A shambles. That’s all that can be said about Chelsea’s performance on Wednesday night at Stamford Bridge. Here was a big opportunity with the game in hand they had to open up a gap over rivals Tottenham & Arsenal, in the race for 3rd place with Arsenal at home to come on Sunday. And what did they do? They blew it. In quite typical Chelsea fashion, not just under Benitez, but in general, whenever an opportunity arises to pull away from the pack, they bottle it.
In a game that was devoid of passion, intensity and fighting spirit, it’s a game that’ll be remembered for all the wrong reasons by Chelsea fans, and one that Saints fans will treasure if they do indeed get relegated at the end of the season. The days of Stamford Bridge being a fortress are well and truly over, and that’s been the case at home. Nowadays, when Chelsea play away they look so comfortable and confident on the ball, it’s like watching 2 completely different teams. If people ask me what positives there are to take from the game, I can give you none.
From the very 1st minute, the double pivot of Lampard & Ramires wasn’t working, and was giving the ball away at will. Ok, the atmosphere wasn’t the greatest tonight, as I think all Chelsea fans who are at the game will agree, but in all fairness what have we got to cheer about? Managed by a person who is despised by fans still, and playing a style of football which just makes you want to gouge your own eyes out. If you plan on getting tickets to a Chelsea game this season, go to an away game. The support is ten times better, the football is more enjoyable, and you’ll have a much better all round experience, even if we lose.
Where I sit I’ve noticed that certain regulars who were here before have stopped coming. These are people who before Benitez was appointed, had never missed a game. My own brother in fact chose to go and see a gig (for work, although he’d never usually miss a game) over the game tonight, due to the fact that to go and watch the game would have been a complete waste of his time. Who can blame him, and the ones who chose to stay away as well.
You’d have thought with nearly 39 thousand coming to the game in temperatures below freezing the players would have put on a show for the fans, but this was just false hope. It looked as if the players would rather be anywhere else but playing tonight, and that’s sad. There were the occasional rallying calls from the fans, and certain tackles and runs which would give you hope, but overall this was a performance that is one to add to the collection of poor results that Chelsea fans have had to suffer.
Another thing that I’ll point out, is that I don’t think there can be any talk from the media of the fans affecting the players at all with the songs, as I didn’t hear one anti-Benitez song all night and we still end up drawing. Yet whenever we play away the songs are loud and clear, yet we still win? If anything more anti-Benitez songs need to be sung at home it seems!
But as a Chelsea fan, we shouldn’t really be shocked by this with Benitez. This is a man after all who lost Liverpool the title with two 0-0 draws at home to lowly Wolves & Stoke. Benitez’s attitude for home games is to set up not to lose the game, rather than to win the game. This is a man who out of 7 home games, has only won 2 of them, and they were to a poor Aston Villa side and Nordsjaelland in the Champions League. Is this the progress that Abramovich was seeking when he fired Di Matteo?
In all seriousness, how you can sack a man who is loved by the fans, and was producing the eccentric and entertaining football that the owner wanted, in place of a man who is famously known as sucking the entertainment out of football, in place of hard work and grittiness, is beyond me. It is an awful football decision, and you do have to wonder who Roman was listening to when he made that call one morning in November.
In terms of the rest of the season, where do Chelsea go from here? Any talk of a title bid is laughable, and unrealistic, especially with a manager at the helm who won both of his major honours at Liverpool on penalties. A top 4 place is much more realistic for this side, although even that looks unlikely with the way the team plays at home.
So tonight there’ll be no scapegoating of the most infamous number 9 to ever pull on the Chelsea shirt (although I will say he looked like Bambi on ice when he came on), but instead the whole team has to be blamed and criticised for producing a performance which didn’t warrant the effort and money paid by the fans to come and watch.
In a side that is so young, and seemingly so scared when it comes to home games, you have to ask where the answer will come from. With John Terry almost back to full fitness, his leadership in the dressing room will be key to Chelsea turning around this lack of form at home. With teams looking to sit back and simply hit us on the break (as Chelsea did so famously last season), there has to be question marks over why the team starts in such a lackluster fashion.
A 2-0 lead at half-time was kind to Chelsea, as they didn’t force Boruc to make a save to my recollection throughout the entire half. In the end Southampton got what they deserved for going for it, and not simply giving up at 2-0. You see one manager putting on 3 strikers, and then you see another make one sole change in the 80th minute, which was the introduction of Torres for Lampard, which didn’t go down well at all.
The fact is that Chelsea under Ancelotti or Mourinho would never be giving up a 2-0 lead to draw to a side like Southampton. It just goes to show how backwards the club has gone in such a short time, and why this young side clearly are struggling to cope with the lack of a leader in the dressing room when it comes to the playing staff and the managing staff.
The one consolation that Chelsea fans will take from tonight’s result is the fact that performances like this won’t do Benitez any favours when it comes to hiring a manager full-time. Even though the football may be being produced away from home, as well as the results, this can’t really be enjoyed by Roman when he only tends to attend home games. If he was there tonight, he must be asking himself the question, what have I done?
Many Chelsea fans, like myself, have simply written off this season, and looked forward to next already with the hope of a manager being brought in who hasn’t criticised the club heavily in the past. If top 4 is managed this term, then I think a lot of fans would take that after the way the season’s gone, in such typical hectic Chelsea style. Over the last few seasons Chelsea have produced so many outstanding away performances, which included the run to the Champions League, as well as the Arsenal & Tottenham wins earlier this season. But now the solution has to be found at home, for a side who once held an unbeaten streak of 86 games, the longest in football. The man to bring back the days of a fortress at Stamford Bridge, may well be sitting in Madrid right now, and it may well be time for him to come home. Chelsea fans can dream.