Reports in the press on Tuesday morning reveal the divisions at Stamford Bridge, with Rafa Benitez apparently unhappy with the way some of his players performed at Manchester City on Sunday, when Chelsea were soundly beaten.
Benitez, apparently trying to address the flaws threatening to completely wreck Chelsea’s season, is reported to have attacked certain players, including senior members of the squad, for a lack of intensity. It will surprise nobody to learn that John Terry was apparently at the heart of things, if reports in The Sun are to be believed, taking the opportunity to stand up to the Spaniard in defence of his team mates.
Sure, this won’t be the first or last time that a dispute takes place between players and staff at a football team, if true. It probably happens at every club in the league, yet there is something particularly troubling about Chelsea. Unlike most other teams, internal conflicts and disputes always seem to find their way into the public domain, leaked by ‘insiders’ to the press, making public what should very much be private. And particularly where the interests of senior players are concerned, there always seems to be a well placed journalist fed the scoop to supply to the public.
If the reports are true, it would hardly be a shock either that Terry and Benitez have fallen out. They are too intensely proud individuals, and Benitez is the type of manager who insists on having control over the football side of things. So, it would seem, is Terry. This is a club where the senior players’ approval is seemingly necessary for a manager to survive. The excellent and underrated Andre Villas Boas did not have it, and so he was sent packing a year ago. There is something deeply pathetic about the attitude of some of the Chelsea players. At Arsenal the players remain steadfastly behind their manager and put everything in to try and take the pressure off Arsene Wenger. At Tottenham the players similarly rallied and showed spirit and loyalty to help Villas Boas with the press circling after his first weeks in charge did not go to plan. They are now third. Even Manchester City, whose players have frequently been publicly criticised by Roberto Mancini for their performances, are able to pull together to ensure the club get results on the pitch. At Chelsea, the players seem unable to do that unless they get their way, and unless managers they do not like are dispensed with. It is time for the sword to be turned on its head and troublesome elements in the squad purged.
Such a situation is ridiculous and problematic. These divisions have torn Chelsea apart for years now and it is time that Roman Abramovich, if he really cares about the club, acts to save them from themselves. He must remove the toxic elements that cause such ructions and divisions in order to unify the club. Key to that is getting rid of John Terry. As the symbol of the ‘old guard’, the most divisive and enigmatic of players, and one guaranteed seemingly to bring controversy to the party, he is the one who they must do away with. He has never been a brilliant defender, and he is now a liability on the pitch too, his slow pace and susceptibility to intelligent, skilful forwards only too apparent whenever he steps foot on the field. Benitez has been right not to pick him, and one must wonder what he is still doing at the club, other than to keep them in the papers for the wrong reasons.
Chelsea fans will for the most part lash out at such a suggestion, dismissing it as an attack on their ‘captain and leader’. They will eventually pay the price for the divisions which continue to cause such problems at the club. And there would be something wonderfully ironic about it if, at the end of the season, it is Andre Villas Boas and his Tottenham team who help to keep Chelsea out of the top four.