A mixture of decent debate and hysteria has been unleashed by the latest Newcastle United cup exit on Saturday.
Rafa Benitez making nine changes as Oxford United progressed into the FA Cup fifth round.
Amongst all of the chat, I have seen plenty said about what this all means for the cup competitions but nobody really considering the most important factor – has playing weakened teams in the cup competitions helped Newcastle in the Championship?
After all, if say results were worse in league games following weakened sides in the cups, you would really be asking what is the point?
So, by playing weakened teams in the FA and League Cups, how have Newcastle done in the Championship games that followed?
Well, there have been five weakened cup sides put out by Rafa (before the Oxford one).
In these cup sides, the Newcastle boss made eight changes on four occasions and seven in one instance.
In the five Championship games that followed, Newcastle won four and it would have been five, if after completely outplaying Aston Villa they hadn’t conceded a very late equaliser.
The other four matches saw a comfortable 2-0 win over league leaders Brighton, a resounding 4-0 victory over Rotherham at St James Park, plus away wins in tricky looking away games at Preston and Brentford.
On the other hand, the one time when Rafa Benitez actually made a cup his priority and played a weakened side in the Championship and rested stars such as Dwight Gayle, Newcastle lost to Blackburn 1-0 at home in the game before losing to Hull in the League Cup, then a double whammy when then losing to Forest three days after the quarter-final loss. The match officials obviously played their part in that defeat at the City Ground but even before the red cards Newcastle hadn’t looked great against lowly Forest.
Oxford is the sixth example and we will see what happens on Wednesday night.
However, if Rafa Benitez and Newcastle United’s sole focus this season is to try and get promotion, then very hard to claim that the weakened cup sides policy hasn’t produced bonus points in the Championship.
23 August 2016 – Newcastle 2 Cheltenham 0 (8 changes)
27 August 2016 – Newcastle 2 Brighton 0
20 Sept 2016 – Newcastle 2 Wolves 0 (8 changes)
24 Sept 2016 – Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 1
25 Oct 2016 – Newcastle 6 Preston 0 (7 changes)
29 Oct 2016 – Preston 1 Newcastle 2
(26 Nov 2016 – Newcastle 0 Blackburn 1 – Gayle and others rested)
29 Nov 2016 – Hull 1 Newcastle 1 – Hull win on penalties (7 changes)
2 Dec 2016 – Forest 2 Newcastle 1
7 Jan 2017 – Birmingham 1 Newcastle 1 (8 changes)
14 Jan 2017 – Brentford 1 Newcastle 2
18 Jan 2017 – Newcastle 3 Birmingham 1 (8 changes)
21 Jan 2017 – Newcastle 4 Rotherham 0
28 Jan 2017 – Oxford 3 Newcastle 0 (9 changes)
1 Feb 2017 – Newcastle v QPR???