Walter Mazzarri apologised to Napoli fans after a 4-0 Coppa Italia defeat to Frosinone and admitted ‘absurdly we did better with the lads who don’t play as often. We need to reflect on that.’

The Partenopei had just managed to get their season back on track with wins over Cagliari and SC Braga to reach the Champions League Round of 16, so few expected this degree of humiliation.

Bizarrely, it was only after Victor Osimhen and Kvicha Kvaratskhelia came on that Napoli fell to pieces, conceding four goals in the final half-hour.

“Perhaps the first choice players are not accustomed to coming off the bench and absurdly we did better with the lads who don’t play as often. We need to reflect on that,” Mazzarri told Mediaset.

“I want to apologise to the fans, they tried until the end to give us a hand and they did not deserve that. I do not like the way we ended the match and we will reflect on it together tomorrow.

“It can happen that the defensive shape is a little wrong after changes and the second goal was an accidental back-pass, but even when you are 2-0 down, you still have to remember that you are Napoli. It is not acceptable to end a game like that.”

The final whistle wasn’t even audible as the crowd was jeering so loudly at this shocking finale to the match, though they had tried to hold it in until the fourth goal.

“When the fans cheer us on to the end, even when 2-0 down with 10 minutes to go, a goal could open it all up again. Instead, we just lost our heads. Maybe it was making two big mistakes for the goals that got to us.

“It’s a pity, you can lose in football, but not 4-0. We looked like everyone was just doing their own thing. I hope this can be a lesson for the future, as from tomorrow we must all look each other in the eye and change gear.”

Mazzarri was asked if the squad rotation made his Napoli players feel that perhaps this was not as important as Serie A or the Champions League.

“There are many games, I don’t know if leaving them on the bench for the Coppa Italia sent a signal subconsciously. I can tell you that playing every couple of days with no time to train is tough.

“However, you cannot lose 4-0 without even putting up a fight.”

There was controversy when Giovanni Simeone saw a goal disallowed for a far earlier Jesper Lindstrom handling offence, but they fell apart once Frosinone took the lead with a free header from Enzo Barrenechea.

It was followed five minutes later by Giuseppe Caso pouncing on a terrible Giovanni Di Lorenzo back-pass, then Di Lorenzo tripped Francesco Gelli for a Walid Cheddira penalty and with the last kick of the game Abdou Harroui beat the goalkeeper one-on-one.

“If I change 11 players out of 11 and am up against a Frosinone side fuelled by enthusiasm that presses high, there can be mistakes. Unfortunately, I saw a good team until the moment I made the substitutions and was convinced we would win it with those changes. Instead, we didn’t push up enough and there were not enough bodies in the box.

“Mind you, if we had a bit of luck, we could’ve taken the lead and it would’ve been a different game. Diego Demme, who hasn’t played in forever, had a great game. Those who didn’t play regularly did very well. Instead, I feel that when the bigger players came on, we subconsciously assumed it would be easy and lost focus.”

Napoli have now crashed out of the Coppa Italia at the Round of 16 for three years running, but the previous exits to Cremonese and Fiorentina were not as embarrassing as this 4-0 hammering on home turf.

It is their heaviest home defeat in this competition since another 4-0 to Lazio in 1958.

As a final message, Mazzarri admits football has changed and it has been a long time since he was working in multiple tournaments.

“What saddens me is that if you never get to train on the field, it’s disarming. I had to do some tactical work on the defensive line this morning for five minutes, there was no other time. We need to use those videos and sessions to get them to improve.”

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