Rafa Benítez Blog RSS Rafa Benítez Blog

Jul 2013
12:43 Comments (13)

I was lucky enough to attend the ‘Audience with Rafa Benitez at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool and I saw that many subjects were dealt with in depth and others, due to time restrictions, were only dealt with more superficially. With some of these latter subjects, I think we can take the opportunity to deal with them more calmly now. Amongst these would be the famous rotation system, much criticised at the time but which now is advocated by nearly all coaches, as it is incontestable, if they want their teams to reach finals or fight for titles at the end of the season.

The controversy arises if you don’t understand why rotations are necessary. The teams that compete in the big leagues and demanding competitions have to take in to account the rotation system for 3 basic reasons:

The first reason
is to prevent overload in the number of minutes played. It is commonly agreed that the players who play the most minutes are at a bigger risk of injury, especially injuries which occur due to fatigue (Lazarus & Folkman 1984)

Mick McCarthy was criticised for fielding virtually a Reserve team because he had heard Ancelotti say that the risk of injury in a match is 10% but rises to 30-40% in the following match if there is less than 3 days recovery from the preceding match. We don’t know exactly how much the risk increases but we do know that it does increase and you have to take it in to account.

The second reason is the decrease in physical performance, especially in high intensity, which comes from playing 2 or 3 matches in one week, as is shown in the following table:
The main physical difference between teams at the top level and the rest is in the capacity of their players to cover the most metres in high intensity (Mohr M et al 2003).

The loss of energy of some players can have very negative effects on team performance and this can be avoided if you field fresher players, both physically and mentally.

The third reason is to create competition within the squad. It’s obvious that players want to play every game and although at first they have difficulty coming to terms with having to rest, they end up understanding it and even asking to rest, once they realise the importance of the rotation system in winning trophies.

The concept of rotation is relatively new. In earlier times, substitutions were not allowed and later 2 were permitted finally reaching the 3 allowed today. But it may also be due to the level of performance which has evolved over time as the table shows:
Focussing on recent times, in our experience, it is well known that Rafa Benitez used rotation at Valencia where it produced trophies and a high level of team performance. At Liverpool, using the same ideas, he was able to create a very competitive team despite not being at the same level of the other big teams, winning the Champions League and reaching another final, winning a European Supercup, an FA Cup, a Charity Shield, always reaching the quarter or semi- finals of European competitions and finishing with 82 and 86 points, contesting the Premier League title right to the end. There is no doubt that for any team at the top level playing at the highest intensity in a large number of matches must use rotation. And that is what he did.

Manchester United won the league and the Champions League in 2007-8 without playing the same eleven in consecutive matches. Guardiola’s Barcelona of 2008-9 made an average of 5 changes to the starting line-up in every league game. There is no secret; every team playing a high density of matches has to use rotation to maintain the level of performance, the competition within the squad and to avoid injuries if they want to get to end of the season with a chance of achieving their objectives.

13 Comments Send us your opinions
25/10/11 at 10:18:27 #1
Dear Rafa,

I have no questions on the rotation, but whats your comment about Rotating players who have just scored a goal or provided an important assist, but was rotated in the next game?

(ps: This was often used to attack u by those idiotic press in the past, but I would really hop that you could explain about this)


the logic behind playing a player, who was out of form for continuous a few games, to get him on form (but that would be against your theory of rotation)

Pls advise.

Thank you.

A fan from Malaysia.
(and a fan of you!)
25/10/11 at 11:42:33 #2
We were quite put off by the rotation policy when Rafa introduced this in Liverpool. One of the concerns was that we did not have a squad of great players, we had to make do with mediocre ones and also due to which we used to draw a lot of games. But the results were 2 CL finals with one trophy. a legaue cup final and one FA cup one UEFA Super Cup, and one FA community shield. And all the above with an average squad. This is what is remarkable.
25/10/11 at 12:05:20 #3
Juan Castro
Un placer leer tus opiniones profesionales y técnicas pues no es fácil, incluso como periodista, poder hablar de cosas que verdaderamente importan al juego y a la gente que ama, amamos, este juego. Seguiré atento a tus artículos.
26/10/11 at 00:35:01 #4
Science writes the rules and when it's explained so well by Paco, even a tv pundit "should" be able to understand it. Then again, many of them grew up watching and playing football from the 60's onwards... so a "beer" never hurt after 5km's on the pitch!

The media (and many football fans) don't appreciate or understand the mechanics involved, they are only interested in the 90 minutes of theatrics.

When Rafa and other managers talk about the small details, they say it for a very very good reason. Those are intelligent, proven, factual reasons that educated minds understand.

The right determination masters cause and effect, the wrong is forever at it's mercy.

So, the next time you hear that rotation is silly and you should keep the same team as much as possible, just remember this, although people thought the earth was flat, eventually ... they all came (a)round.

Gracias Senor Miguel.
26/10/11 at 02:14:35 #5
Curt C
Rotations are necessary as it has been explained by Paco de Miguel. The real question is how to rotate and based on what. Obviously not all players are alike and not all of them need to enter into an equal rotation system. A goalie needs notto be rotated because of reasons 1 and 2 but, perhaps, for reason 3. What players need to be rotated and when? That is the question for a coach to answer.
26/10/11 at 16:55:31 #6
No lesser SPORTS EXPERT than PROFESSOR TIM NOAKES has advocated player rotation to stave off fatigue caused por performances ( noteably with SPRINGBOKS). So as usual RAFA was on the money with astute scientific knowledge. Hence he got LFC (& VALENCIA) to beat teams that on paper were better......later in the seasons especially.
Lets hope when RAFA come back to LFC the owners give him enough money to have good quality players to rotate!

RAFA come back when Kenny says time out!


That is the key part, at the end of the season is when you play for trophies and if you are fresher you will have more chances, but during the season the quality of the squad is fundamental.Thanks.

10/11/11 at 16:52:00 #7
Joe Singh
I think Mick McCarthy played an under strangth side at Old Trafford because he had already decided that he was not going to win the game. Not because of the injury statistics

Hello Joe, but who can decide which is the strongest team available for any team? Who knows the form of his players better than the manager?
How many players would you change to consider to fine the Club, 4,5,6, 7? 
24/05/12 at 07:27:21 #8
Please ...I wish the owners can call you back to LFC...so that you can finish the unfinished business...
15/06/12 at 11:35:47 #9
Gutu Amsalu
People who don't like the idea of squad rotation should look at Tottenham's declining performance throughout the end. Players like Modric and Bale ended the league with decreasing performance due to Redknapp's system that couldn't rotate players effectively. Can you give me another example please?
11/07/13 at 13:49:29 #10
I lov rafa's style ov rotation, i will always mis u at chelsea
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