Wolverhampton Reserves and Arsenal Reserves – where’s the difference?

By Walter Broeckx

Tuesday evening. Wife not at home. Anything on the TV?

Oh yes they give a game of the EPL this evening. Well I might take a look. So I put on my sporting channel and instead of a game of the EPL I see it’s a game of the BEPL. The Bent English Premier League.

I see the teams line up and I see the full squad of Manchester United and then we get to see the Wolverhampton team and…. well apart from the goalkeeper no first team player in sight. My match commentator says that manager Mick McCarthy has decided to give his first team the night off and play his reserves.

Although the players had played before in the EPL and some were internationals, they were clearly not the normal first team of the club. Maybe it is a team that could play Arsenal youth team this season.

So this means that he just is giving Manchester United 3 points. Just like that. In fact he even could have made it far easier for everyone just by staying at home.  It would have helped on the global warming issue as some 70.000 people would not have gone out with their cars, the floodlights would not have been turned on, and all those burgers would not have been cooked.

Now I know that it is the responsibility from the manager to pick his team. And if he decides to take out his reserves for a first team fixture it is his decision.

Some commentators have pointed out that Wenger also puts up a youth team on occasion and yes he does. But when Wenger  does it, he does it in the Carling cup – or in a Euro match where the result means little. By doing this the only team he could harm is his own team. If Arsenal goes out of the Carling cup because the manager puts up a youth team we are the only one that suffer.

Besides these two competitions do not have rules which prevent the use of the squad system.  In fact in Europe the rules are set up specifically to allow younger players to play.

But if you deliberately play a reserve team in the BEPL you give a disadvantage to other teams.  I can imagine the amazing looks on the face of managers from teams that are battling with United for the title with big frowns in it. In my country we call it falsification of the league.

Now the question will be: why did Wolverhampton do this? Just to rest his players and to give them a benefit against Burnley on Sunday?  He has two more days rest than Burnley and still uses this excuse?

And then you might look at the games development … with United playing in a slow way as if they knew the points were in the bag. And then suddenly a Wolves player decides to help United by handling a ball with his hand when unchallenged?

After the helping hand from the manager, a helping hand from a player. I feel a smell coming up from some gutter.

Now can you imagine being a Wolves fan and paying a lot of money to go to Old Trafford and then discover that your manager is laughing at you by playing the reserves. I would feel disgusted with the lack of respect from the manager for his travelling fans.   At least when Arsenal do it, we know in advance, and for the games at the Emirates, the prices are cut, and they are not included in the season tickets.

So what happened is a disgrace in my eyes and not worthy of the EPL but it is for the BEPL.  It reminds me of some articles Tony wrote on the same things that happened some 100 years ago.

After all Mick McCarthy is an honest bloke and not a cheating foreigner.

Now on to what Arsene Wenger said.   He accused Wolverhampton of not “acting in good faith to other clubs”.

He added,  “It’s sad but what can I do? It’s not up to me. We will compete with Manchester United over 37 games instead of 38 this season. This is a problem for the international credibility of the Premier League.”

But of course the problem is not new.   Manchester United played a weakened side at Hull at the end of last season to save their team for the Champions League final.  No action was taken.   Aston Villa played a weakened team in the UEFA Cup last season to save their team so they could make a dash for fourth place.  That was within the rules.

Tony Pulis of Stoke joined the debate using the height of his intellectual powers to rebuff the arguments of Mr Wenger.  He said, “Wenger is moaning like a drain because it doesn’t suit Arsenal.”

The exact rules that could be applied are rule 20, section E  which says that “In every league match each participating club shall field a full-strength team”, and rule 13, section B which demands that clubs should act “in good faith to other clubs and the league”.

The EPL has now asked Wolverhampton to supply their observations.

Background notes

Some additional research added be the editor.  The book about 100 years ago which Walter mentions is “Making the Arsenal” and it is available from amazon.co.uk and from www.emiratesstadium.info There is a regular blog on the story of Arsenal 100 years ago at www.blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk

37 Replies to “Wolverhampton Reserves and Arsenal Reserves – where’s the difference?”

  1. From The Telegraph:

    Of the fixtures, Pulis said: “No disrespect to Wenger or any foreign manager but I don’t think there’s nothing wrong with asking professional athletes to perform twice in three or four days. Sometimes it goes for you, sometimes against.”

    1.) Why does Pulis have to add “any foreign manager”? Why can’t it just be, “any other manager in the premier league”? All foreign managers DO NOT complain about fixtures; and they certainly do not do so anymore than British managers (Sir Alex, anyone?).

    2.) Wenger DOES NOT complain about having professional athletes performing twice in 3-4 days. That is a blatant misrepresentation of his words, and his intent. What he does complain–and SHOULD complain about–are unfair practices, like imbalances in scheduling, that favor certain clubs over others. Yes, he’s doing it with Arsenal’s interest in mind, but his motivation is to have everyone live by the same rules.

    The classic way to criticize a complaint is to just say, “oh stop the whining,” or “grin and bear it,” or the very offensive, “man up, you p^&*y.” This is especially true if the person complaining is, dare I say, French (i.e. “Monsieur, do you want more whine and cheese with that?” This is not just a British thing, but you wouldn’t believe how many times I have heard it living in the States or while traveling in places like HK). To follow the conversation from the previous thread, Wenger has always been “Johnny Foreigner” #1, even more so because he’s been so successful.

    There is nothing wrong with speaking out about an injustice.

  2. You’ve got to laugh…..

    First the BBC reported on 5 live news that Arsene Wenger was “furious” about the charade-game and the fixture congestion. “Furious” he was, ranting and raving he was, oh what a commotion he made. He was screaming and frothing at the mouth………alright you get my point.

    Then one of the super-pro-pundits declared that Arsene didn’t have a leg to stand on because he sends out second string teams. Sorry love, read the rule book, as explained by Walter above. (Don’t they educate these old pro’s before they let them loose on prime time?)

    And finally we have dear old addled Tony Pulis. He’s a lovely old codger, well into his late 80’s I think. He thinks players should take 2 games in 4 days in their stride, or 3 games in 7 days in their stride……….you know, stiff sinews and British balls and all that……only he doesn’t see any contradiction in Wolves exempting themselves from such criteria. Dear old Tony.

    You’ve got to laugh.

  3. Good job Walter. I couldn’t believe it when I read about it. I’m just curious here, has this been done in EPL before? I mean a team or a coach in this case simply throws an important game like that? Unless Micky is betting against his team and making money. Those of you with the history book please enlighten us.

    If we believe this logic, I guess Avrham Grant is a foreigner and dumb to bring his relegation threatened first team to Stamford Bridge and play against Chelsea. Oh the classic one was the post match interview of Sir Alex where he claimed that he understood Mick’s reasoning as he has a game coming against Burnley on Saturday or Sunday. You could clearly read it on his face how dishonest that was! I will be very interested to see if Micky mouse’s team beats Burnley. I hope it blows up in his face!

  4. The biggest irony is:

    They say its natural that professionals play twice in 4 days. But when MM is resting his players to save them for weekend, Wenger is being criticized.

    All Wenger has asked for is that if any team plays 3 matches in 8 days then the opponent should also play the same number of matches. Is it too much to ask.

    By saying “Without any disrepect to foreign manager” you are already disrepecting him.

    GOD save EPL.

  5. Extremely shabby behaviour, a clear breach of league rules, massively disrectful towards the team’s fans and players, debases the competition for the league trophy. So, obviously, the EPL will decide there are no grounds for action. As Walter might say, ‘Bunch of counts the lot of them!’

    Missed a ticket for the Hull game, but see you after Xmas at the Villa game. Stu

  6. haaaa!! haaa! haaa! wen wenger fielded an understrength team against olimpiakos which allowed std leige to loose knoc out spot in champs leagu r ware aginwas he underming the intgrit of champs leagu!!!he should shut up because he ahs jus realised that his now mature men will not bring any silver for the sixth time!!!

  7. 21. Forgery League
    Without this list can be exhaustive as regards, among others are following as such acts or attempts to

    – The deliberate weakening of a team with the aim of the outcome of a race to distort;

  8. I’m sorry for the post above but it all went wrong somehow so you can ignore it.
    I’m giving you a translation of the rules as applied in my country, and as all law books they read very difficult and thus translate rather difficult:
    21. Forgery of the League
    Without this list can be regarded as exhaustive, among others are the following as such acts or attempts to be considered:
    – The deliberate weakening of a team with the aim to distort the outcome of a game

    I must say that in my country the laws are so that when an offical from a club does something wrong the whole club will be punished with relegation to a lower league.

    So this is what clearly happened in this case.
    McCarthy is an official (manager) from the club
    He did it deliberate
    By doing this he changed the outcome of the game

    So in my country Wolverhampton would been sentenced to go down at the end of the season and I think that McCarthy would be banned for at least 2 years from any official function.

    I’ve known a case of attempted bribery in my country where an ex-international was banned for live as he tried to give money to the keeper of another team.

  9. And off course the likes of Pulis and other spitting managers are delighted with it. They see an opponent that is battling with them to avoid relagation just giving up three points.
    I think I can understand that they are pleased with the behaviour from McCarthy. He gives them a possible 3 point benefit. I really hope that if the EPL doesn’t take action Wolverhampton go down with one point missing or so. The point they could have taken from Utd who played very weak and could have been beaten by a full first team.

    Regarding the “foreign manager stuff” I would say as I showed here above in the comment section that in other country’s people don’t laugh with such things. If the EPL doesn’t want to take itself seriously then it is their problem but this will damage the good name of the EPL worldwide.

    I can imagine that TV stations don’t want to pay lot of money to see some reserve team lining up and subsequently viewers changing channels to see a documentary of a snail race. It was actually won by a snail called “fast as lightning” in a winning time of 3h17m45s05’69” over the full 10 meters. The fotofinish decided who won.

  10. It’s no good for the title race when competitive games are undermined. Best hope Wolves replicate the strategy, although I’m confident we can take the points off their first XI regardless. I wonder what impact McCarthy’s decision will make with future turnouts for Wolves games along with the bookmaker’s predictions on odds of victory? Separate bets could be placed on what lineup they select! Not that millions of fans would be able to get involved in that anyway http://cli.gs/y9p37V

  11. Hi Tony,

    Just read a review on your new book, good luck with it, I am hoping Father Christmas comes up trumps this year and has a copy for me under the tree.

    P.S. Santa if you are reading this, I already have plenty of socks, bit low in the pants department though.

    Cheers, KS

  12. Pulis thinks he’s got away with his dressing room shenanigans. Er no we’re not goldfish.

    Again the implication is that Wenger’s moaning is worse than a good honest head butt on your own forward.

    Assault or a bit of lip? Hmmm

  13. So, another Fergie-friendly manager takes his team to the OT to just roll over. No surprise there really, although this time it was even more obvious than usual.

    I was looking at the fixtures for the coming weeks:

    Sun 20th Dec:

    Sat 26th Dec:

    Mon 28th Dec:
    Wolves-Man City

    So, only two days there. Now what are the odds of Liverpool fans singing “Where are your reserves now?”. Somehow I expect to see a full strength Wolves side there.

    Porto-ARsenal in the UCL.

  14. Hey guys got in a dillemma..

    If we guys think that Wolves should have sent a proper team so that we compete with MANU on 38 games not 37 league teams.. But let us take the champions league.. We played our carling team in last match.. Now if the last team (AZ or Standard, I dont remember) if they would have fought hard and won the match even then they would be relegated to Europa..They can say that they fought for 6 matches while Olympiakos fought for 5 matches..

    Now lets take another case.. lets say we have won the league with 1 match in hand.. And our last match is with a relegation team.. Now if we play our Carling team in the last match dont you guys think that we are helping the team playing us and going against the other relegation teams… They can say that we battled for 38 matches while 1 team battled for 37 matches..So are they not allowed the freedom that we take for granted..

    Its the first time that I have found a flaw in Lord’s logic but would be happy to proved wrong..

  15. Ehnnn, Tony, I seem to recall that this sort of thing has happened in England once before and the FA at the time took action. I can’t remember, though, which teams were involved and the outcome of the FA intervention. I believe that you are better equiped than me to find out about it. I can’t find it since I can’t even remember the clubs involved. But I am definitely sure that it has happened before.

    Anyway, I still believe that ManU will suffer a comeuppance somewhere down the line. Anyone remembers the year we were ducked 2 points for some agrro against ManU? They thought that it would stop Arsenal’s progress, but it backfired and Arsenal won the league that year. Who says it cannot happen again?

  16. The EPL rule is this:

    “In every league match each participating club shall field a full strength team.”

    Its a bit meaningless though, because you can argue that all your squad are at the same level.

    There is another law about “bringing the game into disrepute”.

    If a team went out and made no effort and lost 12-0 you would say that they were bringing the game into disrepute.

    AW has apoint of course, because if every team did a MM, then MU would have no serious games to play.

    The FA is a Law unto itself, docking points on a whim, and capriciously investigating rogue divers, so there is nothing to stop it
    throwing the ebook at MM.

  17. Abhishek…

    I think the key point is the rules of each competition. The domestic cup competitions in England (and Wales for the FA Cup) have no rules that I know of about putting out your strongest team.

    The Champs League has a rule that you nominate a set number of players, but that in addition you can put forward all your under 21 players (or something like that – sorry I normally look these things up to check, but we are short at work today because of snow, so I am doing this quicker than usual).

    So the Champs League is set up to allow clubs – almost encourage clubs – to include the youngsters in the squads. Why they have that rule I don’t know – but they do, so we are quite right to use it.

    But the EPL and the other English leagues have the rules about playing the strongest side. And while of course it would be stupid for them to say – Arsenal cheated, because they did/did not include Walcott or someone – the wholesale changes that Manchester U put in at the end of last season, and that Wolverhampton W did this week, is clearly and obviously a breach of the rules.

    What worries me is this business of rules that are sometimes invoked but not always. This was the whole problem with Eduardo and the dive allegation. That rule had, I think, only been used once before – and has not been used since. That is ludicrous. The rule is either used, or it is withdrawn from the book.

    So I think there is logic in Wenger’s comments – there is a rule for the league, and if there is a rule it should be applied. There is no rule for the Cups, so we abide by the competition.


  18. In eyes of FA all teams are equal, just some teams are more equal than others. So with status of Holy Cow of English football no one would really bother to think about what Walter wrote.
    It is really unfair toward us, toward Chel$ea, but we all have to understand that Manure and Liverpoo are favorite kids of FA and will be treated that way. It is simple to understand why is that case, and I often talk about it.
    Arsenal is one of most conservative teams in world, old-fashioned, without Beckhams and Ronaldos. And that doesn’t earn money (except to team) its just not profitable for FA and sponsors of it.
    So if Wolves played my grandmothers and granddads on back line, no one would consider it as long as they done it in game versus MUFC or LFC.
    If it happened to us or (I really hate to say it) Chelsea, BBC would tomorrow have article “Weakened McCarthy side helped Frenchman revive title race”

  19. For once I am in disagreement here.

    McCarthy has a squad of players, who is to say what his best 11 is on a certain day. He may have taken the team, that put a lot of energy into beating Spurs, to OT & got spanked 6-0, who knows. Either way he did what he thought was best for his club, as I am sure AW always does.

    No doubt AW was asked the question, but having put out a virtual youth team, a week ago, in a league situation, he was on very thin ground to criticize. What will we do if a fixture at the end of the season is meaningless to us, but not to us, & we have a CL sf coming up? No you do what is best & if you have a squad then everyone should be at 1st team level.

    Again on the fixtures, although he was absolutely right, but he would have been better to have kept his own council, because it gives ammunition to his many desperate detractors, as well as a pep talk to Hull, who will be delighted to know our players are feeling the strain. This is one of AW’s major weaknesses, he needs to say less about his team being tired. Certainly in the old days (sorry about that but still relevant I feel) the players always used to prefer playing midweek to training. They have to be strong enough to cope because all the other teams in European competition have the same difficulties.

    The fixtures are strange though. I counted that, as they are set out for the remainder of the season, we will have had 5 sets of double away games against 3 of double home games.

  20. Hi Tony,

    I dont think that Arsene is angered due to rules. He is angry that by placing a reserve team against ManU we are allowing them an unfair adavntage. But I find the logic equally bad for ManU by playing a bad team last year. And both of them are equally wrong.

    But I believe that things should be followed in spirit first. And if we deprived some team of fair competition by playing a weak team we should not complaint about it too. But I have a feeling that even Arsenal would have fielded a second team if we had won the PL and had CL finals in 3 days.

    Going against Tony and Wenger in a day. I never thought it would come.

  21. There is no law that you have to field a first team in the CL, so there is no spirit of the law to invoke Abishek.

    The spirit of the law regarding fielding a full strength team in the EPL is that every game is treated competitively.

    I agree with Flint to some extent. Arsenal have virtually two A teams. Who is to say what is a full strength team?

    But if a game is apparently ‘thrown’, then you have a problem, because that brings the game into disrepute.

  22. Leagues are inherently unfair. The teams that got to play Liverpool when Torres and Gerrard were injured were advantaged. The only “fair” system is knockout.

    The discussion about ethical behaviour in a league that is a precursor to a knockout was vigorous in bridge in the seventies. Immediate knockout would result in half the teams being eliminated after one match, so it was thought preferable to organise competitions in a similar manner to the Champions League. Many people were of the opinion that if you were in a position where, towards the end of the round robin, you were certain to qualify for the knockout, it was mandatory that you would do your best to make sure that the other team that came out of your section was weak. (Play your best against a strong team; throw the match to a weak team). That gave you a better chance of winning the tournament, and was, therefore, the right thing to do.

    However, if there are rules they must either be enforced or changed. In this case Wolves are clearly in the wrong and must be punished.

    The situation towards the end of the season is more difficult. How do you motivate a team that is going to come 9th, win, lose or draw? If they are playing against a team involved in a relegation or promotion battle, that is “unfair” to the other teams that may be effected. The problem is systemic and cannot be solved. This means that the current rules are unworkable and should be changed.

  23. LRV, i couldn’t agree more. i’m a believer in comeuppances!

    (maybe it just happened w/ the CL league draw…hmm…)

  24. Flint,
    I can understand what you try to say but the fact is that he himself openly said he would rest his first team. So it was a weaker team.

  25. Wengers response to Pulis saying he should stop “moaning like a drain”:

    “I gave my opinion and there is nothing personal in it and I completely understand other managers might have another opinion,” Wenger said.

    “I am one of the few who really says what he thinks. I am not scared. I give my opinion without any aggression.” skysports dec 18

    Is it just me, or is that the most beautifully arrogant check mate ever heard. That of course referring to Pulis just loosing his temper and head butting Beattie

    commented in the last blog by mistake

  26. I suspect that McCarthy will learn more about his reserves than Wenger because at least he did use a ‘proper’ game.
    I’m not sure that easy home games against WBA and West Brom has helped the Arsenal youth team to develop too much in the last few years.

    Frankly, if he keeps Wolves up it will have been the best decision for his club.

  27. Sean, you pointed out that Wolve’s reserve team vs Arsenal’s youth team on your comment as one and the same. Aren’t they two different levels in developement to compare? They call that comparison, Apples and Oranges. Our reserve team is not the youth team. Just wanted to point that out. Plus, what metrics did you use to measure the progress of our youngsters or there lack of for that matter?

  28. I doubt any manager would say that Walter.

    After the game he said this & I heard him say it:
    “They were all first-team squad players who played tonight, not reserves and I have to say there were some really good performances”

    No one has a 1-11 these days, it is not possible.

    The CC has been of huge benefit, Sean. There have been plenty of difficult games home & away, with plenty of the current squad getting valuable experience as youngsters or new to England. 10 or more of the squad for tomorrow I would guess.

    In any case, there are no easy games.

  29. Well Flint I believe you.

    Maybe I relied a bit on the things that came up in the press in my country and what the reporter on TV said during the game.

  30. Getty, the definition of progression I use is that none of the Arsenal youth team over the last ten years has got anywhere near 100 first team appearances (or even 50).
    Of course, if you can advise me otherwise………

    And Wolves won today 2-0, so I think McCarthy definitely got it right for his club.

  31. Fabregas?

    Or does a 16 year old Spanish youth player not classify as youth?

    Ashley Cole?
    Or does the fact he left the club mean his career is over?

    How many others who’ve had successful careers after starting at AFC over the last 13 years?
    Isn’t that the whole point of a youth system?

  32. Always nice if a few of them could end up playing a few games for the AFC first team though?
    Compared to the team an ex-West Ham youth team (1995-2005) could put out, it looks very meagre to me.
    At a recent Man. U. v Chelsea game there were seven of them on the pitch weren’t there?

    And since when have AFC become a selling club…..shouldn’t they harvest the youth for their own first team?

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