THE BLOG

Final Flourish Can't Mask Benitez's Failings at Chelsea

22/05/2013 17:12 BST | Updated 22/07/2013 10:12 BST

Outgoing interim manager Rafael Benitez may have led Chelsea to Europa League glory and a top-three finish in the Premier League this season - but suggestions the Spaniard has had a successful reign at Stamford Bridge are wide of the mark.

While it's hard to argue with winning any piece of silverware, the simple fact - and Benitez likes those - is that Chelsea should have won four trophies this season.

After his acrimonious appointment in west London in November, the Club World Cup was on a plate for Benitez almost immediately but Chelsea unexpectedly fell to Brazilian side Corinthians in the final.

Chelsea's failure to return from Japan with what should have been a routine addition to their trophy cabinet can perhaps be put down to Benitez finding his feet in the job, but the Spaniard can have no excuse for losing a two-legged Capital One Cup semi-final to Swansea in January.

The Welsh side were deserved winners but Benitez's men imploded with Branislav Ivanovic gift-wrapping Swansea both of their goals in the first leg at Stamford Bridge before Eden Hazard lost his head and kicked out at a ball-boy to get himself sent off at the Liberty Stadium.

I think we can safely say Chelsea would have recorded a similarly emphatic win over Bradford at Wembley in the final as Swansea did. That should have been two more trophies for Benitez's CV with another two firmly in his sights.

Having impressively sent Manchester United packing from the FA Cup, Benitez's side faced a semi-final showdown against Manchester City.

Chelsea have become almost synonymous with FA Cup success since Wembley reopened its doors in 2007 - Benitez's predecessors Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Di Matteo have all lifted the trophy since, with Chelsea winning the competition four out of the last six seasons prior to this campaign.

And given recent happenings at the Etihad, with revelations of deep player unrest and frustration with now-departed manager Roberto Mancini, City were seemingly there for the taking but Chelsea were two goals behind before they even got going and left it too late to force extra-time.

Then, outplayed in the Europa League final against Benfica, Ivanovic spared Benitez's blushes by scoring the winner in stoppage time to ensure it wasn't a clean sweep of trophy failures for the Spaniard.

Benitez could have shut all the doubters up had he made it four from four in the cups this season.

But the reality is he won a second-rate European competition and finished 14 points behind champions United, having been four points back when taking over from Di Matteo in November.

If Arsenal can be mocked for celebrating like they had won the league when they finished fourth, then why shouldn't Benitez and Chelsea get similar treatment for being satisfied with third place?

The argument goes Benitez did such a good job considering he was thrown in at the deep end with little time to prepare but Hiddink and Di Matteo were handed the reigns at even later points in the season and it didn't seem to affect them.

Yes, Chelsea fans made Benitez's job more difficult by booing their manager to high hell with every chance they could.

But they warmed to him after he won the Europa League. If Benitez had won the Club World Cup and Capital One Cup in the first two months of his reign, then arguably the tide of hatred would have abided much earlier. The Spaniard shot himself in the foot by fluffing both of those competitions.

Benitez had the talent and players at his disposal to win an historic quadruple for the club, and for a man who has always excelled in cup competitions he simply should have left a bigger mark on Stamford Bridge than he did.