When will Premier League managers learn?
Newcastle United and Southampton’s embarrassing exits from the Carabao Cup on Wednesday leaves both clubs with just the FA Cup as a realistic target this season.
Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez made ten changes to his line-up against Nottingham Forest, while Saints’ manager Mauricio Pellegrino made six against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Both teams produced disjointed performances but the managers defended their decisions, citing the Premier League as being their priority this season.
Following Newcastle’s 3-2 defeat after extra-time, Benitez said: “I made the changes because we played three days ago.
“The players have to be ready to play in the cup against a Championship team. If you cannot, then it means something is wrong.
“I thought we could do and, watching the number of chances we had, I think we deserved to go through.
“If you are going to go through in the cups, you have to use your squad.
“If you cannot do that, it means you have to improve. It has proved that we have to improve in some areas.”
“It’s a step backwards in our way, in our performance.
“The goals are accidents – Jack (Stephens) was really close to the player, but he lost the challenge.
“And for the second goal everybody was in attack – one counter attack they were quicker than us.
“But we’ve got to try to learn from this situation.”
Neither side are likely to win the Premier League this season.
Quite why they would treat a competition that offers a realistic chance of silverware with such disdain is baffling.
The fact it also offers a route into Europe compounds the ridiculous nature of their team selections.
With the riches on offer in the Premier League, it’s easy to see why both managers might prioritise the league over other competitions.
However, is fielding your strongest side in a winnable cup competition really going to affect your Premier League hopes? And what hopes might they be exactly? Avoiding relegation?
If that’s the limit of either manager’s ambitions this season, then both of them should look for another career.
No doubt everyone will pat themselves on the back if Southampton finish tenth and Newcastle narrowly avoid relegation this season.
Neither of those “achievements” are the same as winning a trophy at Wembley, no matter what Benitez or Pellegrino may think.