Posts Tagged ‘Rafa Benitez’

Football

If Chelsea lose to West Brom history tells us that Rafa will get the boot

By Stefano on March 1st, 2013

Andre Villas-Boas was sacked following a defeat to West Brom, Roberto Di Matteo was sacked following a defeat to West Brom… so Rafael Benitez would do well to avoid an embarrassing result at home to the Baggies this weekend.

Di Matteo based his Chelsea side around the creative trio of Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata earlier this season, but Benitez has favoured a more cautious starting XI. Ramires was used on the right of midfield against Manchester City last weekend, in order to bring balance to the side; but City actually attacked predominantly down that flank, with Ramires also failing to provide any attacking inspiration.

A home match against West Brom seems the perfect opportunity to use Oscar, Hazard and Mata together behind Demba Ba (Fernando Torres has managed just one goal in his last 15 appearances). After all, since Benitez confirmed he won’t be manager of Chelsea next season, his strategy will probably change. He appeared to be favouring initial caution before gradually becoming more attacking, but with only eleven games of his Chelsea career remaining, there’s no point building for the long term.

Chelsea need points, and with Ba yet to become prolific in a Chelsea shirt, they need goals from the attacking three behind him. Chelsea will certainly dominate possession, and fielding the talented trio of playmakers maximises the Blues’ chances of scoring.

Victor Moses will probably feature at some point, but selecting Abramovich’s three ‘marquee players’ seems natural if Benitez wants to keep his job until the end of the season… which isn’t necessarily the case.

This post courtesy of Pick Our Team is by Michael Cox. PickOurTeam is a new type of football community giving fans an opportunity to have a meaningful say on the formation and selection of their team. PickOurTeam is the voice of the fans – collecting views on who should play where and ratings on how the players, manager, and referee perform each week. Every match the findings are compiled and presented back to the fans. The article was originally posted here.

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Football

Benitez has a go at Chelsea fans, says Abramovich made a mistake and confirms he is off at the end of the season

By Stefano on February 27th, 2013

In an extraordinary post match interview after watching his team put Middlesbrough out of the FA Cup,Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez has

* Said that the clubs made a mistake by calling him an ‘interim manager’

* Attacked Chelsea fans who sing songs like ‘Rafa Out; saying that they need to back the team and if they don’t they will be watching Europa League football next season

* Confirmed that he would be leaving at the end of the season leaving the manager’s job open to a new boss.

To be honest listening to the interview he gave to BBC Radio Five Live it sounded more like a resignation speech than anything else. This was man who was clearly fed up by the cards he had been given by both the club and the fans.

The interview comes on the back of ongoing rumours about splits in the Chelsea dressing room.

So will Benitez be manager of Chelsea football club tomorrow. I am beginning to think he might not.



Football

Opinion: Wake up Roman! Chelsea are becoming a Pantomime club

By Stefano on January 18th, 2013

Simon Poulter edits What Would David Bowie Do and is more than a little unhappy with event at The Bridge

I can’t verify this, but it is possible that the under-communicative oligarch Roman Abramovich is currently still enjoying the good life on St. Barts. For it is there that the Chelsea Football Club owner has been – and may well still be – enjoying an extended New Year’s holiday with his pregnant girlfriend, Dasha Zhukova. And good luck to him. Everyone needs to take time out to spend with their nearest and dearest every once in a while.

Unfortunately, while Roman has been sunning himself on his Nimitz-class yacht, his football asset – managed by a hapless Rene-from-’Allo ‘Allo lookalike – has acquired the sort of toxicity that turned Erin Brokovich from struggling single mother living in the Californian desert into the subject of a blockbuster movie.

Your season – it is behind you

It is, though, still the pantomime season in Britain, which means that seasonal booing and hissing is a national ritual at this time of year. So, as matinee audiences of Cub Scouts and church outings boo soap stars and game show hosts playing Baron Hardup in provincial theatres, Chelsea fans are booing anything not nailed down at Stamford Bridge.

First, there is Rafa Benitez, the ruddy-cheeked, portly Spanish restaurateur who, despite being as popular as a fart in a spacesuit before he was appointed “interim first team manager”, has succeeded in galvanising his unpopularity via a variety of methods: 1) getting out of bed in the morning; 2) turning up for matches; 3) picking star striker Fernando Torres; 4) not picking club legend Frank Lampard; 5) winning some games handsomely while drawing or losing quite disastrously others.

Is it all Rafa’s fault? Oh no it isn’t

It’s not all Rafa’s fault, of course. The club’s reward for Lampard and Ashley Cole continuing to be, respectively, a prolific goal scoring central midfielder and the world’s still-finest left back, is to show them the door at the end of the season and not extend their contracts. Meanwhile Torres, who these days permanently carries the demeanour of a sulking 15-year-old girl, is not even responding to diagrams of cow’s backsides and instructions on how to hit one with a banjo. Demba Ba, the crock-kneed Senegalese brought in from Newcastle for a fraction of the Spaniard’s money is, however, scoring goals everytime he smell a goalkeeper’s boot polish.

Into this background is the club’s extraordinary approach to fan engagement – i.e. to not have one. This is a club that would rather do its business in private, with the owner “advised” by a coterie of people whom, it would appear, are no more qualified to advise about running a Premier League football club as I would be about running a hospital. Unless you regard Michael Emenalo, the former Nigerian defender and now Chelsea’s technical director as being of distinguished experience in the game.

Thus, the rare on-pitch appearance of club chairman, Bruce Buck, making a pre-match presentation to goalkeeper Petr Čech, results in the sort of sustained and vitriolic booing chancellor George Osborne earned when turning up at the Olympics last summer to give out medals. Booing the chairman may sound like impudence bordering on frustration, but the fact that the fans were bothering to boo a club executive they’d never actually bothered about at all previously says a lot about where fan sentiment at Stamford Bridge is at the moment.

There are those – including club executives – who will continue to dismiss the religious singing of Roberto Di Matteo’s name on 16 minutes each game as rambunctious fandom, even considering it morale-boosting collective sprit. It’s not. Most of us do genuinely regard the sacking of Di Matteo as counter-productive, and the appointment of Benitez as poisonous as opening a Spurs club shop opposite the Emirates Stadium.

The singing for Di Matteo, even the singing for Jose Mourinho, is not just a rallying call. Chelsea – and for that we must assume Abramovich – have miscalculated too often the depth of stakeholder sentiment. It is, of course, a valid argument that Abramovich’s decision to sack managers has often produced the results he’d hoped for – an improvement in form and silverware – but it would appear that with this latest act of petulance, there won’t be a happy ending.

Despite a few impressive results, like the pre-Christmas mauling of a pathetic Aston Villa, who barely seemed to have turned up, Benitez is still struggling to make impact. Torres is a waste of space, although Ba has become a bright spot, but the defensive frailties that Di Matteo was suffering with are still there, if Wednesday night’s embarrassing 2-0 lead turning into a 2-2 home draw to Southampton was anything to go by.

And so, as Chelsea go into a weekend when they face Arsenal at Stamford Bridge – a fixture rich in both turbulent entertainment and sour disappointment over the years – there is a creeping deflation amongst supporters of the West London club.

Most Chelsea fans have never had a problem with the club being unpopular with other fans. We don’t really care. We’ve been perfectly happy with our club long enough – whether courting 1960s celebrities, being seen as a bunch of Fancy Dans in the 1970s, being pretty rubbish in the 80s and almost bankrupt, or being regarded as a home for ageing internationals in the pre-Abramovich, latter Ken Bates era. We have worn the “shit club, no history” goading with good grace. But whereas “shit club, no class” used to wound – but perhaps they have a point.

The constant upheaval, the inability to retain managers, the lack of consistency in player policy (“Will we not buy this summer due to lack of funds and then buy some expensive trinket of a player in the January window as a panic acquisition?”), on youth development and even stadium development.

Every football fan will find fault with their club of choice. That’s why we love football. Football IS chaos! It is still our excuse – and I’ll admit, an almost exclusively male preserve – to have a moan about something. Even if our team is running away with a telephone number-nil win, we’ll find something to niggle.

However, the complaints against Chelsea are piling up and, yes, much has to be directed at Abramovich. Elephant in the room, and all that, but the man who has ploughed an insane amount of personal fortune into the club is also directly responsible for creating the toxicity around it.

It comes from a lack of communication. Yes, we get plenty of communication from whomever is in charge of the team from one week to the next, but do we have any idea about what is really going on at the club? No.

The back end of the horse

We assume Lampard and Cole are being treated shabbily because that is how the press is reporting it, how Lampard and Cole’s people are telling it, and our instincts are receiving it. But we could be wrong. Perhaps a little explanation of the strategy would go a long way. Perhaps Abramovich himself would break cover and speak. After all, it’s hard to really read a man when we only ever see that half grin of his as he stands at the back of his executive box in the Stamford Bridge West Stand, the grin occasionally evolving into high-fives with his sidekick Eugene Tennenbaum, before returning to its bemused state.

Like the wizened old crone that I am, I’d foreseen much of this disease spreading at Chelsea in November when the club’s annual Halloween nightmare rendered Roberto Di Matteo redundant and Benitez installed. I even suggested that Pep Guardiola, the manager coveted by Abramovich more than any other, might be wise to give Chelsea a miss when he chose to come back to football management.

And thus it proved to be so, as arguably the greatest football coach of his generation chose Bayern Munich over anyone else. In so doing, he chose a club with history, with class, with money, with German efficiency, in a league that is quietly becoming Europe’s most exciting. As opposed to a club with history, money and a boatload of dysfunction. Well, maybe an expensive super yacht-load of dysfunction.

Article originally published here.

Image in no way inspired by the era of Dennis Wise and Gianfranco Zola.



Football

Will Chelsea fans ever love Rafa Benitez? Or are has Roman marked his cards already?

By Stefano on November 25th, 2012

Rafa is in for a rough ride says Simon Poulter of What Would David Bowie Do?

With his scruffy little beard and penchant for cheap-looking nylon leisurewear, the multi-billionaire Roman Abramovich doesn’t exactly cut the image of a prototypical James Bond villain.

He may not (to my knowledge) possess a white Persian cat, which he strokes for camp and menacing effect, but like 007′s nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Abramovich is clearly capable of dispatching underlings whenever the whim takes him.

So here we are again. Another November, another dip in form, and another Chelsea manager looking for work. Roberto Di Matteo took a decent and dignified stride in his brief managerial tenure at Stamford Bridge. But from the moment he was euphemistically installed as “interim first team coach” he knew he wasn’t exactly the anointed one. He may even have been another ‘dead man walking’, as Victim No.1, Claudio Ranieri, referred to himself.

Go back two managers, which in Chelsea years means to last March, and Abramovich had grown impatient with his bizarre gamble – football’s very own Charlie Buckett, Andreas Villas-Boas – and in looking for a replacement was desperate for Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola. But with the 41-year-old Catalan making clear he was, at season’s end, taking a year’s sabbatical in New York with his family, the unemployed Rafa Benitez was being fitted up for a temporary spell in the manager’s chair.

But when Benitez threw one of his customary hissy fits at the prospect of being a mere seat warmer, Abramovich had no option but to install, quickly, the popular old boy, Di Matteo. The club’s history of appointing from within has not always gone well: Ruud Gullitt and Gianluca Vialli both fell foul of Ken Bates over money, while Ray Wilkins felt the sharp end of Abramovich’s sword for, it would appear, looking at the Russian the wrong way.

Di Matteo – a club hero still for scoring the fastest FA Cup Final goal after 47 seconds of the 1997 final – had been AVB’s assistant, fulfilling a role similar to that Wilkins had been employed for at Carlo Ancelotti’s side – a link to the club’s history for both fans and players.

But in being condescendingly titled Interim First Team Coach, it was clear that Di Matteo was only installed by default.

How embarrassing, then, that he should go on and end Chelsea’s desperate hunt for the European Cup, land yet another FA Cup trophy at the same time, and galvanise a fractured dressing room.

Perhaps Chelsea had to accept a moral obligation to give Di Matteo the job full-time after all that. Drop him then and Chelsea’s reputation for lousy manager management would have made the club toxic for anyone else to become interested – least of all, Pep Guardiola.

Abramovich had been making overtures to Guardiola again in the run up to Di Matteo’s sacking. But this obsession with landing him is turning the Russian into the greatest stalker since Max Cady came after Sam Bowden and his family. And he’s done it before: so the story goes, Abramovich fell in love with football by watching AC Milan, and set about buying the club. With that not possible, he set about recreating the club by buying Chelsea and installing Andrei Schevchenko, the rossoneri’s star striker, while trying to lure Carlo Ancelotti as coach,

He didn’t, but then he got Jose Mourinho, and that didn’t work out too badly. Or, at least, until Chelsea’s results started to go “in the wrong direction”, the self-same excuse given for firing Di Matteo. Like Mourinho, Di Matteo delivered silverware and good times for the club. But as soon as things started to cool off – i.e. results went against them – they were summarily fired by the itchiest trigger finger since Dirty Harry.

Abramovich, then, has a totally unrealistic level of expectation. But he also appears to lack strong leadership and footballing advice around him. There’s a reason why Manchester United are the most successful football club in history – it’s because they’ve had the same manager for 25 years, who has built, invested and reinvested in consistency and excellence. Personally I loathe the old Scottish git, Alex Ferguson, but you could never knock his record, or indeed his club’s ongoing support for him.

For Chelsea, eight managers in as many years is not only inconsistent, it’s an embarassment. We want success and we’ve had success. We want our club to be led by a dynamic manager whom we can get behind. We had that in Mourinho, we had that in Guus Hiddink, we had that in Ancelotti and we could have had that in Di Matteo.

But, from now until the end of this season (and, it is claimed, with an extension to next season if “mutually acceptable”), Chelsea will be managed by the most divisive managerial appointment it would have been possible to appoint: Benitez.

You may, already, sense some antagonism towards Benitez. That’s because many Chelsea fans consider him a tactical fool, more interested in defensive formations and squad rotation than anywhere near the attractive, free-flowing attacking football Abramovich himself is said to desire.

It’s also because he spent an inordinate amount of time as Liverpool manager winding up Chelsea fans and, especially, Mourinho, and then behaving like an emotionally challenged teenager whenever things went wrong. He’s been out of work for two years, with only a short spell at Internazionale since leaving Liverpool. That speaks volumes.

Abramovich has, at times, treated Chelsea like a plaything. When he’s pumped more than £1 billion into the club since 2004, that’s his prerogative. But you wonder whether he has always had the best advice. Did the club really need a physically crocked Andrei Schevchenko, or a mentally and physically crocked Fernando Torres, each for vastly inflated transfer fees and equally inflated wages?

The problem is impulsiveness and impatience. If Roman wants a bigger yacht, he orders it. Bigger mansion? He knocks through the rest of the street. This has been the ‘see it, want it’ nature of his ownership of Chelsea (which isn’t that dissimilar to the way many Premier League players splash the cash around). More than just an oligarch, like some emperor acquiring lands at will, he has made some ridiculously rash decisions at Chelsea.

Benitez is going to have to endure six months of indifference and hostility from Chelsea fans. Even after Di Matteo had been appointed in March, Chelsea fans still let it be known at Di Matteo’s first home game in charge that Benitez wasn’t and would never be welcome. And so here he is, like the frog in Peter Gabriel’s song Kiss That Frog “all puffed up, wanna be your king”.

At any other club, the sort of success Di Matteo brought in just 167 days in charge would have had his name emblazoned above a new stand at the stadium. But not at Chelsea. This is a club which, for all you or I know, may have fired Benitez before he’s even begun, and hired – and fired – his replacement.

Benitez has a rough ride ahead of him. Even if he does well, he’ll be out on his ear as soon as you know it. Pep Guardiola knows it too. Just as Ancelotti was the coveted one, once, there is no life expectancy at Chelsea. And if he has any sense, Guardiola would give Chelsea one almighty swerve.

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