Rafa Benitez – Misunderstood Genius

Image from guardian.co.uk

Chelsea’s managerial merry-go-round has taken yet another spin. After just 262 days, manager Roberto Di Matteo become the latest casualty in the Roman Abramovich era, lasting barely longer than André Villas-Boas (256 days) who he replaced part way through last season.

Di Matteo won both the FA cup and the UEFA Champion’s League (for the first time in Chelsea’s history) but alas – there is no pleasing Mr. Abramovich.

Within a day of Di Matteo’s sacking from Chelsea, the Blues received confirmation that their new manager was none other than Rafa Benitez, the man who just over two years ago ended his reign as Liverpool boss, and Chelsea fans were not impressed.

After his Liverpool days, Benitez spent a brief spell at Inter Milan where he was eventually fired for his second time in less than a year.

Despite this though, Benitez is deserving of respect from Chelsea fans. He won two La Liga titles with Valencia (as well as winning a UEFA cup) and took Liverpool to two consecutive Champion’s League finals, the first of which was the historic 3-3 comeback against AC Milan in Istanbul. He is not the incompetent manager that some fans seem to think he is.

In fact, he’s quite the opposite. Benitez is an innovator; he brought zonal marking and squad rotation to Liverpool while the rest of the league laughed at his lunacy – yet now they implement the same methods and tactics that the media once used to beat Benitez with.

He’s also the largest contributor in Liverpool’s current youth academy. The likes of Raheem Sterling, Suso and Andre Wisdom have come into Liverpool’s first team due to the outstanding work Benitez did to overhaul Liverpool’s academy and youth system.

Benitez, assuming he brings his favoured tactics, will likely play Chelsea in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which isn’t much different to the way Di Matteo had Chelsea line up. The differences will be in style of play though; Rafa’s Liverpool were masters of the counter attack, picking the ball up through Alonso and Mascherano and taking full advantage of the Gerrard-Torres partnership.

This is good news for Torres, as he has a manager who fully understands how to get the best out of the frustrated striker, and if nothing else, Chelsea fans should at least be interested to see if he can solve the problem that Carlo Ancelotti, André Villas-Boas, and Roberto Di Matteo could not in regards to Torres.

That’s not to say Benitez is perfect. He’s proven to be stubborn in terms of tactics and approach. But especially with the resources he has at his disposal at Chelsea, he shouldn’t be written off just yet.

Rafa may have one more trick up his sleeve.

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