When Rafa Benitez took over, Chelsea were 4 points behind reigning champions Manchester City sitting in 2nd position in the Premier League and they had just been knocked out of the Champions League, they were still in the Capital One (League) Cup, with the FA Cup and the Europa League yet to start for them. Chelsea now sit a full 19 points behind Manchester United lying in 4th place in the Premier League only just ahead of Arsenal, they got knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Swansea City over two legs but they are still in the FA Cup and the Europa League (just).
It did seem like a strange time to speak out against the fans on Wednesday night after almost 3,000 of them made it to the Riverside to support the club against a Boro team who were looking for another FA Cup upset on a freezing cold evening in the North-East of England. But obviously the constant chanting of demands for his firing and banners to the same effect finally took their toll on the Spaniard and he responded with a tirade of remarks which while he delivered them in a controlled fashion did not pull any punches, choosing to criticize the club’s board and their loyal support. This has not gone down well with many Chelsea connected people as former players like Frank Sinclair have said that the fans have a right to display whatever banners they like and Benitez should accept that no matter how difficult he finds it.
His whole time in charge has been short on positives but the highlight of Benitez’ reign so far was the 8-0 home thumping of Aston Villa in the Premier League following their return from Japan and the Club World Cup. Benitez enjoyed a game without songs from the fans calling for his sacking and his team inflicted Villa’s heaviest ever Premier League defeat as there were seven different scorers and there very easily could have been many more goals. Benitez employed David Luiz in midfield in that game as he had in the Club World Cup against Monterrey and it worked to great effect. Torres even looked to be turning the corner back then but it has proved to be merely a positive blip in an otherwise disappointing season.
The propostition of an FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United (a team which both Benitez and Torres have enjoyed some success against in the past when at Liverpool) should offer Benitez an opportunity to create a good memory for the fans and a reason for the gloom to lift from Stamford Bridge. After Benitez’ words it would be no surprise to see him relieved of his duties as previous managers have been removed for far less even if he is confident that he will be allowed to see out his interim contract. At this point maybe it is best to make the inevitable happen now and let the Spanish manager move on and allow Chelsea to start the healing at Stamford Bridge even if a new boss is still to be appointed. RDM did an ok job last year as the caretaker boss (he only won us the Champions League and the FA Cup), the question is- who could do the same this year, bring harmony back to the club, win us a European trophy and the FA Cup? It seems like a gigantic ask which makes you realize just what RDM accomplished last season.