Chancel Mbemba didn’t play on Tuesday night in the 2-0 win over Wolves and he wasn’t even on the bench for Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Aston Villa on the road.
The central defense pairing Rafa chose for this game were Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark and big Grant Hanley was on the bench after both Ciaran and Grant played so well together on Tuesday night at St. James’ Park.
Chancel Mbemba and Rafa Benitez
Rafa thought that Hanley’s extra height and strength may come in handy at some point during the game, but as it happened Grant didn’t get on.
Benitez was asked why Chancel Mbemba was not in the squad after the game on Saturday:
“He was fine. “I thought for maybe these kind of games Hanley could help in the last minutes, but I did not want to make a change in the last minute because we were defending more or less.”
“And to put another player, another defender, would be to invite them to continue attacking.”
“I thought we could create something on the counter-attack, but that was not the case.” “To have Hanley on the bench instead of Mbemba was because the size of him is strong.”
“I wanted to have another option just in case.”
“If I decide to change players, it is not because someone has made a mistake or missed a chance.”
“Especially with the strikers. It is because they have to do a job. “This was a game for Dwight Gayle.”
“We have seen it was a game for him because he had a lot of chances. “Maybe the next one is for him, or maybe Mitro, or maybe Daryl Murphy.”
“I think it is not a question of if they miss a chance then you have to change it. “It is a question of if they work hard for the team then the strikers will score goals because they are good enough.”
With such a good squad of around 25 players, there are times when very good players who have been first team regulars – like Cancel Mbemba as just one example – will not even make the bench.
So that is a man-management challenge for the manager to keep the players happy.
It will not be easy, but there again Rafa has massive experience of managing players at the very top of their game and at the top of the football ladder.
Players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Steven Gerrard to name just three examples.
What do you think?