Monday, March 18, 2013

Rafael Benitez’s Redemption Song

Ball Harambee by Bagga Wilks

Raphael Benitez has no chance of being appointed anything but Chelsea’s interim manager. Nonetheless, if the Chelsea team continues to click, then Rafael will be able to end the season in a bit of glory. He would have silenced the hooligans who have been harassing him shamelessly since the billionaire owner appointed him to replace Di Matteo.

Under Benitez’s tutelage Chelsea played initially unimpressively. No one questioned the abundance of talent but there was no chemistry or leadership and Chelsea lost games that under different circumstances, they should have won.

With eight matches to play and other cup games, Chelsea is in fine form and even the most critical Chelsea fans are now gratified by the team’s recent success. One of the issues that plagued Chelsea at the beginning of the season was who should play where and what should be the starting eleven. Chelsea was and is a strange blend of the old and the new and for the first half of the season, the chemistry remained elusive.

Benitez seemed to have gotten it together and has settled on a starting eleven. The experiment of playing David Luiz in mid-field has been abandoned and he and Cahill have become the two starting central defenders. John Terry, the former England skipper, has been relegated to the bench.

There has been much indecision regarding Frank Lampard. The aging Lampard has returned to being a main stay in mid-field and as is typical throughout his illustrious career, Lampard keeps popping up in the right places.

This weekend against West Ham, he scored his 200th goal in the EPL. The team now starts without a defensive mid-fielder and Ramirez is the box to box mid-fielder. Mikel is brought in during the closing minutes of the game to seal the victory.

Chelsea’s offensive players have begun to play like a symphony. Ba has replaced Torres as the sole striker and behind him is a trio that may be the most creative in English football. Hazard, Mata and Oscar constitute an ever present danger to full backs and central defenders. Against West Ham this weekend, Hazard and Mata were spectacular. They break down defenses with ease and grace. And all three kick with uncanny accuracy.

Unfortunately, Rafael will not be around next season to enjoy the three ring circus but based on the job he has done at Chelsea, he will have no difficulty obtaining work at a top tier club and wherever he turns up in his post-Chelsea career, the new fans will appreciate his knowledge of the game.

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