If anyone expected Rafa Benitez to suddenly turn Fernando Torres to the man who scored in nearly every match for him in their previous job together, they ended up feeling disappointing. It was all about disappointment for Chelsea in their fifth consecutive league match without a win.
How do things turn so quickly? Is Benitez the man to turn them back? Torres was lucky that his new-old Spanish manager took most of the heat from the fans, who are conflicted. One on side, they really liked Roberto Di Matteo, but they can’t take out their rage on the man who actually decided to throw him out.
Roman Abramovich is pretty much the single reason this club has known such heights over the last 8 seasons – three Premier League titles and one Champions League trophy. A club that couldn’t aspire for anything more than 3rd-4th place has become spoiled, but the fans can’t take out their anger at the man who’s responsible for everything going on, good and bad. Benitez, who used to be the Liverpool manager (god forbid!), was an easier target, along with other club executives.
On the pitch? Nothing new about the lineup Benitez used, maybe a bit more of width to their play. It didn’t really matter. Chelsea rely on two things – For John Obi Mikel and Ramires to be extremely solid in the middle of the pitch, closing down any leaks in the fort; and for their magic trio to be more than about flair – to be efficient, which means goals and assists. Eden Hazard, like Juan Mata and Oscar, seems to be shell shocked from the situation they’re in.
There are veteran players on this team, but Chelsea have no leadership. Ashley Cole was never one to have men follow him, and without John Terry and Frank Lampard on the pitch, the job falls on the shoulders of Hazard, Mata and Oscar. Three players with an average age of 22, who aren’t exactly local material that’s usually used to lay down the law and bring in leadership to a team desperatley needing guidance.
I don’t know if Di Matteo couldn’t bring it himself. Last season he relied on the veteran leadership of Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba to carry his team to their UCL title, against all odds. John Terry didn’t get to play in the final, but his influence was all over the place once RDM decided to give the reigns back to the old guard for one last time. This season he once again turned into the flair, younger direction. It began well, but somewhere along the road, the wheels began coming off the wagon.
Roman Abramovich never wanted Di Matteo as his long term manager, so he used the first chance to get rid of him and bring in a bigger name. Maybe one that’ll revive the playing corpse that is Fernando Torres. A player that tries, but looks like a driver pushing the pedal on neutral. Running into players and trapped in his own mind, always trying the most complicated thing to get him out of tricky, impossible situations.
Benitez is a good manager, and doesn’t have much to tinker with anyway until January. Chelsea are a talented but flawed squad, not notching up a single win in November, in all competitions. Maybe not playing in the Champions League will help him somehow put a promising season back on track, and with hit bring new life to the player who was once the best striker in the world, and now is nothing but an expensive waste of lineup space.