“I think, under the circumstances, Rafa’s done a brilliant job” said talkSPORT’s Darren Gough during Friday’s drive time show, but how true is this? And do we need to thank Rafa for his work since stepping in?
Since stepping into a cauldron of hate way back in November last year, Rafa has watched over 40 games as Chelsea’s Interim Manager, and boasts a win ratio of 56%.
The same as Luis Felipe Scolari, and only better than Andre Villas-Boas (48%) and Claudio Ranieri (54%), making him Chelsea’s joint sixth ‘best manager’, not exactly brilliant is it.
Way back at the end of November, Chelsea were third in the table, seven points behind Manchester United and six behind City. This includes the four points dropped by Rafa’s team following his arrival, had those two games been wins, Chelsea would have been just three behind United and one off of City.
At the time of writing, Premier-League Champions United are 20 points clear, with City, somehow still only six points clear.
Brilliant job Rafa, I hear you cry.
“Rafa Benitez has succeeded where Jose Mourinho had failed at Chelsea” Goughie’s nonsensical co-host Adrian Durham quipped.
Chelsea had reached another European cup final, forget Frank let’s sign Rafa up first!
To reach the Europa League final, Rafa has masterminded victories against Sparta Prague, Steaua Bucuresti, Rubin Kazan and Basel. Anything other than reaching the final would have cost Rafa his job, just like Roberto Di Matteo’s Champions League failings cost him.
So, what exactly have we got to be thankful to Rafa for?
Firstly, David Luiz, the Brazilian has come on leaps and bounds since Rafa’s arrival and his move into midfield seems to have settled him. Luiz will have a long and hopefully successful career as the next Chelsea captain. Luiz recently thanked Rafa for his support, and is not the only player to have publicly done so.
Secondly, for being professional in the way he has gone about his job despite the huge furore being played out in the stands and the media. Also, the latest round of Chelsea transfer news suggests that a deal for Andre Schurrle is close. It is may also have something to do with Rafa as he has been rotating the squad on a regular basis since his arrival.
Yes, there have been mistakes (Post Middlesbrough comments, Club World Cup final, Carling Cup Semi-Final etc.) but there has also been some good football at times (Aston Villa can vouch for that) and despite the gap between us and the top, we are in a healthy position to win a trophy and qualify for the Champions League.
Other men would have collapsed under the pressure, but Rafa seems to have kept the squad together (reports of bust ups with JT are false) and the new core of the squad seem to enjoy having Rafa as manager.
This season could have been disastrous, but it could end up satisfactory after all, and Rafa must take some credit for that.
That being said, Darren Gough was wrong, Rafa’s done OK at best, nothing more, and as for Durham, Mourinho has gone on to win the Champions League, reach two consecutive semi-finals, win two different domestic leagues since leaving the Premiership, Rafa’s been largely unemployed.
The partnership between Chelsea and Rafa has always been about convenience, Roman wanted Robbie gone and Rafa needed a stage in order to make a fresh start, and with a top four place and a European trophy, both sides will be a lot happier come July.
There are some things we do need to be thankful to Rafa for, but the job has been far from brilliant and he will be lucky to find employment in England ever again.
Contribution by @DeanMears