Chelsea’s Rafael Benitez has been honored as Barclays Manager of the Month. And it’s about time!
Despite hordes of criticism heaped on him by Chelsea fans and a British media seemingly transfixed on ruffling the feathers of foreign bosses (see: Arsene Wenger, Roberto Mancini, Andre Villas-Boas, Manuel Pochetino and Paulo Di Canio), Benitez has provided one of the most stunning managerial performances of the season. And the league is finally taking notice making the interim boss the first Chelsea boss to be named Premier League Manager of the Month since Carlo Ancelotti in April 2011.
Benitez’ side enjoyed an unbeaten month in the league, with three wins from four games. During that stretch the Blues knocked off Swansea City, Sunderland and Fulham while drawing with Liverpool after conceding a last-gasp equalizer at Anfield.
Adding to the significance of the achievement is that Chelsea earned the domestic results while playing five other games during the month, including two matches against Rubin Kazan in the Europa League quarter-finals (where they won 5-4 on aggregate), a 1-0 win over Manchester United in the FA Cup, and a 2-1 first leg victory at FC Basel in the Europa League semi-finals.
Think about that – nine matches in 30 days. Crazy!
The league results have seen Chelsea rise to third in the table with four games remaining, putting them in prime position for a Champions League berth. Yet despite this achievement – as well as earning the club a spot in next month’s Europa League final against Benfica and being a key cog in the development of David Luiz and the resurgence of Petr Cech (who, at the moment is arguably the best goalkeeper in world football) – Benitez remains a very unpopular man.
To be fair, the Chelsea fans’ disdain for the Spaniard is at least somewhat understandable. His decision to pledge his love for Liverpool two weeks ago was nonsensical. Nevertheless, the feats he has managed to accomplish at Chelsea during his five month stint at the club are astounding. And it’s great to see the Premier League is finally taking notice.
Here’s to hoping that come the final day of the season, Blues supporters will as well.