Get in shape! Rafa says Chelsea players are not fit enough and many need a rest
00:24 GMT, 1 December 2012
Rafa Benitez has told Roman Abramovich his Chelsea squad is not fit enough, fresh enough or big enough.
Benitez made his point at a board meeting on Thursday when he was asked to offer feedback on his first week in the job.
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Need a rest: Rafael Benitez says Chelsea's players are tired
Chelsea’s interim manager refused to
elaborate on details yesterday but he is thought to believe the European
champions should prioritise a left-back, a defensive midfielder and a
Leighton Baines has been extensively
scouted by Chelsea as a long-term successor to Ashley Cole, who will
leave on a free at the end of the season, probably to join Paris
Baines has been in brilliant form for
Everton and would suit the attacking style Abramovich longs to see but a
more immediate need is to bolster the squad in January.
John Mikel Obi and Victor Moses are
bound for the Africa Cup of Nations in the New Year and fringe players
lack the quality to rotate to the extent Benitez would like.
That has still not stopped him
dropping Brazilian midfielder Oscar for today’s trip to West Ham as he
goes searching for his first goal and first win.
The future as well as the present is very much on the agenda though even if Benitez is in a job until the end of the season.
With Frank Lampard expected to follow
Cole through the exit at the end of his contract in June, the Blues are
planning the next phase of team building.
Benitez told the board he would like
more time to assess the players he had inherited but was able to explain
it was a tired squad and not physically equipped to compete on all
And the Oscar goes to… the bench: The Chelsea midfielder will be among the substitutes for the London derby
FAT SPANISH WAITER
If it is any consolation to those Chelsea fans who feel Rafa Benitez is an uncomfortable fit for their club, he knows exactly how they feel.
Benitez has found the Dolce & Gabbana club suits a little too fitted for his liking and is waiting for a specially tailored version to arrive.
'I have some problems with the official suit,' smiled Benitez.
'It is an Italian style and the Italian style is different. It's really nice, but it's a style for young people, not old people. The Italian style is more for players.'
Chelsea supporters have found it hard to accept the former Liverpool manager who was appointed to replace Roberto Di Matteo.
Benitez has been booed and jeered during his first two games at Stamford Bridge and faced with protest banners.
He even found his tie was criticised after the game against Fulham because it was not blue enough. Unlike the blue tie he wore in his first game against Manchester City.
'These little things are not the main issue,' he said. 'My first tie was blue.'
'We had too many players playing
almost every game,' said the former Liverpool manager. 'Eleven or 12
were playing in every game and others hadn’t had too many minutes.
'You cannot play two or three games in
eight days and be fully fit. You lose some pace and energy. We will
manage the squad, particularly with Japan and the games over Christmas.
We will be stronger as a team if we juggle them.'
When Marko Marin came off the bench
against Fulham on Wednesday he became Chelsea’s 20th player of the
Barclays Premier League campaign.
No club has used fewer and some, like Fernando Torres, the one established centre-forward, have been run into the ground.
The new manager feels unable to work
on fitness with a congested schedule ahead, which includes flying to
Japan for the FIFA Club World Cup after next weekend’s game at
'There aren’t many players here,' said
Benitez. 'There were 19, now 20 with Marin. They’d been playing fewer
players. I’m not here to criticise, but that’s the reality.
'You can see the team needs to improve
a bit physically and you cannot do that if they play two games in a
week. It’s very demanding.
Run down: Fernando Torres looks like he is running in treacle these days
In training: Ashley Cole and David Luiz are put through their paces on Friday
'They have played so many games,
massive games in the Champions League. The players were getting tired.
You can’t give them a rest either because there’s no time.
'We will analyse carefully, talking
with the fitness coaches, and may adjust a bit. We’ll start specific
programmes with every player.'
Torres clearly needs to rest both mind and body, yet Daniel Sturridge, the only real alternative, is injured.
Benitez also dismissed the idea of returning to the last-gasp gamble by Di Matteo, playing Eden Hazard up front.
Ahead of today’s trip across the
capital to West Ham, the Spaniard also told how he came close to signing
Andy Carroll for Liverpool for only 5million. The move is understood
to have been blocked by the Anfield club’s co-owner Tom Hicks.
'He played in the Youth Cup at
Anfield,' said Benitez. 'We were watching him, a young player with
power. It was an option and he was quite a lot cheaper than 35m. Take
off the three. Quite cheap but sometimes you cannot.'
VIDEO: Rafa Benitez talks tactics ahead of Chelsea's match against West Ham