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The trials of Rafa - It's a game of two halves for Chelsea boss Benitez.
He's right of course. It doesn’t really help the team to hear the manager being booed. What does help is when the crowd are behind the team, encouraging them and driving them on, as was the case at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. The thing is of course, that the cheers were for the team, not for the manager. So why hasn't Rafa been able to win over the Stamford Bridge crowd? And if newspaper reports about Capello, and my information suggests they are, the same may be true for the club hierarchy as well. Excuse me for being a bit obvious, but could the reason for this discontent simply be that Rafa hasn’t performed to the standard required?
What do I mean by that? Well, evidence suggests that not only has the Spaniard’s tenure seen a dip in both performance and points garnered per game compared to di Matteo’s reign and no discernible improvement in the performance of Torres, but he has also been unable to inspire the fans, and far more importantly his ability to motivate the team appears to be somewhat less than perfectly performed. Harsh or fair? Let’s look at a few stats for evidence.
Firstly, with regard to league position, when Benitez took over the revolving managerial seat at Chelsea, the club were four points behind Manchester United, and still valid title contenders. The gap is now nineteen, with no sign of it being closed any time soon, and both Arsenal and Tottenham are now snapping at Chelsea’s heels in the hunt for the all-important Champions League spots. Any title aspirations have long since gone, and now the scramble is on to secure the top four spot that, when di Matteo was ousted, seemed almost ‘on the nod.’ But, as if that wasn’t bad enough, it gets worse.
One of Benitez’s big cards when he got the job was that it was under his tutelage at Anfield that Fernando Torres had become one of Europe’s most potent strikers. The theory was that with the calming and reassuring figure of his mentor at the helm, El Nino would shake off the cement overcoat that he seemed to be playing in, and rediscover his zest and goal scoring ability. Sad to say that unless you count the Ramires shot against Middlesbrough in midweek that flicked of his shoulder, Torres has still to hit the onion bag in 2013. It’s not exactly the the renaissance in the striker’s performance that the club were looking for. Perhaps Torres was a lost cause, but what of Benitez’s ability to conjure performances from the other members of the European Champions’ squad, and his tactical acumen?
In the league games since Benitez took over, his ability to turn a winning position into points has seriously been brought into question. In the first half of all league games under the Spaniard, Chelsea have outscored their opponents by fifteen goals to two. Now, by anybody’s standards, that’s pretty sound. After Rafa’s half-time team talk and any tactical adjustments have been deployed however, the second half of games have told a different tale. In these periods, Chelsea have only outscored opponents by fifteen goals to fourteen. Just what does he say to the team during the break? For the good of the club and his own reputation, whatever it is, perhaps he just shouldn’t.
Of course Rafa was on a sticky wicket when he arrived as Interim Manager, the odious residue of his comments about the club whilst manager at Liverpool, was always going to put him on the back foot with the crowd, and yes, the ‘interim’ part of his job title didn’t help much. Let’s ‘fess it up however, as fans – across all clubs - we’re a pretty fickle bunch and had he put Torres back on the goal trail and tucked the club in behind the Manchester clubs in the league, his standing with the Stamford Bridge faithful – not to mention the players - would have been a lot different to what it is today.
So, no Rafa, cards on the table face up, you’re not popular with the fans. Being an ex-Liverpool manager doesn’t help, and any disparaging remarks made during that part of your career clearly just pours petrol on the flames – and that’s not even talking of any ‘ghost goals.’ The simple fact however is that to win the club over, you need to win games. It’s perhaps a sad and cynical fact of life, but most fans will forgive most things if you make the team successful. Sadly, that is where you’re coming up short, and in the absence of creating any feel good factor at the club, all the emphasis remains stubbornly stuck on the historic bad feeling.
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