Rafa Benitez has said that the Chelsea board accept this is a “transition” season at Stamford Bridge and that he will be judged on what he does in the three remaining cup competitions.
The Blues face Swansea in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final tomorrow with Fernando Torres set to replace Demba Ba up front in the starting rotation.
But while the Chelsea hierarchy have made it clear in the past that the only things that count are the Premier League and Champions League, interim manager Benitez suggested the position has now changed for this campaign.
Chelsea’s £80million summer expenditure has resulted in an embarrassing early exit from Europe’s senior competition while they are 14 points adrift of league leaders Manchester United.
“When you have a good squad you can manage players, you can keep a good team on the pitch, as has been the case at Chelsea in the last few years.
“This year, you can see, is a year of transition. There were some new players coming in, so it’s different. Before at Chelsea you had a lot of big names, then you could manage a lot of different players.
“If the players are focused and if you have quality, it’s always easier and you can progress in the cups.
“In the league it’s a long, long way and sometimes when you’re not close to your target, which is winning the title, then maybe it is easy for the players to lose focus. Maybe that’s the reason why.”
Benitez’ argument implies a major change of stance by the Blues hierarchy and the Spaniard, pressed further on whether a “transition” season was truly recognised and acknowledged, insisted:
“I don’t need to convince anyone.
“You have experience, you can analyse the squad and you can see that new players have come in, some players are getting older, so it’s normal. We have enough intelligence to analyse this.
“It doesn’t matter in terms of what we think or what we don’t think – it’s what we have.
“We have a good team, young players, they need some experience in the Premier League, and they are carrying on and doing well. And the players with more experience have to help them.
“Now we have to manage the squad, and sometimes you try to bring the best players for these competitions.
“Then sometimes you make a mistake or people say there is a mistake, when, just sometimes, the other team are better than you. Our approach is one game at a time, to try to pick up points every game. We will try to carry on with this mentality.”
Do you agree with Rafa? What is success this season?