Another day another plummet in popularity for interim Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez; the ex Liverpool manager has not exactly been a fan favourite at the Bridge and after possible exit from the Capital One Cup- things don’t look good for Benitez. Although they’ve had a string of good results the Blues suffered a shock defeat against relegation favourites QPR at Stamford Bridge and; after a 2-0 defeat to underdogs Swansea fans are up in arms against the already unpopular manager. While Rafa has not exactly endeared himself to the Chelsea crowd during his time at Liverpool but after his appointment at Chelsea he’s made the upmost effort to win over the Chelsea crowd something that has so far been unsuccessful.
Replacing fan favourite Di Matteo with whom a below par Chelsea side won the FA Cup and more importantly, the Champions League put Benitez in the firing line before his first game in charge; fans chanting “There’s only one Di Matteo” and “you’ll be sacked in morning”. His history at Liverpool and the acrimonious sacking of Di Matteo are not the only factors working against Benitez. After his electrifying partnership with off colour striker and £50 million signing Fernando Torres fans may have hoped that Benitez would bring back Torres’ confidence and goal scoring ability. This was not to be, while Torres has scored under Benitez he’s been a pale imitation of the wonderkind that regularly set the pitch alight during his time at Anfield. Last night’s defeat to Swansea merely intensified the ‘Torres problem’ and the signing of Newcastle top-scorer Demba Ba, surely has but the striker’s nose out of joint. Torres’ eighty minute contribution to the cup tie was almost immediately overshadowed by Ba’s productive ten minute home debut which was only blighted by a somewhat confusing booking for diving. The booking itself was not a penalty as some may have hoped nor was it a dive on Ba’s part, the incident was no doubt a spur of the moment decision from referee Taylor.
It is worth pointing out that it took Torres a whopping 500 plus minutes to score for Chelsea in the Premier League, while Ba scored in his first game for Chelsea netting an astounding double. If we are looking to blame Benetiz for Torres’ lack of flair- as many fans did with ex manager AVB- surely he must be praised for Ba’s dream start for the club. Ba’s goal drought at Newcastle last season has been conveniently forgotten and it seems that the new signing may be more than flavour of the month for Chelsea fans.
Ba’s performance in the cup-tie was a scintillating as Torres’ was anti climatic; the defensive errors made by Ivanovic blighting what could have been a convincing Chelsea win, had they converted the array of chances they’d garnered in the first half. After the game Benitez refused to blame his players, something managers such as Sir Alex Ferguson have somewhat famously, always been happy to do. Benitez’s refusal to pinpoint the obvious problem- lazy defending-is not the problem with last night’s performance.
Swansea were hardly electric in the Chelsea box, the Welsh team who were so prolific at home last season they were nicknamed ‘Swansealona’ for their attacking flair, played almost ‘Italian style’ defensive football. They were exceeding negative to watch benefiting the errors of the Chelsea defence not once but twice; yes this is unacceptable for the ‘Champions of Europe’ but surely the whole team is not to blame. The game was reminiscent of Chelsea’s, quite frankly shocking win against Barcelona in last year’s UCL where defensive football triumphed over Spanish flair. The errors of Barcelona- Messi’s unthinkable penalty miss for one- cost the Spanish powerhouse their place in the final while Chelsea ground out a shock result through relentless defending.
Benitez should, and probably will address Ivanovic’s mistakes in private rather than public, something that perhaps is better for the team’s morale and also the fans. It is unfair to blame Benitez for last night’s defeat, another shock from the Capital One Cup one may add. Chelsea were arguably unlucky squandering chance after chance, while Swansea through star players Michu and Graham, put their names on the score sheet through some skill but rather a lot of luck. No doubt Benitez will yet again have to defend his position, two consecutive home defeats are not ideal but when compared to other ‘big teams’ such as Arsenal, who also lost at home to Swansea it’s not too bad. Sadly the ‘Torres problem’ has blighted three managers now, AVB, Di Matteo and now Benitez all unable to resurrect his form. Whether Torres is unable to shake of the high price tag which may hang over his head for the rest of career or the injuries that have plagued him throughout his international and domestic career, one thing remains clear; Torres is not a conundrum any Chelsea manager can fix overnight. Therefore, is it really right to blame Benitez for the problems Chelsea face? He’s joined a team that he’s already unpopular with and with high expectations from the fans and owners Benitez is already floundering. However rebuilding a team takes time and perhaps Chelsea, its board and the fans should give the beleaguered manager a chance.
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