Chelsea’s season threatens to go from bad to worse as poor result is compounded by poor result. With the least shocking report in the world suggesting that Roman Abramovich is considering dispensing with the services of Rafa Benitez should the club’s fortunes not improve, there is an obvious question that needs answering. Who can save their season?
Pep Guardiola is out of the equation entirely now. Jose Mourinho is still in place at Real Madrid and would be unlikely to leave unless he is fired, although that is not an impossibility. Jurgen Klopp knows leaving Borussia Dortmund for Chelsea would be career suicide, Carlo Ancelotti is still in place in Paris, Guus Hiddink will retire after his time at Anzhi Makhachkala. So who does it leave? Presumably Abramovich wants someone to steady the ship, guide it through the storm clouds and deliver Champions League football for another season. Someone, say, like Roberto di Matteo. Oh, hang on…
It is not entirely dissimilar to the way in which Abramovich has looked to replace Didier Drogba, yet apparently attempted to re-sign the Ivorian just a few weeks ago. That sums up the way in which Abramovich finds himself with an ever narrowing list of options on the table as he looks to find a way to rescue a failing season.
Last year Di Matteo was a get out of jail free card for the Russian. So was Didier Drogba, and to some extent Frank Lampard. Incredible fortune also swung Chelsea’s way, such as the missed penalty by Leo Messi in the Champions League semi final. If Barcelona’s chances which hit the woodwork in those semi finals had gone in rather than missed by those millimetre margins, they’d have won by a rugby score.
Fortune will not always be so kind to Chelsea and that is what they are finding this season. Paired with Shakhtar Donetsk and Juventus in their Champions League group, it was as tough a group as you could imagine the holders of the competition being given. Some of the decisions that have gone against Chelsea this season mirror the numerous ones which went their way last. With Tottenham looking a better bet for third place, and no Champions League trophy to bail them out should they fail to finish in the top four again, the options are running out fast for the Stamford Bridge outfit.
In the Premier League at least, Chelsea’s season is worryingly familiar to last season. After a solid start, they have crumbled during the winter. Although they are third, the teams below them are catching up fast. If Chelsea cannot beat Queens Park Rangers, Southampton or Reading, all haunted by relegation, how do they hope to beat the top teams in the league? Last year Chelsea were the sixth best team in England. They are certainly better than one of the sides who finished above them last year, Newcastle. Yet there is nothing to suggest they have improved, and so with Arsenal and Tottenham menacingly lurking beneath them, there is every reason to suggest this year they will finish outside the top four.
Stability eventually wins out over endless gambles, chopping and changing. Chelsea are finding that out the hard way. In Abramovich’s contradictory pursuit of aesthetically perfect Barcelona style football and guaranteed success, he is finding himself and the club treading an impossible tightrope. How long now until they fall off?