Could rafa solve Chelsea's big problems?
Published 23/02/2012 | 05:00
1 -- Get the best out
By the time Benitez left Liverpool, the silence from Torres -- like the rest of the Anfield squad -- was deafening. Their relationship had deteriorated to the point where there was no protest when Benitez lost his job. Eighteen months on, expect plenty of revisionism and a mutual alliance to assist both. Torres played his best football under Benitez, although it could be argued that was as much down to Steven Gerrard's service. Suffice to say, if Benitez cannot repair Torres, it may be time to conclude the problem is the player's rather than a succession of coaches for whom he has underperformed.
2 -- Sort out the
Even with limited personnel due to John Terry's injury, this is an area where Benitez will excel. He'll start by ordering Chelsea to play 10 yards nearer their own box, make his midfield more compact, and thrive on the kind of efficient 1-0 wins which seem beyond Villas-Boas' comprehension. David Luiz will discover his days as a centre-half are over. Benitez has always admired no-nonsense Argentinian-style defenders rather than those who fancy themselves as ball players. Aggression, commitment and energy were essential components of both Valencia and Liverpool under Benitez. The foundation began at the back and the most dominant instruction was for players to "press, press, press".
3 -- Win over the senior
It would be fair to say Benitez enjoyed a complex relationship with senior players at Valencia, Liverpool and Inter Milan. They called him 'God' at the Mestalla, while the Inter players were against him from day one. At the start of his Liverpool reign he understood he needed the heart and soul of the club on his side to thrive. He will know he requires the same alliances at Stamford Bridge, in the short term at least. Beyond that, the Machiavellian politics will inevitably return should he be tasked with rebuilding the squad. Benitez is a manager who will relish having the authority to take on the icons in order to restore a sense of order.
4 -- Find Mata's best
Juan Mata has been one of the club's best players this season but still seems unsure of best position. He seems best suited to a role just off the striker but is currently floating around and gets stuck on the periphery of matches. Although Benitez is primarily a defensive coach, he has often found a role for such flair players. Chelsea fans will remember the impact of Luis Garcia -- another diminutive Spaniard with an eye for a pass and goal -- in the 2005 Champions League semi-finals. There was a once a plan for Robbie Keane to play in a similar position 'in the hole' at Liverpool. Although they're vastly different players, Benitez may see echoes of how he needed to find the best position for Gerrard when he joined Liverpool in 2004.
5 -- Restore team spirit
Villas-Boas is considered prescriptive and regimented in his approach, with little regard for consultation. If the Chelsea players are expecting a radically different approach from Benitez, they will be disappointed. At Liverpool, Benitez was single-minded to the point of stubbornness. When the team wins, this is brilliant leadership. When they lose, it's dreadful man-management. There will be no indulgence of players, nor a transformation into the Spanish Harry Redknapp. If Chelsea want a manager who is universally loved by everyone he has ever coached, they may have to widen their search.