Ever since Rafael Benitez became the interim manager of Chelsea, he has been a man under constant pressure. He was appointed manager at a time when things were just starting to go downhill for Chelsea. The fact that his appointment was vociferously opposed by almost every Chelsea fan made things even harder. And while results did improve under Benitez for a short time, another recent slump in Chelsea’s form has cast further doubts on Rafa’s future. So, the question is…. should Rafael Benitez be sacked? More importantly, will the Chelsea board actually find it within themselves to sack another manager this season? Let’s answer both of these questions one by one.
Firstly, does Rafael Benitez deserve the sack? The answer to this question is yes. Benitez’s short reign at Chelsea has been marred by indifferent form (mostly at home), questionable team selection and an often non-existent tactical nous.
When Benitez was first put in charge of Chelsea, he made a few notable tactical changes. Under Di Matteo, Chelsea was an out-and-out attacking team and while that worked well to begin with, the team’s defensive frailties were soon exposed. Benitez aimed to change that by breaking up the attacking trio of Mata-Hazard-Oscar and slotting Moses on the right-wing with Mata moving to the #10 role. While this certainly improved defensive showings to begin with, the lack of organisation at the back eventually meant that overall defensive improvement was minimal. The attacking play also seemed slightly one-dimensional and this was highlighted in the team’s failure to create and take their chances in games against the likes of West Ham, QPR, Southampton and more recently Manchester City.
Aside from that, Benitez’s substitutions are often pointless and even plain silly. His changes during the Premier League match against City were too direct and didn’t seem to add anything to the attack. More than that, Benitez often seems to wait until the 80th minute to make his first change. If it is painfully obvious that things aren’t going as they are supposed to, then instant changes are a must. Even players who come off the bench need time to settle into the game in order to make an impact. If they are coming on with 10 minutes to play, their impact on the game will most probably be minimal. And more often than not, that is exactly what happens.
Lastly, managers at Chelsea have been sacked for less. Carlo Ancelloti was fired because he didn’t win a single trophy in his 2nd season at the club, despite actually finishing 2nd in the Premier League. Andre Villas-Boas was fired in his very first year at the club as Chelsea’s season was in real danger of ending in a disaster. Roberto Di Matteo got sacked only a few months after he lead Chelsea to their maiden Champions League victory. Given Roman Abramovich’s tendency of firing managers, Rafael Benitez should be very thankful he still has a job.
On to the next question I raised in the beginning of the article: will Rafael Benitez actually get the boot? The answer to this question is no.
The main reason why Benitez will not be fired from his job (unless things take a massive turn for the worse) is simple: a lack of replacements. A host of names, including Manuel Pellegrini, Diego Simeone, Michael Laudrup, Jurgen Klopp and even Jose Mourinho have been linked to Chelsea in order to fill in the vacancy that will arise once Benitez’s term as interim manager comes to an end. However, not one of these managers is currently available; Chelsea can only appoint one of these men once the current season is over.
There have been a few other suggestions made by Chelsea fans, such as making Steve Holland the interim manager or making John Terry player-manager should the club choose to sack Rafael Benitez. Both of these suggestions are irrational.
While one can argue that Di Matteo was also handed the role of interim boss in the middle of last season, one cannot ignore the fact that he had some experience in management. Steve Holland has only managed one side (Crewe Alexandra) in his entire managerial career. Di Matteo had already managed 2 clubs (MK Dons and West Bromwich Albion) prior to being made the interim manager at Chelsea. As for making John Terry player-manager, it’s something the club won’t even consider and with good reason. The days of player-managers are long gone and while Terry is a fantastic player and captain, it’s questionable if he will be able to handle the pressure of being a player-manager.
So while Chelsea fans are desperate to see the back of Benitez sooner rather than later, I’m afraid they will have to wait until the end of the season to see the Spaniard leave the Bridge. Chelsea will not sack him unless Benitez messes things up big time.
Written By Shayne Dias (399)