Does Rafa Deserve Credit for Chelsea’s “Success”?

Recently, I have heard some Chelsea fans say that interim manager Rafa Benitez deserves credit for inspiring comebacks against Manchester United and Steaua Bucharest. It’s obvious he isn’t liked by the majority of Chelsea fans, but is this new found credit he’s receiving from some Chelsea fans merited? Let’s take a look at his “success” as a Chelsea manager which is apparently earning him some credit…

  • Rafa’s “success” has him as the second worst Chelsea manager since the 90’sWith a winning percentage of 51.6%, Rafa has the second worst winning percentage of any Chelsea manager since 1998. Only AVB with a 47.5% winning percentage is worse. I could be wrong, but last time I checked success was measured by wins and losses, not by beating up on a weak team like Aston Villa by eight goals.
  • Rafa’s limited “success” isn’t coming against equal or better opposition – He has failed to win all 3 matches against opposition from Manchester and hasn’t played Spurs yet, meaning Rafa has ZERO wins against teams with more points against Chelsea in the Premier League table. He’ll have another chance against Man United on April 1st.
  • Rafa’s “squad rotation” puts Chelsea in poor situations – As an example, Rafa’s decision to start Yossi Benayoun in a difficult environment such as Stadionul Steaua (Romania) over Juan Mata was puzzling to say the least. It would have made much more sense to start a key player like Mata away from home and hope for a result so he can be rested for the second leg. His substitutions have continued to defy spectator logic all season and although the Chelsea fixture list is exhaustive, he continues to bench important players and leave substitutions until very late in the game (or not at all).
  • Rafa’s unwillingness to change tactics makes Chelsea predictable – His stubborn nature related to his 4-2-3-1 tactics have made Chelsea predictable – with so many fixtures there is A LOT of footage for teams to watch and develop strategies on how to exploit the weaknesses of Rafa’s tactics. The Capital One Cup matches against Swansea immediately come to mind, where they forced Chelsea into sloppy possession play and created chances on the counter attack.
  • Rafa’s “success” has Chelsea with ZERO trophies and favored to win ZERO trophies – Despite having the opportunity to win more trophies in a single season than in any other season in club history, the Chelsea trophy cabinet for the 2012-2013 season currently sits empty. Outside of the Champions League and Community Shield, Rafa has failed to win the Club World Championship and Capital One Cup during his time with Chelsea. He has taken a team with title aspirations in the Premier League and lost so many points that the club may not even qualify for the Champions League next season. Finally, Chelsea will have to overcome the odds to win their two remaining trophies, the FA Cup and the Europa League (Spurs are now favored to win the Europa League according to some books after today’s draw). 0 for 7? It’s very realistic…

In short, I fail to understand how or why Rafa deserves credit for the “success” of Chelsea because of the expectations of the club. Chelsea, with world class talent (and the wages which come with it), are expected to win against modern cup minnows such as Brentford, Steaua, and Sparta – yet these opponents have pushed Chelsea into uncomfortable waters due to a manager who has continued to make poor squad decisions and refuses to change a “strategy” which has him as one of the worst Chelsea managers in the modern era. Has Chelsea really reached the point where after winning the Champions League last season we are praising one of the worst mangers the club has had in a decade and a half for narrowly defeating European minnows? Apparently so…

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