Rafa`s Reign at Chelsea
If there is something Saturday through today has taught us, it is to follow Neil Ashton.
I maintain, one should follow and read his stuff on Chelsea. He more than any journalist gets it right when it comes to affairs of our beloved club. He's been spot on about the dressing room row; our lineup against Juventus; the sacking of RDM; and the hiring of Benitez.
With past managers like Ranieri, AVB, Carlo, RDM and Mourinho, one knew what to expect from the coaches. But Benitez on the other hand, let's see if we can try to address what to expect, both good and bad.
His achievements at Liverpool and Valencia cannot be overlooked. He is a proponent of the 4-2-3-1 formation; in love with attacking full-backs and incredibly technical attacking midfielders and also passing central midfielders who don't concede possession easily.
His days at Valencia provide evidence that he knows how to organize and set up the defense. He knew how to get 9 behind ball once they lost possession and launching attacks once his side regained possession. I guess this is a positive for us given how leaky our defense has become. He's admitted to Arrigo Sacchi being a big influence to his coaching career not directly, but his philosophy. In one of his interviews, he did say this in regards to emphasis in training of his sides:
'The first priority is to improve defensive tactical play because this is less complicated than the attacking side and is important for success. The most important thing for me is to be organised. I work a lot on patterns of play and, of course, as the statistics prove, counter-attacks and set-plays are very important. When we talk about set-plays, I agree with Sir Alex (Ferguson) that delivery is everything.'
In a defense that is leaking crazy goals like a whore, we can add this as a positive to him as the interim manager. Apart from Jose's first season where we conceded only 15 goals in the PL, Benitez's Liverpool conceded at worst 3 goals more than Chelsea even up until he was sacked. There is however his zonal defense which I will be closing my eyes.
He also knows how to bring the best out of players he values: Torres from Atletico; Gerrard had his best season under him; Alonso and Mascherano made their bones underneath him. So if he values a player, he will likely bring the best out of the player. However, they've been an incredible amount of flops and expensive nobodies bought by the coach. I can see Mata, Oscar, Eden, and even Piazon getting better with him as manager. One can argue they will improve their attacking co-ordination upfront, movement and passing under Rafa. He could teach us a bit about pressing intelligently and defending better.
So if there are positives and a place we can expect immediate improvement in the squad is our defense which is the worst department right now on the pitch.
Now the negatives:
1.) Hated & Despised by Chelsea fans - Take your pick; Spanish waiter; tubby; and all sorts of names. If this decision turns out to become a disaster on the pitch; expect a serious backlash from the Stamford Bridge faithful. I don't believe Bruce and/or Ron will survive such a serious disaster on the pitch.
Sacking a fan favourite to hire probably one of the most hated coach in recent times just proves just how out of touch the Board is with the fans. This leaves a sour taste and will have an impact on other concessions Ron and Bruce will expect from fans such as moving away from Stamford Bridge.
2.) What does this mean for transfers? - No doubt we lack depth in the CF and CM position where reinforcements should be brought in, but what influence will Rafa have in those decisions? Will Emenalo be consulting the 'new' coach or rather Pep in the summer for such transfer decisions being made in January? How do they reconcile if the interim manager and Pep do not agree with a potential transfer target? What about Emenalo? Do we think a control freak like Rafa will allow players he doesn't want to be forced on him?
3.) The big elephant in the room; Torres - What will Rafa do with him? Roy Hodgson, Carlo Ancelotti, AVB, RDM and Del Bosque have failed to help the striker find any sort of form whatsoever. Will Rafa become a casualty trying to succeed where others have failed or will he bring in a striker? If a striker is brought in, will Rafa drop Torres if his poor form continues? If he fails, I believe that will be the end of everything Liverpool at Chelsea. Merieles, Yossi and Torres will be gone by the summer.
4.) Man-management - The nicest and finest of players have mentioned how his coaching methods and personality might come out as being cold to his players. The situation that led to the eventual departure of Xabi Alonso is an example. This is usually the case when he has player clashes or a player's technique and skills do not fit his philosophy. How does this bode for players like Ivanovic (a CB who doesn't attack properly as RB), Ramires (work horse with no passing skills whatsoever), Daniel Sturridge, Mikel (passing and interception skills, but not a lot of penetrative positive passing and mobility offered), Lampard, Bertrand etc?
5.) How does he deal with the veterans? - The eventual sacking and contract haggles with Ashley and Lampard probably spells the end of their Stamford Bridge careers in the summer. With yet another new coach in the summer, their departures have been cemented. If I recall correctly, Michael Ballack said Roman refused to talk to him about a renewal even though he was ready to accept a pay cut to his salary just to stay with Chelsea. Lampard and Cole are already going through the same experience.
We'd probably see the positives immediately, but the negatives will only manifest as the season goes on and if things go south. IF things go south, Benitez will make it nasty and Roman, Ron and Bruce will look like fools.
This is not an approval or disapproval of Rafa as a coach because at the moment, we as Chelsea fans will welcome anybody who can get this team to start realizing its full potential. But I can't help but wonder how one decision can lead to more bad decisions that then create over 20+ questions on hiring an interim manager.
The other thing no one has spoken about is this; what if Pep says no in the summer and Benitez wins the PL title? What will Roman do?
Over to you VC Brothers.