Skip to content

Europa glory does nothing to change Benítez’s unconvincing Chelsea tenure

May 15, 2013, 8:52 PM EDT

Britain Soccer Premier League AP

Winning silverware is nothing to take for granted, but every club has standards. Every squad has goals against which they measure performance and achievement, and for Chelsea FC, none of those goals would have included “Europa League champion” nine months ago. One of the most talented, best funded teams in the world, Chelsea started the year with Champions League, Premier League, and FA Cup glory on their minds. That they’ll finish the year with Europa League consolation is the thinnest of silver linings.

If you’re Chelsea fan, you don’t need to hear another account of your team’s 2012-13 shortcomings, but over the next our days – the time between Europa League triumph and Rafa Benítez’s final match as boss of José Mouriho’s team the Blues – it will be important to remember that context. Because already, we are seeing justifications of a man who, having inherited a team that was still in contention for all their major goals, is going to be portrayed as reclaimed for having raised a secondary trophy, as if community college honors will suffice when you drop out of your four-year school.

Benítez does deserve some credit for the job he’s done over the last three months, stabilizing a team that looked capable of again plunging out of England’s Champions League spots. But just like today’s Europa League honor, that credit requires context. Chelsea’s winter precipice was partially created by Benítez, who took a team safely in third and plunged them into a race with Arsenal and Spurs before forging safety. It’s not an insignificant accomplishment, stabilizing a talented but flawed group, but when the end result sees the team no better than when you took over (when Chelsea sat third at the time of Roberto Di Matteo’s dismissal), it’s difficult to paint a triumphant picture.

So give credit to those who will try to do so, pundits who, emboldened by Wednesday’s honor, will portray the vindication of Benítez. Never mind Chelsea were clear favorites against every team on their Europa League path: Sparta Praha, Steaua Bucuresti, Rubin Kazan, Basel, and Benfica. And never mind this is only Europa League, a competition within which no Blues coach should be judged (would you really consider Europa League a major accomplishment from somebody who managed Manchester United, Arsenal, Bayern, Real Madrid, or Barcelona – the level at which Chelsea aspires to be?). It takes a olympiad’s worth of rhetorical gymnastics to spin Europa League into a major point in Benítez’s favor. Give those pundits credit for trying.

Ultimately, while it’s very cool for Chelsea fans to round out their Europeans trophy quad-fecta, there are far more valid measures by which to judge Benítez. At best, kept Chelsea above water in league, failing to restore one of the world’s most talented teams to title contending form. He was at the helm as the team was eliminated from three other competitions: Champions League; FA Cup; League Cup. His tactics and management were responsible for three widely inconsistent winter months, during which time he continued a tete-a-tete with Blues supporters that dates back to his time at Anfield.

And perhaps most importantly: Never under Benítez’s watch have Chelsea played to their talent level. They’ve swooned, they’ve improved, they’ve answered some positional questions, and ultimately, they’ve won some games (and a trophy). But these platitudes are inconsistent with a club as ambitious as Chelsea. They shouldn’t be this far from Premier League contention, let along in Europa League.

A manager can be both good and not good enough, and after seeing Liverpool out of the old top four before a five-month disaster at Inter, Benítez needed to re-prove he was good. And he has, something we should never forget as we’re forced to offset the coming day’s excessive adulation. But for a club that is capable of drawing José Mourinho-level coaches, Benítez is nowhere near good enough.

There is, however, a job opening up in Liverpool.

Latest Posts
  1. Full list of every transfer made by Premier League clubs during the Summer Transfer Window

    Sep 1, 2015, 8:19 PM EDT

    International Champions Cup 2015 - Manchester United v San Jose Earthquakes Getty Images

    Considering Premier League teams spent more than $1.3 billion on transfers this summer, it’s quite the list.

  2. Five deals that didn’t get done over the Summer Transfer Window

    Sep 1, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG--PR-EVERTON-MANUTD Getty Images

    We all thought they would happen, but with the transfer window now closed, we’re left scratching our heads.

  3. WATCH LIVE: Premier League Deadline Day Show

    Sep 1, 2015, 5:34 PM EDT

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Clear your schedule at 7 p.m. ET for two hours of coverage detailing a wild and crazy Deadline Day in the Premier League. Watch live on NBCSN or online, right here.

  4. Complete list of every transfer in the Premier League on Deadline Day

    Sep 1, 2015, 4:24 PM EDT

    FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-MONACO-BASTIA Getty Images

    Take a look at every transfer made in the Premier League on a wild and crazy Deadline Day.

  5. Aaron Lennon inks three-year deal with Everton

    Sep 1, 2015, 3:32 PM EDT

    Everton v Burnley - Premier League Getty Images

    The former Tottenham man spent the end of last season on loan at Goodison Park, and now the move has been made permanent.

  6. Leicester City signs Nathan Dyer on loan from Swansea City

    Sep 1, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    Swansea City v York City - Capital One Cup Second Round Getty Images

    The winger was flown into Leicester on the owner’s helicopter as a last minute signing for the Foxes.

  7. Manchester United fires back on De Gea saga, laying blame at feet of Real Madrid

    Sep 1, 2015, 2:55 PM EDT

    Alexander Buttner, Gareth Bale AP

    Let’s hope these guys match up in the UEFA Champions League, where time can be kept on the field.

  8. GRADES: How did each Premier League team fare in the Summer Transfer Window?

    Sep 1, 2015, 2:50 PM EDT

    PST’s Lead Writer and Editor gives each team a grade after a busy summer in the transfer market.

  9. West Brom chairman reacts to Berahino furor over rejected Spurs bids; Takes shot at Levy

    Sep 1, 2015, 2:09 PM EDT

    during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at The Hawthorns on August 10, 2015 in West Bromwich, England. Getty Images

    West Bromwich Albion chairman Jeremy Peace is speaking out on the Saido Berahino saga at the Hawthorns.

  10. USMNT Hyndman stays put at Fulham, will have trials to determine next home

    Sep 1, 2015, 1:37 PM EDT

    Hyndman Getty Images

    Frustrated at Fulham, American teen Emerson Hyndman looks set to stay at Craven Cottage through the final year of his contract.

  11. One for the future: Chelsea buys Jamaican defender, loans him back to Reading

    Sep 1, 2015, 1:10 PM EDT

    chelseafc.com chelseafc.com

    Hector earned his first six caps for the Reggae Boyz and participated in all three of Jamaica’s matches at the Copa America in Chile.

  12. Watford adds from Roma, Palace, Brugge; Sends Mexico’s Layun on loan

    Sep 1, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT

    Colombia's forward Victor Ibarbo eyes the ball during the 2015 Copa America football championship quarter-final match against Argentina, in Viña del Mar, Chile, on June 26, 2015.   AFP PHOTO / JUAN BARRETO        (Photo credit should read JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The captain of Algeria, a veteran of Colombia and a Belgian U-21 player are heading to the Premier League side at Vicarage Road.

  13. Saido Berahino slams West Brom, tries to force move to Tottenham Hotspur

    Sep 1, 2015, 12:35 PM EDT

    150119-saido-berahino-280

    Young striker is not happy at all as Baggies continue to block Spurs’ advances.

  14. Spurs, USMNT winger DeAndre Yedlin finds his loan destination at Sunderland

    Sep 1, 2015, 12:03 PM EDT

    Honduras v United States Getty Images

    Yedlin joins American prospect Lynden Gooch on the Premier League squad, where Jozy Altidore spent a tumultuous season-and-a-half.

  15. Bournemouth adds longtime Crystal Palace striker Glenn Murray

    Sep 1, 2015, 11:20 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptu4othjmdgxmtq5mwvmzmniywvlmjflmju3mdizn2ji AP

    Crystal Palace feels ready to move on from their longtime striker, with Connor Wickham having joined Palace this summer.

  16. Here’s how Premier League clubs can still sign players two hours after the deadline

    Sep 1, 2015, 11:02 AM EDT

    PremierLeagueNBC

    That’s right, there’s a loophole to keep this madness going for an extra two hours. Think of it as extra-time.

  17. Chelsea sign center back Papy Djilobodji from Nantes

    Sep 1, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT

    Paris Saint-Germain FC v FC Nantes - Ligue 1 Paris Saint-Germain FC v FC Nantes - Ligue 1

    Senegal international arrives at the Bridge to bolster Chelsea’s backline.

Featured video

MOTD: United's offensive struggles