Chelsea have reached a stage where nothing seems to be in order. The Rafa Benitez reign has been nothing but a continuation of horrible form that saw Di Matteo leave the club. As Chelsea approach the Champions League tie against FC Nordsjaelland, they must wonder where they went wrong. Even if they beat the minnows, anything other than a Shakhtar Donetsk win at home against Juventus would see Chelsea get knocked out of the competition.
The Rafa cure?
The last few weeks at Chelsea football club can suprise even the most patient Chelsea fan. It seems as if every move, every match is a test of their patience. Just how bad can Chelsea get? The team is looking out of depth and world class players are playing at sub-optimal levels. Their plight is made worse by fans' summary rejection of Rafa Benitez's appointment as the club manager. The results could have papered over some cracks but two draws and a humiliating 3-1 loss to West Bromwich at the Harthorns has not helped his cause. There have been talks of bringing in old caretaker manager, Avram Grant to the bridge, but Benitez has made his disapproval to such a move known. Benitez has put the onus of performing better firmly on Chelsea players, urging them to show character on the pitch. This is hardly the approach that is going to bring him any closer to the Chelsea faithful.
Potential Champions League exit?
The equation is simple. Chelsea have to beat Nordsjaelland and hope Shakhtar Donetsk beat Juventus for them to scrape through to the knock-out stages of the premier European club competition. While this can surely happen, the question to ask is how Chelsea, the European Champions last season, landed themselves in this position. Di Matteo had already overseen sub-par European performances this season from his Chelsea side. Failure to win against Juventus at home after being 2-0 up and losing to Juventus away so comprehensively put the club's performances in bad light. Agreed that both Shaktar and Juventus are no ordinary clubs and play brilliant football and qualification from the group was going to be difficult but as European champions who possess the envious triad of Mata, Hazard and Oscar, fans expected better.
David Luiz is a likeable character and quite popular with Chelsea fans, but in the absence of John Terry, the Brazilian has been exposed far too many times and the defence as a whole has not stuck together. The attacking players seldom track back, thus leaving Ramires and/or Obi Mikel with too much to do. Besides, Obi Mikel is not the quickest player around and the transtition from defence to attack is hindered by him taking too long on the ball.
It is often observed that a new manager's arrival leads to improved fortunes of any team. The players want to impress the manager and fans get behind the team. In Chelsea's case, a change in playing style coupled with fans' angry reaction at Benitez's appointment means Chelsea have not improved their points tally as the fans would have hoped. Are the fans right to boo Benitez? Every fan must judge for himself but the players certainly need every supporter behind them at the difficult moment the club is going through. Their support becomes even more significant if Chelsea crash out of Champions League, for the explosive circumstances at Chelsea mean any failure is potentially dangerous to the club's prospects.
One can only hope that fans get behing their team and the players go the extra mile to bring the club out of this mess. Benitez can go on with his technological approach to coaching and unless he gets this team to win matches, he will always be the centre of fans' ire and that is no good for the fans or the team.