On Sunday the Rafalution™ (defined as ‘having the appearance of progress, but in reality destroying the club from within’) continues its apathetic journey towards mediocrity as Chelsea entertain local rivals Brentford. Since the deeply unpopular appointment of Benítez the club have often been reminded of their ridiculous kneejerk statement. Di Matteo was sacked “to keep the club moving in the right direction”. The right direction? Which direction is that Ron? I mean it can only be towards Europa League football (I’m assuming you and the other directors prefer Prague to Donetsk) as the gap between Chelsea and the league summit has quadrupled in Benítez’s interim capacity.
The Rotund One’s tenure has seen some of the worst results in the Abramovich era. For a club so quick to callously dismiss the excellent Carlo Ancelotti and club legend Roberto Di Matteo the reluctance to amend an obvious error remains baffling. Naturally Chelsea fans seem to take the blame for the current toxic atmosphere around the club in the press. I mean if only we were nicer to Rafa or gave him a chance.
When was supporting a football club a rational feeling devoid of passion?
Why do the media love to dictate how we (or any fan of any club it seems) should support our club? The modern jester hat, “bantersaurus” loving, Sloop John B frothing, Just Can’t Get Enough chanting, half’n’half scarf adorning, too much FIFA playing full-kit-wanker-berks of modern football seem to have finally infiltrated the media. Ollie Holt genuinely thinks Chelsea will win the league next season if Benítez is in charge and the fans back him. I have been told by my sources that this indeed was not a wind up.
My riposte to Holt does not revolve around his choice of hair accessory – every modern metrosexual may rock an Alice band of their own volition – but given how much the media like to preach from their well-paid-free-ticket-free-food soapboxes what sort of man willingly takes a job knowing he is absolutely vilified and he himself has said he would never take? I for one am not remotely moved by the notion of morality in football but Holt and his cohorts are… when it suits them. Why the old pals act with him when they do nothing but slate and bait the club at every opportunity? Benítez must have some rather “personal” information on some of these chaps - Occam’s razor and all that.
Chelsea fans must have forced a creative triumvirate to operate in a tactical straitjacket playing only in straight lines without license to roam and create; we naturally believe that chasing a goal necessitates the masterstroke of swapping your full backs and/or centre backs; that the best way to chase a two goal deficit in a cup semi-final is to play dour defensive football; that sticking to a formation that does not suit the current squad makes perfect sense and without getting too technical and Brendan Rodgers-y these are the tip of the iceberg.
It has come to the point for Chelsea fans where following the club is now a labour of love. Only Chelsea could so gloriously ruin a season of gloating about a European Cup win by obstinately sticking with a hopeless striker and backing that up with an endless circle idiocy. Gone is the buzz of Munich, Di Matteo’s swashbuckling brand of football, the delicious link up play of Mata, Hazard and Oscar and for some the connection with the club.
Benítez has made one good point since he has been here. He spoke about the lack of quality and depth and he was entirely right. Chelsea may be the only club in the Premier League that registered 24 players out of a potential 25. The actual makeup of the squad is worrying – Turnbull, Hilário, Ferreira, Benayoun and Malouda for various reasons should be gone; Romeu is injured; Marin has barely featured and as a backup to Mata/Hazard/Oscar is certainly not good enough; Lucas Piazón also fits the Marin bill but is out on loan and Ba somehow manages to be Torres’ understudy. Surely someone at the club is looking at the squad in January thinking “you know what, we need a midfielder or two and probably another forward”.
Whichever way you tally the squad up there are about 14/15 usable players of any quality. A squad composed Chelsea’s resources barely has enough quality players to field a match day squad. For all Nathan Ake’s promise he should be nowhere near a Premier League bench. The chaotic way the club has been run since the barbaric Ancelotti dismissal has probably led to this dose of footballing karma. It might be a painful reality check for the politburo running the club, but their decisions have led us here: a perfectly imbalanced squad with no direction. Bravo.
Having “taken the Europa League seriously” with a trademark Benítez display in midweek there is little excitement to be had surrounding an FA Cup replay. John Terry is desperate for minutes in an attempt to rediscover some form before the end of the season. ‘Frank Lampard watch’ will again commence as he pursues greatness and that elusive all-time top scorer record. It will be interesting to see who plays in Benítez’s much maligned midfield pivot – my preference remains Mikel +1. Demba Ba should hopefully start flanked by the returning Victor Moses to provide much needed directness.
I do not anticipate any fireworks on Sunday and a copacetic Chelsea performance should see them through as comfortable winners. With motivation not being one of Benítez’s strong suits the team will need to be focused and remember that this is Brentford’s big day out. We have seen already this season what mediocre clubs can achieve against the tactical genius that is the Fat Spanish Waiter. Give me a straightforward victory, the tapas menu and a fine bottle of Rioja when you are done please.
Follow Joe on Twitter: @JoeTweeds
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