much more experience and strength. Yet these were no 16-year-olds who were thrown in at the deep end after a couple of Reserve games. They should speak up against this.

I wonder if something similar will happen next season when all clubs will be asked to register a squad of 25. Those registered should be treated equally when it comes to applying the rule E20 - that is to say, if the starting XI is made up of any combination of those 25 players then the decision-makers should be satisfied. Otherwise they have to ask every club to name not a 25-man squad but a starting eleven and 14 squad players. Oh, and they need to apply a doctor at every club whose job would be to verify reports of injuries as those might be used the bend the rules.

Complicated, isn't it? Yes. But right now it seems that a manager isn't allowed to use his first-team squad as he wishes which just about negates the point of employing a manager. Members of the Premier League disciplinary committee should do the job from now on. Come to think of it, Liverpool might be better off that way!




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The Journalist

Writer: Zae Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Thursday February 18 2010

Time: 11:26PM

Your Comments

Nah. No way Cesspool would improve ;)
Zbam
I can understand them wanting to discourage what wolves did, but it is still an unfair decision. Its quite clear that this decision wouldnt have been made if they weren't playing Man Utd. If they rested players against pompey to play well against us, no one would have cared. No one seemed to care when Chelsea made 9 changes a few days later, does one player make that much difference? In an attempt to justify this decision and cover up their blatent bias, I'm sure us or chelsea will be next. If either of us try to rest players before a cup match this season - you can guarantee that the media will ensure we get fined. It''ll be interesting to see how many changes the next team get punished for.
tuscan3000
Opening boxes that should never be opened! Best XI is always a relative thing and the League is shooting themselves in the foot with this decision. It makes you wonder though, if the common fan can understand the ramifications of such judgments, what sort of morons are employed to make these decisions? Surely there must be some sort of responsibility towards the game from these idiots? Ah well.....
elvido
Personally, i'm worried...this won't end well. Silly decision imo.
blueogre
The answer to this ridiculous affair is from next season, ALL Premier League managers must nominate their strongest 11 players 1 - 11 and the squad players any numbers thereafter. The PL would have no problem
MancMalc
The answer to this ridiculous affair is, from the beginning of next season, ALL PL Managers must nominate their strongest 11 and number them 1-11, the remaining squad players can then have any other numbers they or their club gives them. The PL would then have no problems at all distinguishing which 11 were the 'strongest' 11 and teams like Wolves would not have to answer to the PL on stupid matters like this! McCarthy's idea to rest players for a more winnable game turned out to be an astute decision - although as a fan I do not agree with any manager changing 10 outfield players for 1 game - he had his reasons and as football is now a squad game, how the PL can implement rule E20 is a complete no-brainer as far as I am concerned! Is a team expected play the same 11 players for 38 PL games and who is to say which is the strongest 11 anyway?
MancMalc
This is so silly,now a manager can't even pick a team,I guess he has to ask the PL to select which players will get the job done for his team.
Antriksh (abmtd)
Its like telling those players who were representing Wolves at Old Trafford that they are not good enough to start a game.Imagine what would that do to their confidence.
Antriksh (abmtd)
So next time even one player is left on the bench to be rested, that is not the strongest XI so the club has to be fined? Absolute nonsense decision
maxfield123
I always knew the FA were stupid but this is just ridiculous.
One United 23
Managers should have the right to field what ever team they see fitting for a match. I wonder if they would start fining teams for resting players ahead of CL ties.
khoder
foolish decision
adrogbafan
PL are full of bull - they cant tell a team which players are allowed to play in it......
niteworlok
idiots now the 2nd strings will never get a game.Dont they take fatigue into consideration?
Chelsea24/7
Who's the lil' hypocrite? Arse Wenger always has his 2 cent input.
Chelsea24/7
Managers CAN play whatever team they want - PL are full of **** if they get away with this, and it makes the choice of managers a damn joke
niteworlok
 

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