An ode to Rafa Benitez;
I was at church during the time of our match against Aston Villa and so got to watch the match after I knew the result. This enabled me to watch it closely based on tactics and execution. This was one of the most satisfying displays I have seen of this team this year and brought back memories of the swashbuckling style that Carlo Ancelotti led to the double in his first year with us. I actually felt sad towards the end for that poor young Aston Villa side..boy did they get hammered. It also reminded me of another heavy beating we administered to the Villan's not so long ago; a 7-1 mauling again during Carlos time.
Enough reminiscing though. This article is however to give a shout out to Rafa Benitez..yes it is early but in the defense of the man so many Chelsea fans love to hate I felt it was time to state some of the good this man has done in the short time he has been here. I also write this hopeful that maybe..just maybe Roman and the Board may see some of these benefits and actually for once maybe consider giving this interim manager (honestly since the Roman era began which of our managers has not been an interim?) the time any side needs to build something of value at Chelsea FC.
Maybe because he is only an interim thus has little to lose, but Rafa has clearly been far more willing than most coaches we have had to make some calculated gambles. I would suggest the following strengths thus far of Rafas Regime and why I think Roman would be wise to give this guy time rather than sacking him at years end in his never ending lust for that guy called pep (who I am certain he will not get anyway).
1. The torres effect; Those who know me know that I like the guy but never felt we should have bought him..and that certainly we should never have had him as a sole or primary striker. That said only one who is blind will deny that El nino has looked the best in terms of his mood , desire and goal scoring productivity since Rafa`s arrival. I don`t know what it is but no coach..and we have had many try (Carlo, AVb, RDM) with little success, have had this effect on el nino. For the sake of making Roman not looking like a fool for spending 50m on this guy, Rafa is making something of Romans favorite toy that no one else has been able to. Roman don`t go messing with this for no just cause. El ninos fragile psyche is legendary. The guy is looking the closest to the El Nino of his Liver pool hey days..i hate to imagine what it will do to his psyche for Roman to fire Rafa ..it is pretty clear no matter what many fans here on VC say that we are not selling El nino any time soon. It appears Rafa is the only coach out there capable of making the guy look anywhere close to what Roman thought he was getting.
2. Squad rotation; This is another area where Rafas superiority to RDM is simply undeniable. He has done a great job of using a very thin squad the best possible considering injuries, suspensions etc. The only players we have not seen get any play time in his era thus far as short as it has been are Danny sturridge (for obvious reasons..the guy is headed to Liverpool), and Malouda (who I get the impression is more interested in doing a Wayne bridge and just getting his fat paychecks till end of summer when it is up). The guy has even got a place and role for Paolo ferraira. What he has achieved by this is keeping the players more fresh. This is a big deal considering the congestion of schedules we have ahead with Capitol cup, europa league, FA cup and BPL ties ahead.
3. Defensive structure; Another clear strength of Rafa which has always characterized his career is that the guy knows how to set up a defense. I had always said when we had RDM with us that contrary to what many of his critics said RDM was not a defensive coach..his strength and tendency was actually to attack and I always maintained that his failing seemed to be disciplined team defense for which I had suggested he get an experienced defensive coach as a part of his team. In Rafa we don`t have that as an issue. Rafa is in fact very similar to Jose in this respect..he builds his teams from back forwards. We have lost games with Rafa and doubtless we will lose more but I think anyone who is objective will admit that our team defense structure has certainly looked better and more disciplined..and we are conceding less overall. Also he has achieved this without the leadership of JT in our central defense. Those who are all gaga about so called attacking football may not appreciate this but I do. I have always wanted solidity at the back as the necessary foundation upon which all else is built.
4. Experience; This is an attribute you can only get with the passage of time and chances that come with variable opportunities. RDM simply had not had Rafas level of experience due to no fault of his. He is younger and has simply not had the exposure nor chances Rafa has. Rafa has essentially seen it all in the 3 big leagues in Europe; La Liga, the BPL and Seria A. In addition, this guy has also had the experience of lecturing and analyzing football games at the highest level since he had been out of active coaching. In essence thus he could give AVB a run for his money as regards the theory and academics of coaching styles and formations. I say all this because I know that Roman and his three Amigos are still having wet dreams about Pep. That guy does not have a third of the experience of Rafa. When Rafa was not actively coaching he was immersing himself in the theory of the game..Pep while out of the game is having fun eating Chicken Alfredo and seeing the sights in New York. My counsel ..be careful of this lust for what is out there and meanwhile undervaluing what you already have available.
5. The anti-hero effect; this is some circuitous reasoning but bear with me here and hear me out. One of the reasons being suggested out there as to why roman keeps sacking managers is his need to always remain the main man at the club. This theory says that whenever any manager begins to assume a profile where fans see him as more important and /or popular to the club than Roman (be it Ray wilkins, jose, RDM, Carlo etc ) he will pull the trigger before that person can attain any more fan power or popularity. If there is any element of truth to this then Rafa is the perfect coaching choice because the guy is generally so despised by the rank and file Chelsea fans who attend games that there is virtually nothing Rafa can do that will make him ever challenge Roman for popularity with the fans..Roman will never feel threatened in that wise.
With it all said and done I personally have no problems with the fans at the bridge and on away games continuing their 16 minute tributes to RDM. That does not have to be exclusive to cheering the team enthusiastically and also giving Rafa basic respect even if not hearty, vocal personal support. In fact the lack of that last fact probably gives him a perpetual edge of always trying to win the fans over and prove himself that may drive a thirst for success, excellence and trophies that may well exceed that which a loved and accepted manager may have.
One thing Rafa will never have as long as he is the Chelsea manager is the luxury to ever rest on his laurels or taking anything for granted. He will always be on edge..always watching his back and always waiting for that pink slip from Roman. Left to me Roman would be wise to keep this guy around even when the inevitable 'bad moments' come. Roman and co for once smell the coffee and appreciate what we have. This club needs just a tad of stability and pimping out for Pep or frankly anyone else at this point does not help us. Save that money and instead use it to get the players that Rafa needs and asks for from you. It is almost like the twilight zone here but here I am actually singing an ode to Rafa Benitez.