Thursday, 17 December 2009

It's a squad game

There have been a few instances in recent years where football teams have sent out sub strength sides in various situations.

Arsenal and the other big teams in the League and FA cups,

Bolton fielding a weakened team against Sporting Lisbon in the Uefa Cup

Everton and Celtic in the Europa League tonight

However, one of the most controversial decisions was made by Mick McCarthy on Tuesday when he made 10 changes for his match at Old Trafford against the champions Manchester United.

McCarthy has been widely criticised by many for, amongst other things, letting down the away fans, devaluing/cheating the Premier League, giving away points.

But was he wrong to do this?

Let's look at this problem from an expected value perspective.

Wolves were 18-1 to win and 6-1 for the draw with their first team. If we assume that the bookies are usually right then their chances of winning were around 6% and drawing they were 16%. With 3 points for a win and 1 point for a draw that would give them an expected value of 0.18 + 0.16 = 0.34 points for the fixture.

Even if we go to the extreme and say that the reserve team's chances of winning or drawing are halved. That means this decision has cost Wolves 0.17 points.

Now the chances of Wolves winning their next fixture against Burnley are evens - 50% and the odds on the draw are 3-1 - 33% giving an expected value of 1.83 points.

The question is how much more chance do they have of winning given the fact that Burnley played a difficult game in midweek and Wolves were able to rest their injury ravaged squad.

Clearly they only need to increase their chances of winning by 5% in order to break even. On top of that is the fact that the match against Burnley is a 6 pointer since they are both likely to be near the relegation zone in May.

My view is that this was a very brave and sensible decision by Mick McCarthy.

Similarly I can understand when the bigger teams use squad players in the Carling and FA Cups. Based on the premise that the players being used should still be good enough to win the games.

What I disagree with is when teams field weakened teams that have no chance of winning the match in these cup competitions. In particular the Bolton decision in the Uefa cup last year.

Bolton had fought all season long the year before to gain entry to this competition only to then give away their chances at the business end of the tournament when anything could happen to give their fans an opportunity to get to a semi final, final or even with the tournament - look at what happened to Greece in Euro 2004.

It's fine when there is nothing to play for, as is the case with Everton and Celtic tonight.
Poker wise I had a good night on Tuesday winning 1 and final tabling 2 of the other 3 MTT's I played for $800 profit. Didn't fare so well last night when I tried the deepstack in Bolton that was a nice little tournament which I will be trying again in the near future.


  1. To be fair to Mick McCarthy, his job is to keep Wolves up. Simple as that. And in my view, he has the right to go about achieving this in whichever way he likes.

    As much as it may not be the fairest situation, it really annoys me when people have a go at other managers for fielding weakened teams. Why should they expect any manager to do anything other than what is best for their club?

    As much as I bloody love him, I thought Wenger was wrong to criticise McCarthy

    Anyway, I notice you're not talking about your team much this week... which is probably best!

  2. What can I say? They seem to be unable to get back into winning ways> I don't know if it is confidence or whether something has happened that has lead to a breakdown in relations between players and manager or players within the club. I can't see how a team can go from where they were last season to where they are now and only having lost one player (as good as he was)

  3. I think fans of all clubs have a right to EXPECT that their hard earned cash will be providing for the best team available on the day to turn up - even more so when your an away fan. Liverpool are expected to get 3 points on boxing day and I cant see anything changing that even against mick McCarthy's strongest eleven - this is of course supposing that the liverpool manager elects to play his strongest squad available - imagine the disgust of the liverpool fans if he tuens up with 10 reserves!!!
    Good luck to both teams in the new year

  4. And also, when you United play lower teams they'll play players like Nani, Welbeck, Maqueda, Obertan, Owen, Gibson etc.

    Now even though these are international players, they are still not the strongest team united could put out. So Where is the line drawn?