Rafa Benitez’s latest comedy press conference has caused quite a sensation. The interesting thing is, his biggest objection was that he was given that title of ‘Interim manager’, as if it was this alone that turned the Chelsea fans against him. Did he think that they would have backed him wholeheartedly if he had been called ‘Manager’ as he insisted last night?
Per BBC Radio 5 Live he said that; ‘He was only given the title so the club could “wash our hands” of him if he failed’. Now, this may well be true, but surely he knew that when he took the job. Everyone knew that he was just keeping the seat warm before a push to get Pep Guardiola to Stamford Bridge. When the news broke that he would be at Bayern next year it is possible that Rafa felt as if he would have a chance at getting the job permanently.
In fact, it is probable that when he took the job after Di Matteo he felt as if he was inheriting a no lose position. If he did well and got Chelsea back in to the Champions League along with the very real chance of winning the Club World Cup and the League Cup, which were both on a plate for him, he could either make a case for himself getting the job permanently or leave with his reputation enhanced.
The problem was, after a lot of comments about Chelsea when at Liverpool and the fact the he replaced Di Matteo so soon after he was dismissed meant Chelsea fans were against him from Day One. The fact that it was Benitez made it worse for Chelsea fans, but really the protests directed at him are the only way Chelsea fans can direct any opposition to the senior management. Short of Mourinho or an ex-Chelsea player replacing Di Matteo, it was always going to be a very hot seat.
The fact that results haven’t been up to scratch only makes things worse. Some superb performances have been mixed with some atrocious ones, a pattern of performance which is actually very similar to that which was produced under Di Matteo. But, Di Matteo won the Champions League AND played for Chelsea. You can argue the merits of Chelsea’s win all you like, but the trophy is in the cabinet, and it was Di Matteo who lifted it and that is how he is remembered.
The only way he could have won the fans over would have been with excellent results. Sky Sports News is showing a stat that Benitez has only won 52% of his games. He may well blame this on the fans but they were happy to cheer when Chelsea slayed Villa 8-0. Certainly the atmosphere doesn’t help the team but they can’t be blamed for the results.
How about blaming things like; resting Juan Mata in league games but playing him for 120 minutes in the League Cup and 90 minutes in the Europa League, not playing John Terry over Cahill/Ivanovic in important games, stumbling over the ability of David Luiz to play in midfield and then abandoning it , dropping the in form Azpilicueta against City with both goals coming down the same flank he’d be protecting and the big one, playing Torres over Ba despite all form to the contrary. These things don’t help with gaining popularity.