The Premier League is an ever changing beast and although Rafa Benitez being installed as Chelsea’s Interim Manager earlier this week was a shock, it was no real surprise to see Abramovich sacking another Chelsea manager prematurely. This sudden appointment will significantly impact fantasy football managers as many fantasy football teams contain Chelsea players.
Benitez is renowned as a master tactician that Roman Abramovich is hoping can get £50 million pound Fernando Torres firing. The short term effect could reduce Juan Mata’s fantasy football return while increasing Chelsea’s clean sheet potential.
Benitez Tactics Could Reduce Mata’s Fantasy Football Potential
The likely formation that Benitez will play with will be a 4-2-3-1 which is convenient as that is the formation that he is inheriting from Roberto Di Matteo. A key difference is that Rafa’s team will be a more compact defensive unit with players given less license to roam free around the pitch.
While watching Chelsea under Di Matteo it was obvious that the wingers were give a free role to be creative with Hazard and Mata ghosting around the pitch as they liked.
At Liverpool Benitez liked to play wingers who kept the teams shape and put a shift in such as Dirk Kuyt. It is possible that Ramires might be put back to the right wing with similar instructions to the Dutch man in his Anfield days.
Chelsea’s midfield provide Benitez with a wealth of options and his selection issues will mirror the questions that fantasy football managers ask themselves each week. The Spaniards tactics could lead to him playing Mikel and Lampard in central midfield with Mata on the left wing and Ramires on the right wing. This would see the “hole” filled by Mr Assist Eden Hazard but the Belgium could also swap with Mata.
The stricter midfield system and the appetite that Benitez has for clean sheets means that the fantasy football return of Juan Mata could be seriously reduced if the young Spaniard is forced to fulfil the left wing role.
Fernando Torres – Rafa’s Tactics will Give him More Opportunities
As Chelsea will be compact it means that the full backs of opposing teams will likely push up giving Fernando Torres opportunities to work the flanks in behind. The movement of Torres has never been questioned but his finishing and pace have really been scrutinised over the last two years and it will be interesting to see if the Spaniard can deliver under Rafa three to four years after his best days at Liverpool.
Torres is the only player in the Chelsea dressing room that has played under Benitiez which might be the lift the Spaniard needs to get his faltering career back on track. The combination of a change in tactics should improve Torres chances of scoring however the physiological edge may be the real benefit for Torres.
Chelsea’s Defence Should Get More Clean Sheets
Rafa is a pragmatic manager that builds from the back. At Valencia during his first and second league winning season he only conceded 27 goals in each of those seasons. However the first title winning team only managed 51 goals with their success built on keeping a tight defence. He then kept this solid defence for the second title winning season and added another 20 goals to their league campaign.
The fantasy football consequence is that it may be defenders rather than midfielders that offer the best value in the early days of Rafa at Chelsea.
So far from 12 Premier League games Chelsea have managed 4 fantasy football clean sheets with Luiz, Cole and Ivanovic topping the list.
The next 6 Chelsea fixtures see the Blues playing Man City, Fulham and Aston Villa at home with trips to West Ham, Sunderland and Norwich on the fixture list. This run of fixtures combined with Benitez’s defensive tactics could see the Blues double their clean sheet tally for the season over the next few weeks.
Increased Squad Rotation – Subs every 65 mins
Rafa is very much a believer in using his squad and in most Liverpool games the tactical Spaniard made substitutions week after week in the 65th minute. This could see Oscar, Mata and Hazard interchanged as it is unlikely that he will play all three each week.