Roman Abramovich’s rash decision to axe Roberto Di Matteo has not brought about the immediate improvement he intended and, after drawing a second blank on the bounce, Rafa Benitez is no doubt testing the Russian’s patience already.
The final whistle of the goalless west London derby was greeted by a chorus of jeers with the Stamford Bridge faithful’s disdain for their new interim boss showing no signs of wavering.
Their 0-0 draw with Fulham represented the ninth game in 10 that the Blues have failed to win; a run which has seen them fall seven points behind in the title race, as well as leaving them on the brink of an early exit from the Champions League.
They’ve now gone three games without scoring a goal – two of which were under Benitez’s stewardship – and with Abramovich’s obsession with owning a team in the mould of Barcelona, appointing the Spaniard seems a bizarre move.
He’s likely to improve the team defensively – as two clean sheets in a row will attest – but an ability to get his team playing exciting, expansive football is not something the former Liverpool boss professes.
This notion is highlighted through his selecting of Ryan Bertrand to start in place of Juan Mata against the Cottagers. This would be a controversial move at the best of times, but borderline mental when the team is in dire need of a creative spark in the final third.
Mata’s fitness can’t be used as an excuse either with Victor Moses and Marko Marin sitting alongside the Spaniard in the Chelsea dugout.
The odd decision of playing a left back in the position that both players operate clearly implies neither float his boat, while they lack an alternative to the flailing Fernando Torres up top as long as Daniel Sturridge remains sidelined.
It’s clear to see that Chelsea are currently reaping what they sowed in the summer, investing far too much money in players that play in almost identical positions when a replacing Didier Drogba should have been top of their agenda.
Signing Marin, Moses, Oscar and Eden Hazard was definite overkill with Mata already in the ranks, while sending Romelu Lukaku off on loan to West Brom will no doubt aid his development in the long term, but left them with just two strikers at their disposal at present.
This was incredibly short-sighted given Torres’ well-documented shortcomings since his move from Liverpool and everyone’s belief (except his own) that Sturridge is best utilised on the wing.
Benitez’s relationship with Chelsea’s £50m man no doubt swung the decision to give him the job and he needs to get him firing as soon as possible before the west Londoners find themselves with nothing to play for by Christmas.
They’re as far out as 8/1 to win the Premier League, while Ladbrokes have Torres priced up at 50/1 to leave Chelsea without ever scoring again. His next goal is forecast at 11/8 to come against West Ham, while 5/1 says he’ll score his first goal since reuniting with Rafa at Sunderland.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date