Once every few years, Roman Abramovich loves to throw his team into a tailspin. A few matches without really getting the required results were enough to get Roberto Di Matteo fired. Rafa Benitez, barely two weeks on his new job, is already at the risk of losing the position of Chelsea manager.
What is it about Abramovich that makes him lose his infatuation with managers so quickly? What is his view on football that makes him believe that these sudden shake ups are actually beneficial for his team? Di Matteo lucked out and won the Champions League, but that was because he let go of control, put back the faith in the veteran players and told his players to park the bus. Abramovich was happy with the result (in Europe), but not the style.
So Di Matteo was told he needed to change that: Win the Premier League, and win it with flair. After a great start in terms of result (but not so much ability), everything crumbled. Look at all the great teams or even just the good ones: Everything starts with a strong midfield. For the second straight season, Chelsea couldn’t make the transition from a physical side to one that’s supposed to be playing in a more attractive way, but still refrain from being regarded as soft. That didn’t work, and the midfield duo of John Obi Mikel and Ramires, most of the time, couldn’t provide the kind of stability you want to see in the middle of the pitch.
Now it’s Rafa Benitez’ turn to deal with this mess: Low morale and an unbalanced squad. Worst: The fans aren’t really rooting for him to succeed, and we’re already hearing rumors of men like Avram Grant, who have already been thrown out of Chelsea once before, lined up to take some Technical director position. Last time Grant held that position, it ended up pushing him to the role of manager. Regardless of what you think Grant did or didn’t do that season, he was a penalty kick away from winning the Champions League; a win away from winning the Premier League.
Is it surprising Rafa Benitez isn’t happy? He feels he’s been set up, made a fool of. Brought in without a chance to succeed. Without a moment to breathe and figure out what to do with this team. Two draws, one loss; If things continue this way, he’ll have the shortest tenure under Abramovich compared to the rest of the long and respected line of managers. He’s fighting for his survival from the moment he took the reigns.
Abramovich wants the sexy names, sexy managers. Di Matteo just happened to be there, and Benitez seems more and more like a scapegoat and an option for Abramovich to buy time, hoping Pep Guardiola finally makes himself available to return and manage a club. There’s no doubt that the Chelsea owner will continue his ways of exchanging and firing managers, getting rid of them like barely used socks until he finds one that fits.
Benitez knew what kind of mess he was getting himself into, but he probably feels he has what it takes to turn things around, after 7 matches without a win. His behavior and body language might suggest something different. That he’s just waiting to get the call from the boss, so he can make way for another poor sap.