Reasons for and Against Rafa Benitez Staying on at Chelsea

Rowanne WesthenryFeatured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2013

Reasons for and Against Rafa Benitez Staying on at Chelsea

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    Rafa Benitez's Chelsea reign could hardly have begun under worse circumstances. Following the dismissal of Roberto Di Matteo, a beloved club legend who had won the Champions League six months prior to his sacking, the last person the fans wanted to see appointed was the former Liverpool manager.

    In an attempt to appease the angry supporters, he promised an improvement in form before promptly leading the side to two draws and a loss in his first three Premier League games. Aside from an 8-0 demolition of relegation candidates Aston Villa before Christmas, the Spaniard has hardly covered himself in glory.

    Despite this, there is still speculation that he will keep the job on a permanent basis. 

    Here are the reasons for and against Benitez being offered a long-term role at Stamford Bridge.

For: He Is Spanish

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    Chelsea have several Spanish squad members including Fernando Torres, Cesar Azpilicueta and Juan Mata. All of them began their professional careers in Spain, and having a manager who understands the playing philosophy that they grew up with is important to their continuing development.

    For the younger Spanish stars like Oriol Romeu, the fact that the manager speaks his native tongue will enable him to adapt to life in England with less of a struggle.

Against: He Is Resoundingly Hated

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    To those outside of Chelsea FC, the fans' reaction to Benitez's appointment has seemed extreme. However, to those fans who feel that his behaviour when he was in charge at Liverpool combined with the manner of his appointment are unforgivable, it is perfectly justified.

    Benitez made some comments about Chelsea fans needing flags to show their support and that they lacked passion. The fans retorted with a vehement rejection of him when he was linked with the manager's job in 2011. So, when it was announced that he would replace Roberto Di Matteo for the remainder of the season it left many feeling baffled and betrayed.

    With five trophies still to play for at the beginning of his tenure, the best Benitez could have hoped for was a nod of appreciation had he brought all of that silverware home. As it stands now, he has missed out on the FIFA Club World Cup and the Capital One Cup and it will take a replay to decide Chelsea's FA Cup fate against League One side Brentford.

    No matter if he guides the club to another European and domestic double, his refusal to apologise for insulting the fans in the past coupled with his failure to provide the trophies he promised mean that he will never be accepted by the Stamford Bridge faithful.

For: It Would Provide Some Stability

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    As the 10th Chelsea manager in 10 years, Benitez is in charge of a squad who have endured much upheaval. They have been forced to adapt to different styles, tactics and sometimes languages as each manager has come and gone.

    Giving Benitez an extended contract would allow them to settle into a routine and concentrate on performing at the highest level without having to worry about whether the next manager will find a place for them in his plans.

Against: He Is Too Cautious Tactically

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    One of the main selling points of Benitez was his tactical acumen. Chelsea fans were told of a genius who could turn a game around by making key changes at the right time.

    This Benitez has failed to appear. Chelsea were 2-0 down in the Capital One Cup semifinal against Swansea City when he swapped Branislav Ivanovic for David Luiz with 20 minutes to go. In desperate need of a goal, the best the manager could think of was a like-for-like substitution at the back.

    He waits too long to make his changes, and when he does, they make very little impact on the game. Against Reading, after the Royals had halved Chelsea's two-goal advantage, he decided to wait until the end of normal time to swap the ineffective Fernando Torres for Demba Ba.

    Having coached 13 Premier League games, Benitez has had plenty of time to assess the players' strengths and weaknesses and adjust the formation and tactics accordingly. His failure to do so further undermines any case he has for being offered the role on a permanent basis.

For: He Has Previous Experience in the Premier League

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    While Chelsea were chasing Pep Guardiola, there were many who questioned the wisdom of employing a man who has only enjoyed managerial success in La Liga with a Barcelona side containing the likes of Lionel Messi and Xavi.

    This is not the case with Benitez. He has managed in Spain and Italy and had a very successful tenure at Liverpool, winning the Champions League in 2005 and guiding them to a second-place finish in the Premier League.

    He has played Sir Alex Ferguson at mind games and knows how the likes of Tony Pulis and David Moyes like to set up their teams through the most invaluable means: experience.

Against: He Lacks Passion

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    A large part of Di Matteo's success at Chelsea came from his passion for the club and the inspiration that provided to the team. Benitez cannot provide that, because he simply does not care about Chelsea FC.

    When he was in charge at Liverpool, he had an intense rivalry with then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and he has made no secret of his continuing love for the Anfield club. Liverpool and Chelsea met several times in the Champions League between 2003 and '09 and developed a mutual dislike over some dubious decisions.

    Benitez seems to have taken the job out of necessity rather than desire, and the lacklustre performances on the pitch are proof of this. When your manager appears to have no passion for the club you are performing for, it takes players such as John Terry to step up and inspire the team (only to be accused of wielding an unnecessary amount of influence in the dressing room).

    If he continues in the role, he will need to fake it to make it and pretend that he actually cares about the future of Chelsea FC, and its fans.

For: Who Else Would Take the Job?

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    With the average length of tenure at Stamford Bridge at just under a season, there is very little incentive to attract quality candidates anymore.

    Most managers want to build a squad and instill a philosophy—both of which take time that they are unlikely to be afforded by Roman Abramovich. This means that, barring the return of Jose Mourinho, the only people who would take the role would be in it for the inevitable payoff when they get sacked.

    That sad state of affairs would only widen the rift between the supporters who love the club and the upper echelons who struggle to understand the fans' passions

Against: He Has a Worse Record Than Roberto Di Matteo

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    In his 12 Premier League games in charge of the club in 2012-13 Roberto Di Matteo picked up 24 points. From the same number of games, Rafa Benitez has amassed 22 points. It might be a small difference, but Benitez was brought in to turn the season around, and he has failed to do so.

    His relationship with Fernando Torres has also failed to produce the desired results. After scoring two goals in two games in a row, his form has faltered yet again and it seems like any magical response he might have had to working with his former manager will not materialise.

    Chelsea have scored 25 Premier League goals under Benitez compared to 24 under Di Matteo. However, they have failed to score in three games presided over by Benitez as opposed to one under Di Matteo.

    Whilst he might try to claim that Chelsea's defence has tightened up—a fact which is debatable—losing the threat up front has cost Chelsea valuable points and makes it far less likely to win. If you set out trying not to concede goals, the best you can hope for is a 0-0 draw, and that won't help you win trophies.