The Penny Drops
In the grand scheme of things yesterday’s result against West Bromwich Albion proved two things.
- The atmosphere in the ground, “toxic” if you wish to believe the Sky sanitisation era, has absolutely nothing to do with performance or results.
- Benitez, himself, is to blame for mismanagement during matches.
Before the inevitable Liverpool cult jump in here and start blubbering on about ‘istory, class, trophy count and Istanbul – we, strangely, do not care about you. So back to the task at hand given the two points above how did I come to this conclusion? Rather obvious really – football, after all is a simple game complicated by idiots (see what I did there?).
Benitez is a man who can never accept his own wrongdoings. His spectacular arrogance and ability to charm journalists seems to hugely override his actual managerial ability. His time at Valencia happened ten years ago, which may as well be a lifetime in football terms.
Most odd is that despite his European Cup success at Liverpool the fans seem to turn a blind eye to his mismanagement that cost them their first Premier League title. Note the use of Premier League. Being from London I have plenty of diehard Liverpool mates who will continually tell me that Benitez’s weird obsession with rotation cost them the title. He inherited a Liverpool side who were 4th under Houllier and left them as the 7th best side in the country. Work that one out.
He then took over an Inter Milan side who swept all before them the previous season and took them backwards. He has been out of a job since this despite his own admission that lesser roles have cropped up. Lesser roles? Does this man genuinely think he should be anywhere near a top job? The mind boggles at his own self-worth.
Benitez is a man who already has his excuses ready before the inevitable decline happens during his tenure. Being tired, not enough players, players being tactically inflexible and in truth the list could be endless. This is simply to mask the fact that when you strip away all his bamboozling bullshit he is a distinctly average coach.
For months Chelsea fans, who to my knowledge may or may not have a few UEFA Coaching Licenses dotted about amongst them, have been saying the key to finishing in the top four is playing Oscar, Hazard, Mata and Ba as much as possible in the same side. While Moses is an able deputy Fernando Torres most certainly is not. Yet it has taken Rafa a millennium to figure out that playing your best players might actually achieve results.
Who would come up with such tactical mastery as deploying your best players? Even then his familiar ridiculous substitutions nearly cost us the game. Eden Hazard was on fire yesterday as he tore through WBA almost at will. Under Benitez he has figured less than most and despite Mata looking tired around the 70 minute mark Hazard was the one to make way for Moses.
Chelsea’s midfield similarly began to look leggy towards the end of the game as West Brom assumed the role of the aggressor. Instead of bringing on the solid presence of Obi Mikel when this started to happen he waited until injury time by which time West Brom had almost equalised. Torres, likewise, came on to boos from some dullards who were swiftly heckled for their idiocy and replaced Ba.
While mocking Torres is now bordering the line of bullying he hit a shot in the second half that he may never be able to repeat again. It truly was astonishing how bad it was. With the ball coming across his body he managed to slice the ball with ridiculous power directly behind himself as he was aiming for the goal. The ball went high and over his shoulder and somehow found Lampard on the edge of the area. If he meant it then it was surely the greatest pass in the history of football.
My main point is really to address the fact that Benitez’s rant in midweek where he targeted a group of near 2,000 fans who had made the trip to Middlesboro at the drop of a hat with no real prospect of getting back was as ill-timed as it was a bluff. The levels of performance come from his inability to pick the right players for the occasion. They also stem from his even worse ability to correctly change things in game for the better. That is all him – not the fans.
For the majority of the game West Brom looked incapable of dealing with Mata, Hazard and Oscar. The intricacy of their passing, dribbling ability, skill and pace were resonant of the early season form under Di Matteo that had fans and pundits purring. Why has it taken this long to reunite them, particularly with Ba up top?
Eden Hazard, my man-of-the-match yesterday, was sublime throughout the game. He is playing in an unbalanced team with a clueless manager and without a top class midfield or striker. For all his antics at Swansea he seems to have come back into the side on fire. The only way to stop him yesterday was with repeated scythes and rather nasty looking late tackles.
Imagine an improving Hazard, Oscar and Mata playing with two thoroughbred midfielders behind them and a world class striker worthy of their creativity. Add in a centre back for good measure and the impressive returning loan stars (De Bruyne, Chalobah, Lukaku etc.) and Chelsea have the potential within their squad to return to being a title challenging powerhouse. None of that will happen with Benitez and as sad as that makes me we will have to hope he realises that perhaps playing his best players might just secure that top four spot we desperately need for next season.