The past couple of months at the Chelsea Football Club has been a flurry of news, events and changes. Club legend Robbie Di Matteo has been fired in the midst of a minor slump in results which left the club divided and in turmoil. RDMÔÇÖs only blemish so far had been
missing out on the UEFA Super Cup and Community Shield, which were basically glorified pre-season one off games. Chelsea had been leading the League up until RDMÔÇÖs departure and although the club
was defeated by Juventus by a score of 3 goals to nil, Champions League progression still was a distinct possibility. So it was a massive shock when RDM was sacked the day after the defeat in Turin.
Naturally there was a backlash, and boy was it big. Chelsea Fans turned on Roman the Chairman, protests about Rafa Benitez began and continued well into the weeks ahead, for instance off the top of my head I can recall , a round of applause at 16 minutes because 16 was RDMÔÇÖs number as a player. As well as this signs could clearly be seen at Stamford Bridge saying ÔÇÿRafa OutÔÇÖ and ÔÇÿRDM: Chelsea LegendÔÇÖ during the first game of RafaÔÇÖs reign, talk shows such as ESPN Press Pass and Monday Night Football on SuperSports were giving their presenters leeway to verbally blast ChelseaÔÇÖs management and letÔÇÖs not get started on the tabloids which at one stage had a new Chelsea article, slamming the football club up every few hours.
But in the midst of all this commotion there were players trying to cope and adapt to the latest managerial transition. Immediately after Benitez was appointed, theories were thought up mainly involving Fernando TorresÔÇÖ lack of goals at the time was the reason why Benitez was appointed and RDM was fired. This in turn put unwarranted criticism on both Torres and Benitez. Rafa was booed by Chelsea fans simply because of the fact that he had once been a manger of a rival team. It is this type of simple minded, childish tribalism by fans who cannot look on the bright side that had turned Chelsea into the butt of most football jokes, despite the fact that they were Defending Champions of Europe.
For instance Jose Mourinho worked as a translator for Barcelona in his youth, however that did not stop Real Madrid from signing him up years later, so there goes that pathetic defense by deluded fans.
RafaÔÇÖs first game which ended in a bland 0-0 stalemate against defending EPL Champions Manchester City which was a solid result
considering the club were supposedly in turmoil if you had believed the press. Goals were still a issue though at that time. Then another 0-0 draw with Fulham at home, a game we should have won. The criticism gained momentum with cries of ÔÇÿHow could you leave Oscar on the benchÔÇÖ, to ÔÇÿYouÔÇÖre killing our creativityÔÇÖ seeping from the fans
and media, even though we had not conceded a single goal in 180 mins without the assistance of John Terry, that fact was often
ignored though in spite on Benitez. Then came the 3-1 defeat to West Ham United.
That was certainly the time to be upset, the team got overrun in the 2nd half, but I digress the players do the work on the pitch not the
coach, he can only send eleven of them out and trust that they do the job they are paid to do.
The calls to sack Rafa after a few weeks were heating up; this is where the protesting fans logic got to the stage of borderline mental. Honestly could these ÔÇÿfansÔÇÖ tell me when a club has ever sacked another manager weeks after sacking the previous. These people could not grow up and realize no matter how much we loved having RDM as coach, that he would not be rehired by Roman, so it was time to look forward regardless of the consequences.
Champions League Matchday 6 arrived, the must win game against FC Norsejaelland of Denmark was on. Chelsea had to win this game and hope that Shaktar Donetsk defeated Juventus at home in order to progress to the knockout stages. The game began with both sides gaining chances, and Eden Hazard missing a penalty as well as a Norsejaelland striker. Chelsea then received another penalty and David Luiz made no mistake burying it home in similar fashion to that night in Munich. Once Chelsea had the pre-game jitters out of their system the rout started and ended with Torres grabbing a brace and an overall scoreline of 6-1. If only goal difference was still used than Chelsea would have been through.
It turned out that Shaktar had butchered their game against Juventus which resulted in Juve topping the group and Chelsea falling to 3rd and the Europa League for the first time. This time the Rafa Haters could say nothing bad, they had won their game in style and the only reason they dropped down was to circumstances beyond their control. Suddenly the light at the end of the tunnel was visible.
After a solid 3-1 away win to Sunderland in which Torres grabbed another goal , the Fifa Club World Cup was up next and the first game against Monterrey was a walkthrough. The final against Corinthians was back to the bad old days of missed opportunities which cost Chelsea the chance of being world champions.
Back to the Capital One Cup after a long flight from Japan and a game away to Leeds beckoned. A sloppy start had chelsea down 1-0 at the break, and then they snapped out of it and played to their potential running away 5 second half goals which in turn netted me a nice profit. The next game was a pre Christmas home game against Aston Villa at the Bridge where suddenly everything clicked again but over the entire 90 minutes and Chelsea fired 8 goals against Aston Villa with David Luiz playing exceptionally in midfield and hitting a goal that would make Cristiano Ronaldo jealous.
Finally pulling the trigger on Luiz in the midfield was a masterstroke by Bentiez and is probably a benefit of having a manger with nothing to lose, that he can make radical change without fear. Torres once again opened the scoring with a sublime header which brought back memories of his Liverpool heyday. Moses, Hazard, Oscar and Ramires rounded the game up to deliver the best scoreline and win of the Premier League this season.
The boxing day game against Norwich city away was a must win for the team, and looked to be a tough task considering that both United and Arsenal had been defeated 1-0 by the Canaries earlier this season. Chelsea came out in the barely used White away kit which brought back painful memories of the West Ham loss. The game was a tough and torrid affair which chances hard to come by but thankfully Juan Mata, my pick for player of the season, nailed home a great left foot curler out of traffic around the half hour mark, to give us the 1-0 lead, and more importantly chelsea held on to it to gain a valuable 3 points, leaving us biting at a faltering Manchester CityÔÇÖs heels in the race for the Premier League.
As it stands now there is an important game against Everton coming up, and maximum points are needed in order to ensure that Chelsea have a realistic chance of mixing it up with the two Manchester teams come the business end of the season. In regards to what
positives Rafa Benitez has brought to the table since he took over from RDM is the successful rotation of the squad with players such as Moses, Marin, Piazon and Azpilicueta gaining a lot more minutes as well as the Mazacar trio gaining a rest every so often.
David Luiz being played in midfield was another great move by Rafa which has enabled Luiz to unleash his Brazilian flair without compromising the defense. Moses brings a tough swashbuckling style of which Hazard, Mata and Oscar donÔÇÖt provide and helps with scoring and crossing which gives another dimension to ChelseaÔÇÖs much praised attack.
Azpilicueta was signed with a view of being the starting right back and is now finally getting the minutes he should be. Marko Marin should hopefully force his way into the team after his unfortunate pre-season injury and Lucas Piazon should find more chances coming his way after his impressive cameo against Villa. All in all it has been a wild and bumpy few months for Chelsea.So Far Rafa is steadying the Ship despite the never ending waves.