Chelsea’s interim manager Rafael Benitez has laughed off Sky pundit Ray Wilkins’ suggestion that the Spanish manager was to blame for the injury Ashley Cole suffered against Manchester United during the FA Cup quarter-final replay at Stamford Bridge on Monday.
The former Blues coach claimed that Cole is one of those players that has to ‘play all the time’ and is the type of ‘machine that you have to keep well oiled and it will fly’, but according to Benitez, Wilkins is talking out of his rear end.
“I have a degree in sports science from Spain.
“It’s the first time ever I’ve heard something like this. April 1.”
Having known a few sports scientists during my time at university I can’t say I have heard anything like this either and it’s not as though Cole has had a long lay-off as he played less than a week before for England, so it doesn’t make sense. It’s probably just another example of Wilkins saying what he thinks people want to hear and he knows the fans do not like Benitez.
But Benitez has been heavily criticised for his team selection in the game against Southampton, when the likes of Cole were omitted from the starting line-up, and this led to many arguing that he was valuing the silverware and his own CV ahead of the future of the club. This is a fair enough comment, if it’s true, but I think most managers would play their strongest side in what was the bigger game despite a spot in the top four being the long-term priority.
Those are the sorts of decisions he will live and die by and I wasn’t entirely impressed with the fact he left Eden Hazard out at a time Juan Mata was unavailable (the duo have dragged us through the season), nor were the substitutions particularly inspiring and the players that did take the field that day looked lethargic.
When questioned, he stood by his rotation policy, saying:
“I have to pick a team that can win any game.
“You have to approach the next game like the most important game.”