Hate to say I told you so


Earlier in the season I did an article on Rafa Benitez and how he deserved at least a little bit of respect from the Chelsea fans and if it’s not too extreme, maybe a bit of praise.

Come the end of the season and I think looking back you have to say he has now justified that – a comfortable top four finish guaranteed before the last day of the season and finally a trophy in the cabinet, hopefully this will allow some insight into just how important this season has been for Chelsea Football Club despite being a painful one at times for the fans.

Champions League Football

Without a doubt the most important thing for the Football club as soon as Rafa took the helm was ensuring that the European Champions don’t end up playing Europa League football next season and bravo to him – he made some bold changes to the squad such as his experimentation with David Luiz (so important in my eyes that it has it’s own section later on) his careful use of the attacking midfielders (in particular Oscar) to avoid burnout and injuries and his complete reshuffling of the teams core.

When he first took over there was lots of scepticism about the actual football, his first two games ended 0-0 and after the high scoring attacking football that Robbie had implemented it came as a huge shock to Chelsea fans, ‘back to grinding out 0-0s and 1-0s rather than 5-4s and 4-2s!? Not at our club!’ Seemed the general consensus amongst quite a lot of the fans but some crucial results later it was clear to  see that despite it taking some time to drill his tactical approach into the players that it was worth the wait and after some poor results (3-1 loss to West Ham was a particularly unsettling one) Chelsea started playing some genuinely exciting football and really impressing in the league.

The way that he handled the striker situation, Rotating Torres and Ba game by game was very effective and the fact that Ba was cup tied for the Europa League appears to have been a blessing in disguise as the Torres actually seems to be clawing back some of his killer instinct as a result of a consistent string of starts in the tournament.

In the end Chelsea finished comfortably in the top four following some fantastic results, the pick of the bunch probably sealing Sir Alex Fergusons final defeat at Old Trafford and now barring a slip up tomorrow against Everton they won’t even need to qualify for the group stages which seemed an almost impossible task when Benitez first took the reigns.

The Europa League

The Europa League run has been crucial in both the recovery of the enigma that is Fernando Torres and the development of the young players, the point of Torres consistently starting and putting in solid performances has already been mentioned but away from the very consistent flow of goals in the competition its the way he ran himself into the ground for the team in some matches that was particularly eye catching – in the first half against Benfica he seemed to be the only player on a par with his opposite number as Chelsea were outclassed everywhere  on the pitch – his goal was all his own work and he seems physically in much better condition than before.

For the new players like Oscar, Hazard, Azpilicueta and Moses the Europa League meant the world, the entire team were clearly very pleased to win the competition but even in the celebrations after the match you could see it meant that little bit more to the new players – winning a hard fought final and getting a medal round your neck in your first season at the club is absolutely crucial in developing the ‘winners mentality’ than characterised the Chelsea of Drogba, Lampard and Terry.

Out with the old in with the new

Another huge point of progress from Benitez’s time at Chelsea is the way he managed to do what many other managers (see AVBs time at Chelsea) have failed to do by loosening the seemingly unbreakable grasp that John Terry and Frank Lampard had on the starting XI.

It is clear from his team selections from the offset to the end of the season that John Terry is no longer viewed as a first team player, sure you’ll struggle to find a captain as brave and committed as JT and he epitomises and encourages the never say die attitude that every manager wants their squad to have but when it comes down to it he is not the best centre half the football club has, in fact I wouldn’t even say he’s in the top 3 – Ivanovic, Luiz and Cahill are all superb defenders and Benitez rightly focussed upon getting the right balance between these three to find his absolute strongest starting XI throughout the season and when he finally did it – all three were in the team but David was now a midfielder.

Has JT’s style of playing rubbed off on the other players? See Gary Cahills tackle in stoppage time against Benfica that secured the win for us – absolutely incredible piece of committed defending.

I’d even go as far as saying that Branislav Ivanovic is quite possibly the only defender in the world better in the air than JT.

Lampards influence has been managed perfectly, he’s broken the record now so the big concern that Benitez’s rotation would rob him of that opportunity has been proved unnecessary. The way that he was rotated in and out of the squad dependant on the opposition was perfect – his ability to pop up and score a goal when you need one is still unparalleled for a central midfielder but if you put him up against a strong powerful midfielder like a Yaya Toure or a Momo Diame he doesn’t have the legs or the defensive ability that Rami and David offer to the line up and for that reason he just isn’t a guaranteed starter anymore – this transition between old Chelsea and new Chelsea brings me onto my final point – John Terry and Frank Lampard have both been given the tag of ‘Mr Chelsea’ in the past, signs this season point to Benitez’s changes preparing Chelsea for the future by really focussing on the players with the potential to be the ‘Mr Chelsea’s’ of the next 5 or so years.

Mr Chelsea?

David Luiz has been without a doubt the player to change the most since Benitez took over, his transition from an inconsistent but exciting rotation player to a outstandingly consistent starter, and if the rumours flying around prove to be true (which all signs seem to point to) a future Chelsea captain.

He clearly really bought into Rafa’s ideas and a combination between his clear natural ability, his commitment to the cause and his tendency to score a phenomenal goal every now and then has endeared him to the fans as more than just a comical flair player trapped in a centre backs body. His performances have been consistent throughout Rafas reign and you’ve got to put at last part of the credit for this down to the manager himself – When Chelsea won the Europa League as the final whistle went and players all celebrated in their different ways as they do, David Luiz ran straight to the man who has changed his career and gave him a massive hug – that man was of course ‘the interim one’ Rafa Benitez.

If Luiz continues to progress at the rate he has this season he will soon be one of the best players in the world in his position, whether he stays as a defensive midfielder or reverts to being a centre back again he certainly has the potential to be the best and his leadership qualities were becoming more and more prominent towards the seasons close – As John Terry’s involvement in the squad continues to deteriorate with his age it seems only a matter of time until  the ‘Mr Chelsea’ tag is passed down to the man who seems to be writing the headlines on Chelsea’s behalf lately.


Regardless of opinions on playing styles, squad rotation and the comments on flags you can’t avoid the fact that Rafael Benitez has left Chelsea Football Club in a far better state than he picked it up in.

Now over to you Mr Mourinho?

  1. xtian says

    We can only Judge Chelsea fc, the Managers, Players and fans. We try to be positive with the Europa league, but achieving 1 trophy out of 7 is definitely an F. When Rafa arrived, we were still keeping close tabs on the EPL, UEFA/ Europa league, FA cup, Capital 1cup, club world cup. That is 5 cups and he got 1/5 compared to Chelsea’s 1/7. Both are supposed to be F. But considering the Environment he worked in, ratio of number of games he managed to squad number, and the transition scheme, we can give him a D. The Lows of the season was going out of the Champions league in the group stage as achieved by RDM and still battling for top 4 when the league has already been won by a team as achieved by Rafa.

    1. Vaibhav Kumble says

      Completely disagree to what you are saying… The first thing I said on our common fans forum on differnt sites was that qith so many new players coming in and the change in style of play, the top four finish shud be our only priority and we shud not feel let down if we dont win anything else.. We finished in top four and winning the Eupora league is an added bonus. Good job done by Rafa.. We have become a more compact team and know the balance between attack and defend.. Also we now have different ways of breaking down teams I/o completely relying on the three amigos… so all in all a very good transition season.. lets hope our next manager gets more time and we start competing for the PL title again by being more consistent. KTBFFH AND CTID.

    2. carlosnafigueira says

      How many trophies Mourinho achieved this season with a superior squad? Benitez just won an historical trophy, harder to win than a domestic title. It happens rarely through clubs history. We are again a hard to beat team.

      1. Vaibhav Kumble says

        How many trophies did Mourinho win with Porto with a very limited squad.. how many did he win with Chelsea?? How many did he win with Inter?? Dude make some sense.. and FYI domestic title is much more harder to win…

  2. carlosnafigueira says

    I still have hope Benitez will stay. The Man is Benitez is very professional and decent guy. Did not bring any controversy into CFC apart of the one created by our own fans. When Mourinho won things with Chelsea we had the strongest squad in the league with no financial competition from any of the other teams. It’s not the case anymore and controversy will be guarranted but trophies won’t be as easy..

    1. Vaibhav Kumble says

      We had money since 2003.. then y have we won 6 trophies in 3 seasons with Mourinho.. and less than that after he left till date??

      1. carlosnafigueira says

        Abramovic came and you dont expect a not do good side win straight away. If you remember the league table before Mour came was probably our best finish for 50 years and we reached champions semi finals. Did you expect Chelsea to stop there? I didn’t! Regardless of mourinho. In a team that finished second on the league you add Robben and Cech (ranieris buys before the sack) alone, forget about anyone else, they should do much better. Now add Drogba Carvalho etc voila miracle we beat man u with bellions, Jemba Jemba millers and co. Chelsea gave Mour the platform that he needed not the other way round. Inter were double champions before mou arrivals 9 out of 10 porto managers win the league. Champions league? Well done to Mour!! shame he couldn’t out think Rafa when he was at Chelsea. Beaten 3times where Avran and RDM reached finals in one go. Now Rafas done it again. Put Mour in this same squad without the many more millions in reinforcement and I doubt if he will do the same like when lamps Terry dro was at their best

  3. Hamim says

    Brilliant article and couldn’t agree more with all the points you have raised. RDM’s sacking was obviously awful but the man replacing him could not have been anyone other than Rafa. His qualities were there for everyone to see. We should not forget that this is the guy who won multiple promotions into la Liga from lower divisions and won the biggest trophy in la Liga with Valencia, came to Liverpool and won the champions league with an average Liverpool team (Average in my opinion), very nearly won the premiership with Liverpool and has now won the Europa League with a very thin team in transition who were in all sorts of problems just before Christmas, not to mention the fact that so many Chelsea fans regrettably made his job so much harder for him. Rafa has outplayed the great Sir Alex Firguson twice and has done pretty well against the top teams in the premiership. I have always rated Rafa highly and wish him all the best with his career. I would urge our fellow fans to grow up and give credit where it is due and show the decency to give Mr Benitez a good farewell.

    1. carlosnafigueira says

      Couldn’t agree more apart of instead of a good farewell we should keep him. He would be the ideal chelsea manager

  4. Abbey says

    I really wish Benetez is retained. Am a diehard fan of Mourinho but he comes with 2much baggage. I feel his admittance of a dismal season at d Benabeu is an indication of eating the humble pie. I hate Benetez like most of us but we played 69games and didn’t perform badly even though we have 1 cup 2 show 4 it. He has tried

  5. Akinola says

    keeping him woold be a good idea as i fear jose attitude even though i am a die hard jose fan.

  6. lukek46 says

    Thanks for your responses guys!
    any ideas for the topic of my next article?

  7. Ali says

    No one give a damn about what you think about about beentiz. What I know is that he is a top coach. The same beentiz that prevents your beloved mourinho from getting to the CL final twice when he was at liverpool. You think you know about football, try be a manager. IDIOT

  8. fireofficermentor.com says

    Great common sense here. Wish I’d thought of that.

  9. That’s cleared my thoughts. Thanks for contributing.

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