There are plenty of people in the world of football ready to tell unhappy Chelsea fans that Rafa Benitez is a tactical genius. Whether starting a striker with a stomach bug is the most tactically astute decision is debatable, but at least Benitez has a real alternative to flop Fernando Torres up front with Demba Ba brought in from Newcastle for £7.5 million.
Ba scored twice on his debut against Southampton in the FA Cup and will be looking to better that feat in the two sides' upcoming rematch in the Premier League. He has strength, pace and the instincts of a poacher, and his off-the-ball movement is reminiscent of Didier Drogba.
Unlike the statuesque Torres, Ba hassles defenders and draws them to him, leaving the attacking midfield with more space than they have become accustomed to. A striker of his calibre has the ability to work in almost any given formation, so Benitez is tactically spoilt for choice.
So far this season, Chelsea have settled on the 4-2-3-1 formation which helped guide them to European glory.
Employing two deep midfielders, this formation can be used to great effect as Chelsea have versatility throughout the squad. Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar are equally accomplished in the middle of the park while Victor Moses and Marko Marin offer options out wide.
But the flexibility of the talent within the Chelsea squad also allows for tinkering with different formations, and with Ba in the fold, it might be worth it for Benitez to experiment with any of the following.
A 4-5-1 formation would allow Ba to play in his preferred role as a lone striker, with support coming through the middle as well as from the wings. This tactic would be best employed as a secondary one if the Blues are struggling to break down defences with their narrow midfield.
Torres is likely to feel left out, but he could work with Ba in a 4-1-3-2.
Admittedly, Torres would have to regain his striker's instinct and get over his fear of taking a shot for that formation to work, but it is an option that Benitez will likely experiment with before the season is over.
With Demba Ba providing a finishing touch in the box that Chelsea have lacked on occasion, Benitez has far more tactical options at his disposal. However, as the Blues aim to hold off clubs like Tottenham and Everton for a Champions League spot, the manager will likely hope to have things sorted out sooner rather than later.