Everything is suddenly getting back to normal. Rafa Benitez is adjusting to life as manager of Chelsea, and the club is adjusting to his organized, less exciting ways. They’ve even re-entered the title race club, mostly thanks to the continued brilliance of Juan Mata, the real star and best player this season for a team that probably expected to be a bit higher at this stage.
What’s in the past is in the past. The European championship seems like a long lost dream, as the Champions League proved a bit too much for Chelsea this season. Rafa Benitez hasn’t faced the toughest of competition up to this point, but it seems his vision and abilities have manager are doing their job. Like in Liverpool or in the Valencia of a decade a go, the keys are given to one attacking midfielder who pulls the wagon forward offensively. While the rotation between Eden Hazard and Oscar continues, Juan Mata is forever secure in his position.
The other adjustment was in the midfield, maybe Chelsea’s weakest spot leading up to Roberto Di Matteo’s termination. Making David Luiz a defensive midfielder has so far proven to be the right move. It gives whoever is playing next to him a lot more confidence to venture forward, while adding increased long range fire power without having to fear it costs him a man in the back four. Luiz has a better passing ability than anyone else the Chelsea midfield can conjure, while his erratic decision making is still something that needs to be worked on.
Another player that has emerged from the depths of the bench for Benitez is Victor Moses. There was nothing about wingers and width during Di Matteo’s early start. Just a combination of Oscar, Hazard and Mata behind Torres, and let them decide who plays where. That’s what it looked like at least. It did bring on a few creative moments that brought great enjoyment, but it looks like the more systematic approach of Benitez, that might also tend to be a tad more cautious on away matches, is sitting well with this side. Hazard or Oscar do well on the wing, and both have looked good in the chances they’ve gotten, playing as a second fiddle to Mata.
The famous Benitez rotation is also in place. Frank Lampard back to the bench, although maybe that has to do with him not getting a contract at the moment, and what seems like his final six months on the team. Marko Marin, the German winger who began the season injured, has also been forgotten on the bench, somehow not really included in the front four rotation Benitez has going on, which is mostly about one open spot as Torres, Moses and Mata can’t be moved.
There’s also the option of playing Oscar as one of the two central midfielders, but despite being rather tactically disciplined, it looks like for now he’s preferred in more advanced roles. An attempt to use him in that capacity might free up some room for Marin to get some minutes, before he starts thinking about moving back to Germany.