Rafael Benitez, a household name in most football passionate families. Probably most well known for his time under Liverpool which resulted in an FA Cup a Super Cup and most impressively, a Champions League.

But today Benitez is better known for another job, the interim position he has filled for two thirds of the season at Chelsea. 

Following the departure of club legend Roberto Di Matteo, Benitez was parachuted into the position until the end of the season. With still so much to play for at the south west London club today we look at Benitez as a manager and assess the final performance of the Spaniard.

Premier League

You may be forgiven for forgetting at one point Chelsea led the Premiership and were strong contenders for the title. Di Matteo left Chelsea second four points behind first place, a position Benitez has never managed to reach as Chelsea manager.

Securing Champions League football can be considered the bare minimum for a club of the stature of Chelsea, who have not really thrown themselves in to the race for the title since the departure of Di Matteo. Benitez's first three games in charge resulted in two 0-0 draws and a poor 3-1 loss to West Ham, undoubtedly one of the most poor results of the season. 

From then on despite a mostly straightforward month and a handful of solid performances, Chelsea have been playing catch up on the two Manchester clubs and lost sight of any chance of the trophy before the turn of the new year. 

Question is, can this honestly be blamed on Benitez? Sacking a manager who was currently in second in the league is by any standards foolish, the interruption of regime caused issues that would cost the blues any real chance. Benitez didn't help the situation, but he was certainly left with a difficult task to remain in it and fully focused.

Review: 6/10: Achieved minimum expected with moments of doubt, didn't even come close to challenging for title.

World Club Championship

Rafa Benitez is certainly a man who likes to take credit for others success, having won the World Club Championships with two pushover matches whilst at Inter Milan, he often references this as one of his many honours in football, despite the hard work being done by Jose Mourinho. 

As European champions he faced another chance to get his hands on this trophy, yet choked at the final hurdle against a well organised Corinthians side. In typical Benitez tactics he left any changes till after Chelsea went one down, bringing on Oscar (who most would argue should have started the game) for Victor Moses.

Chelsea continued to look second rate to a hungry side from Brazil. Overall, the relevance of the trophy in English football demonstrates why it was never really mentioned in great amounts afterwards, but a missed opportunity is an opportunity none the less. 

Benitez will rue missing out on this chance to crown his team champions of the world, but can certainly find a good excuse for failing.

Review: 3/10: Not the end of the world but the players will regret travelling the distance and coming back empty handed, Brazilian support and enthusiasm towards the match helped them.

Carling Cup

One of the last great moments under Di Matteo came in a dramatic night in the Carling Cup against United, playing like an unstoppable force Chelsea fought a United side who didn't want to lose having been there a week earlier in another dramatic match.

Di Matteo left Benitez in a quarter final and surely the favourites to lift the first English trophy of the season. However, a few mistakes by Ivanovic and a top performance by Swansea saw Chelsea fail to reach the first domestic final of the season. 

Never the key importance in the Chelsea calendar, Benitez failed to bring the best out of his team in a poor performance by the Blues at home to Swansea, having come from behind to thrash lower league opposition in the quarters.

Once again Benitez failed to make the all important changes in time for anything to change, leaving the arrival of Demba Ba (who was unlucky to be ruled offside for his goal) till the 81st minute. 

These kind of late changes pop up all over Benitez's worst moments as Chelsea manager, demonstrating a lack of ability to react when the club went down, as well as not being able to change when ahead for the benefit of the game.

Review: 4/10: Didn't do enough to stop the Swansea plan, cost himself an easy chance to claim success and attempt to gain support from Chelsea fans early on

FA Cup

This was a tournament Di Matteo got to play no part in retaining for the blues. By the time the third round came about he had already departed. In a trophy Chelsea fans must now be used to winning Benitez had a shaky start, coming from behind to thrash Southampton and earning a poor draw against local rivals Brentford. 

Chelsea would overcome the lower league obstacle in the second attempt at trying and continue on the path to Wembley. One of the more memorable performances was against Man United, coming back from 2-0 down away from home and pressuring to win it, then taking the Manchester club back to London to win 1-0 in a strong blue performance, Chelsea would then lose once again in a semi final to Man City, eventual runners up. 

In a tight game where Chelsea looked to press for an equaliser late on. Benitez changed formation and brought in two strikers in what can be considered a successful tactical change as Chelsea would score in the same minute and continue to press the then champions City for the rest of the game. However, possibly down to not changing more (leaving club legend Lampard firmly on the bench) or possibly just down to Man City's resilience Chelsea could not prevail for another FA Cup final.

Review: 7/10: Did well to reach the semi's however could not overcome a decent Man City side, arguable he could have saved the game however it's not worth dwelling on. Gave Benitez two of his most impressive performance at United and prevailed at his shakiest moments.

Europa League

In one of Benitez's first games in charge was Chelsea's last game in the group stage of the Champions League, a statistical miracle would put Chelsea in the knockout stages, anything but saw the Spaniard lead his side into Europa League football. 

In nine games of Europa League football Chelsea saw six wins two losses and one draw. Starting out with an unconvincing aggregate victory over Sparta Prague and ending with a late brace win in Amsterdam to claim the trophy. 

This is a debatable trophy to say the least, Benitez will no doubt argue the results say everything he needs to say on this. But digging deeper we can see that Benitez's greatest success at Stamford Bridge was not all too convincing. 

Known as Europe's secondary competition for good reason, the competition has not boasted the likes of Bayern and Barcelona as the previous season had. Unconvincing performances such as losing in Romania and Russia stand out in this success, as well as unconvincing competition such as Basel and Sparta Prague. 

At the end of the day if Chelsea threw the resources at the competition from the minute they entered they should no doubt be considered favourites. Especially considering they avoided the other big names such as Tottenham, Atletico Madrid, and Inter Milan. But Benitez can thank his stars he did not slip on a banana skin on his way to Amsterdam. 

Elimination by some of the weak opposition Chelsea have faced would have caused an issue.

Final review: 7/10: Not his fault Chelsea were there, his fault they won it. Competition he faced on route to Amsterdam stops this from warranting any higher than a 7 as wins were expected of him.

Overall

As the season has only one game left Chelsea stare down another season under the Roman empire. Next season the blues will enter a decade of Russian billionaire dominance. 

They will name a new manager once again enter the Super Cup and will try to regain some say in the Premier League title race, they will probably also stop clapping at the 16th minute as has been the way ever since Di Matteo's departure. 

What will Benitez be remembered for? His melt down at Middlesborough? His arrogance matched by very few in the game? Remember when Benitez said he will compete for 5 trophies? Well, I'd argue he never competed for one and failed at three. Winning only the Europa League, which despite a magical night last night was never a massive issue for the Chelsea fans. I think Benitez achieved the bare minimum for this to be considered a positive reign. 

Giving the 'Interim' title to a manager immediately promoted the idea to the fans that this season was merely a stop gap as they speculated who would emerge as Benitez's successor. Many fans will not have expected any trophy, only hoping for Champions League qualification. 

In conclusion Benitez can leave Chelsea with his head held high, and with another trophy to add to his CV. He can once again return to boasting of his success taking all the credit for everything he and his teams have achieved, never to return to the home dugout at Stamford Bridge again, can we say the home support will respect him if and when he returns to the Bridge as an away manager? 

Probably not, the footballing world is stubborn, and Benitez in longevity will only be remembered for what he said rather than what he did.

Review: 6/10: For getting what needed to be done in anticipation of the next manager. Well done Rafael Benitez 

 

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Topics:
#Chelsea
#Premier League
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