Rafael Benitez is not any Chelsea fans cup of tea but could he put our season back on track? I, like many, was sad to see Roberto Di Matteo go after his wonderful exploits at the end of last season. However I do think he was not Roman Abramovich’s choice and his hand was forced following the Champions League win, but that is a theory for another day. Benitez comes with a very good repertoire in that he took an average (not in a condescending way) Liverpool side to a serious title bid in 2008/09 and various Champions League runs. However it is his comments that alienate Chelsea fans against him, calling our club soulless, passionless and plastic isn’t going to endear you to anyone.
But that is beside the point for this article and I will try to be as objective as possible. Benitez is far more organized and disciplined than Di Matteo, certainly you could point to the end of last season but that was an oddity. So far this season we have conceded far too many goals without John Terry and Di Matteo insistence to go with Mata, Oscar and Hazard led the team to being very ill-disciplined defensively and often left Ashley Cole and David Luiz woefully exposed (as we saw with Shakthar at the Bridge). Benitez will make it a far more rigid system and I think he could ‘drop’ one of the trio or indeed make them play more as wingers as opposed to the more central roles they were accustomed to under Di Matteo.
The players I think that could suffer the most from Benitez are either Ramires or John Obi Mikel, as above Benitez could shift Ramires to the right wing position he occupied earlier in the season but it will be interesting to see who he plays in the Xabi Alonso/Lucas role he employed at Liverpool. As has been suggested Oscar could profit the most from this managerial shift as Benitez will look to him to play the Steven Gerrard role and supply through balls to Fernando Torres. I don’t think Oscar has been as effective in the Premier League as he has been in Europe so perhaps this move could bring the best out of the Brazilian.
Speaking of Fernando Torres, it would be silly to say Benitez has been brought in to get the best out of his compatriot. Benitez just happened to be the most qualified alternative out there that was prepared to accept a short-term contract. Obviously Benitez has experience in dealing with Torres and with the backroom appointment of Xavi Valero it does show that Benitez will make Torres the focal point of the club during his stint at Chelsea. Torres should thrive in a Benitez system with Oscar or whoever supplying through-balls but my question remains does Torres have the pace to get onto those passes? He has yet to show that extra yard of pace he had at Liverpool and that could be the one big downfall of this system.
Benitez will have to do a lot to even get the Chelsea fans to consider him a suitable replacement to Di Matteo, with Manchester City up first Benitez is going to pull an absolute rabbit out of the hat on Sunday.