What to Expect From Rafa Benitez

Few Chelsea supporters are happy with today’s change in management. It’s well documented that Benitez was a longtime rival of Chelsea. Regardless of Roman’s reasoning or the feelings that Chelsea supporters have for Benitez, though, Chelsea are stuck with him and it’s time to see what we will be in for as long as he is manager at Chelsea.

Tactics

Benitez’s signature formation is the 4-2-3-1 with a slight difference to the way it was utilized by RdM. In Benitez’s formation the center attacking midfielder plays higher up the pitch in a position more similar to a second striker than an attacking midfielder. Predictions would be that Hazard is best suited for that role but Oscar might get it since Hazard and Mata are more natural wingers.

Benitez is also known for the 4-2-2-2 formation that was used until Torres was signed in 2007. It is unlikely that this will be the formation Benitez uses given Chelsea’s lack of effective strikers and both his and Torres’ preference for the 4-2-3-1 formation.

His set-piece tactics have drawn major criticism because he prefers zonal marking to man marking. He is also known to go deep into his bench and use subs and reserves for less important fixtures as a method of keeping his best players fit. However, he over-relied on Torres and Gerrard at Liverpool, forcing Torres to play even when he wasn’t at full fitness.

Buying Policy

It doesn’t seem like Benitez will be around long enough to actually make any purchases, but he is hit and miss with his transfers. The current Liverpool youth revolution was spurred on by Benitez’s eye for young talent: breakout stars Jonjo Shelvey, Raheem Sterling, and Suso were all part of Benitez’s plan to overhaul the Liverpool Academy.

His biggest transfer success was none other than Chelsea’s very own Fernando Torres, whom he purchased from Atletico Madrid for £20m. Other highly successful purchases included Lucas Leiva (£6m), Pepe Reina (£8.6m), Dirk Kuyt (£9m) and Martin Skrtel (£6.5m).

His biggest transfer bust is usually considered Alberto Aquilani (£17.6m), while other notable flops include Robbie Keane (£19.3m), Ryan Babel (£11.5m) and Andrea Dossena (£7m). Maxi Rodriguez was also considered a major flop despite being a free transfer.

Selling Policy

Benitez wields an axe almost as deadly as Roman himself. After winning the Champions League in 2005, he offloaded almost all of the players from that squad by the time he was sacked. He sold very notable and successful players, including Xabi Alonso, Craig Bellamy and Alvaro Arbeloa. He left goalkeeping hero Jerzy Dudek a back-up after his performance in the Champions League final. He also let many of Liverpool’s prominent academy stars go as part of his goal to rebuild the academy.

Pedigree

Benitez had on-and-off success at Liverpool, and many believe he overachieved in winning the Champions League with a weak squad. He was highly successful at Valencia, twice winning La Liga and once winning the UEFA Cup (now Europa League). He finished third in the Premier League twice, second once, fifth once, fourth once, and in his last season they ended up seventh while crashing out of the Champions League in the group stages. Domestically his best Liverpool result was winning the FA Cup in 2006 over West Ham.

Expectations

There are theories that Benitez is here to keep the seat warm for Pep Guardiola, as he is expected to take over the position once he is done with his vacation. Benitez was once believed to be one of the best managers in the world and that is the view that some supporters need to remember. This job isn’t permanent so it is unlikely that he will cause too much damage in the progression of the team.

One the other hand, his last managing venture at Inter Milan was a disaster and Liverpool supporters wanted him gone by the time he left Merseyside. He is also a much-hated villain in the Chelsea community, having made negative comments about the supporters and the club, and he carried on heated rivalry with Jose Mourinho. At this point, optimism is low and hatred is at an all-time high. Benitez had one shot to fill the shoes of a manager coming off Champions League glory and failed miserably. This is his second chance and he’ll get almost no support from the Chelsea faithful.

Image Credit: Soccer360

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