It’s time to look back at Benitez’s time at
and decide once and for all whether he has been a success. Let’s put all the hate, tactical moves and all the Benayoun substitutions aside and think about this rationally. To being with, I’m not interested in whether you like him or agree with his tactics because that is not what determines whether or not he has been a success story. Rafa is an issue that is far bigger than results, something that the media never seem to acknowledge, but to start with that is all I want to concentrate on.
For me, to decide whether or not a manager has been a success you’ve got to look at the league position you finish in and what you've won, and put that into perspective given the squad that you have and the competition around you.
No doubt we should have wrapped up the League Cup given that it was us against
over two legs with an easier match awaiting us in the final. That was a shortcoming of his and the team’s (especially Ivanovic), but to be fair to him he got us past united on the road to the semi-final.
He did well to get past united once again on the way to the semi of the FA cup before losing to City. That is a little more forgiveable not just because City are a strong team and the defending Premier League Champions, but also because we seem to struggle against them at the moment. That said, with two domestic cup finals you would hope, even expect, to lift one of them and at least reach a final.
I was absolutely gutted not to win the Club World Cup, and once again that was a competition there for us to take. Corinthians just wanted it more though, and as much as you can lay some of the blame on the players (as you will always be able to) that is in my opinion Benitez’s biggest failure.
We have now wrapped up a place in the Champions League, and a lot of the press has gone out of its way to preach what a success this has made Rafa (and how disgraceful Chelsea fans are for sticking to our guns in our distaste for him). Well, back when he took over we would have taken a top four finish I think, so in the sense that he has achieved that now he has been successful.
Should it have been so difficult though? As Guillem Balague said on twitter the other day: “Football management is about maximising potential.” Has our form in the league really represented a manager who has got the best out of this squad??? Take a look at
, he’s just breezed the league with what is arguably a very average team. Rafa has on the other hand made extremely hard work of beating Spurs and Arsenal to a Champions League spot with what is certainly a superior squad. I don’t expect that many of us thought we’d be battling for a top four spot come the last few games of the Premier League given the position we were in when he took over.
Our results over the last week have put a positive spin on the league situation, but can anyone say they have really been happy, in general, with our Premier League performances and results? To put it as Guillem did, I do not think that Benitez has maximised the potential of this squad.
That said, he’s had a lot of stuff against him.
A Ma-hoosive fixture list. The players have obviously suffered from it, and often when some have said that they are playing with no passion or determination, I would reply that it’s been fatigue. It may be their profession, but they’re just humans and they get tired like all of us.
He’s been working with a small squad without much depth. When you combine this with our fixture list I think it’s fair to cut him a little slack.
The fans have been loudly and publicly against him. We have every right and reason not to like him. I certainly don’t like him, but I don't think that the public abuse was ever intelligent, even if it was justified; there are other ways to make our feelings clear that won't hurt the team. Some people say they pay the money and so it’s their right to have their voice heard. Perhaps, but regardless of whether it was fair it’s only ever going to be detrimental.
For these reasons I think you can cut him a little slack.
Could Europa League glory make up for under-performances in the league? I think so.
However, the teams we have face in the EL have hardly been elite, and making the final given this was probably expected. We’ve been the favourites since we qualified for the competition, and we’ve been the favourites at every stage all the way through. Still, a European trophy is a European trophy, and if he wins it I don't think you can say that he hasn't done a good job. This will be far more controversial if he doesn't.
If I go back to when he took over and you told me we’d have CL qualification and the Europa League……………meeeeeeeh, I think I’d take it, although not be thrilled. A trophy and a top four finish is a good achievement, but still below the potential that we had when he came in.
Now, let me give my own perspective on Rafa Benitez, his success, our reaction to him, and our media persecution.
I really dislike the man, but if it was anyone else but him at the helm we would probably be saying that he’s done a decent job. It’s not been spectacular, there have been obvious failures and terrible results along the way, but having come to crunch time at the end of the season we have improved, become more motivated, and we should acknowledge that. He has left us in a solid position to build from and a trophy may well be added soon.
fans, I think our dislike for him will never change, and his association with the club upsets us. It upsets me certainly. This is because he is the man he is, and it has NOTHING to do with results. The job should never have been his, even if he was the most talented manager in the world. It’s to be expected from the media, but it’s sad when the club doesn’t understand its own fans.
Come the end of the season there was only ever going to be celebration over his departure. We should acknowledge though that he has done a decent job. For some, myself to an extent, this will depend on him winning the Europa league. On the 19th of May we can shake hands and end this poorly thought-out business association.
The primary point of this article was to try and make
fans see that Rafa has done a decent job. There is a secondary point I would like to make though ( /made on my behalf), because I’ll probably not get the chance to make it again.
There has been a relentless campaign in the news ever since Benitez took over, centred around the idea that Chelsea fans should be publicly declaring their appreciation for him, calling for him to take over next season, and even that we should be asking, nay begging, for his forgiveness over our treatment of him. One's jaw hits the floor.
Well... I’d like to finish with something that was said by Colin Murray in the metro, because he is the only member of the media who seems to have understood the position of
fans, and even more admirably, stuck his neck out at his own risk against the popular agenda. What is more he has said it better than I ever could:
“Regardless of whether or not
win the Europa League under the guiding hand of Rafa Benitez, I think a round of applause is in order… for their fans.
Why? Because football has enough examples of hypocrisy.
Isn’t it strange how most managers always seem to spot a member of the opposition diving yet, when it’s their own player auditioning for Bambi On Ice, they more often than not say they need to see a replay of it first before making a comment?
And what about the dangerous tackle that’s blasted by the rival boss, but when it’s their own man they are so sure that he’s ‘not that type of player’. The Beautiful Game is full of baffling BS at the best of times, on the touchline, in the dressing room and in the stands.
We’re all guilty, to some extent, like believing our team’s attacker should receive the benefit of the doubt in a marginal offside situation but, when it’s the other way around, we wag a finger and preach that ‘offside is offside!’.
In many ways, that’s part of the fun of the live game environment, when adrenaline pumps and logic fades.
However, there’s a difference between the heat of battle and the cold light of day, and the fact of the matter is that Chelsea are being managed this season by a guy who accused its fans of mistaking passion for plastic flags.
I’m happy to stick my neck out and applaud
’s faithful for not warming to Rafa Benitez, a man who gave me one of the best nights of my life when Liverpool won their fifth European Cup in
Oh yes, I can love him, but why should
fans? They are right not to trade in their strongly-felt standpoint for a simple piece of silverware or a top-four finish.
Yes, it might effect the team’s performance on the field, but aren’t
often branded Chelski and accused of selling their souls for success? Well, which one is it? Sounds like they can’t win either way.
And believe me, when The Interim One walks out of
for the last time as Blues boss this season, his reputation grown and his bank balance swollen, I doubt he’ll give a damn about the love of the Shed End. If he does, then he’s the one who’s performed the U-turn.”
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