Rafa’s Flying Circus
The smoke clears to reveal a slightly balding tubby goateed ringmaster – his suit, ill fitting, red (naturally) with a rather disgruntled lion trying to escape from his chest. The lion stares at the ringmaster’s awful facial hair with a contemptuous look – facial hair, you’re not wanted here. He waddles forward struggling to deal with the weight of expectation; his brow glistens under the spotlights above, this after all is a massive cloob. He’d been here before and struggled to deal with the demands of following a rather special one. He remembered distinctly inheriting the world, a treble winning show, only to see it fall tantalisingly through his porky little hands. Of course it was never his fault – always the victim, it could never be his fault. Blame Materazzi or the average pawns at his disposal. The crowd here would never take to him and he knew it. It mattered not to the ringmaster, after all these were soulless creatures devoid of passion waving their little plastic flags. Not real fans. Not like those from before.
From behind the
iron curtain trots his trusted ally with the speed of a man wearing cement boots running a marathon. He’s actually barely moving at all as he meanders towards the middle of the arena. His golden mane now tatty, a pang for shell suits and a longing to be stuck in a place that is steeped in ‘istory (for there is no “h” where this one belongs) grip his every movement (or lack thereof). A platinum and diamond price tag inevitably weighing him down beyond belief, his past talents a forgotten memory, he scowls at the new Senegalese import destined to take his place. He cuts a lonely moody figure as he sulks about almost hiding from the action entirely. Gone are the days where he used to terrorise anyone he encountered, now geriatric Acton centre-backs put him in their pocket and laugh. Oh how times change.
The Fat Spanish Ringmaster glances at his spent number nine, perhaps the most literal false nine in all of football hipstery, cracks his somewhat dated whip and the golden hoof winner at the recent Euros sparks into his routine.
Runs into a posse of clowns.
Adjusts his hairband. At least he looks the part, right? His socks still white.
This goes on for an eighty-minute period. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
He does that fancy little one-foot-behind-the-other trick thing to bring the crowd momentarily away from his otherwise diabolical display.
Adjusts his hairband a little more.
“I swear we used to be good at this?” the chubby ringmaster exclaims in his amalgamation of Spanish and scouse. He looks to his thoroughbred moving with the vigour of someone ready for the glue factory…
Welcome to Rafa’s Flying Circus. Remember to adjust your hairbands. Ollie Holt, here’s looking at you kid.
Only this ridiculous shambles of a club could so painfully destroy any momentum that being London’s first team to win the European Cup should generate. Reaching the halfway point of the season the club is out of Europe’s premier football competition solely down to the politburo’s decision to decree Fernando Torres the only striker at the club. We cannot possibly upset Torres after playing second fiddle to one of the best to have ever played at the club. Who genuinely came up with this idea? I cannot see any Chelsea fan looking at the summer and thinking “you know what, we can probably do this with just Torres.”
We are fed some nonsensical rent-a-quote lines from the High Toad Ron Gourlay about this being “the right direction” for the club to be heading. Would that be further behind both the Manchester clubs, embarrassed by West Ham, QPR and a Swansea side who barely turned up? The owner is a very astute businessman, but sometimes his passion for the club obfuscates the obvious thing to do here. He was right, ultimately, to cut AVB mid-season as it was in the best interests of the club despite AVB doing a much better job with Spurs this time around. However, despite Di Matteo’s faults technically as a manager I still do not honestly believe we would have looked like missing out on the top four. His score more approach seemed to work in a league where a top defence would win the league title by itself.
Di Matteo was not the managerial panacea that would move the club back on the right path. His brand of football was swashbuckling, somewhat chaotic, but it was exciting and he utilised the holy trinity to devastating effect. Consummately outplaying Arsenal and then Tottenham, both away from home, remain the pinnacle of this season. How things have changed since then. He left a lot to be desired but as an interim manager he was perfect and I think we would have definitely qualified for Europe and probably picked up a cup along the way. Leave on good terms forever entrenched in the history of Chelsea. Life is good. This season should have embedded the younger players within the squad and set us up perfectly for a real attack on the title for the following season.
That would be far too sensible though.
In stepped the Fat Spanish Waiter (FSW™) to move the club in the right direction. Yes, we were out of Europe but Di Matteo fought largely with one hand behind his back. We were doing particularly well in the League playing some excellent stuff but drop Torres at your peril though Robbie — if only that Eden Hazard experiment had paid off. So far the FSW™ has managed to successfully navigate his rotund way around the dining area at Cobham; Ash has told me that he makes a fair bit in tips on a Friday so good luck to him. Is this the kind of progress the commissars were after? Maybe they have decided they prefer Prague to Donetsk and could get used to these sorts of trips on a yearly basis. The beer is certainly nicer. Benitez’s team selection butchered the Club World Cup and while Ivanovic’s League Cup howlers were individual mistakes the lack of nous/spine shown by Benitez in that game was criminal.
His like-for-like substitutions, an insistence on playing two holding midfielders when Swansea barely attacked all evening and leaving it so late to try and change the game by hauling off the world’s most expensive anchor were incredibly poor choices for a supposed top tier manager. There is a reason that Inter Milan sacked him and he has not had a sniff of a top job since. He, like the club he was successful with, are an outmoded commodity and his methodology seems steeped in something that worked seven years ago. Managers with better records and with more about them have gone for less.
For those in the media that do not quite seem to get the intense dislike of the FSW™ I shall attempt to put it succinctly. Any person who slates a legendary manager, several iconic players, the fans & the club is never going to be accepted by the supporters. Never. He could win every trophy under the sun but he will still be told he is not welcome here. He can use every excuse about fighting for his club that he likes it just won’t wash. I know it would give the parasites within the media great pleasure to chide the fickle nature of our support but there is great unity here in the belief that he should never have been appointed. He has single-handedly made me actively dislike the club. I felt embarrassed at the sacking of Carlo. I feel even more bemusement at the attempt of the club to so readily discard the players who have made the past decade so memorable. Yet, what hurts the most is turning up to Stamford Bridge and feeling empty at what is in front of me.
Benitez is nor ever will be Chelsea.
Zenden never was and never will be Chelsea.
Torres has had support from the fans above and beyond the call of duty since his arrival here. Now there is a real alternative to his ambling ways, all we want to see is some fire and fight. His performance in the Swansea game was the antithesis of Chelsea – if anything, try, run and work hard. When Ba does more in a ten minute period than you have done in hours this season it says everything about what needs to happen here. He just isn’t a right fit at the club and really for the sake of his career and the rebuild at Chelsea there needs to be a parting of company in the summer. When players see him in space just note the hesitancy to pass him the ball and it is that lack of belief in him that is the basis for the tempo of our play to stagnate. To borrow one of the FSW™’s own lines that’s a FACHT©.
We were smashing Leeds in the cup and yet the songs remained “f**k off Benitez, you’re not wanted here”; smashing Villa in the league and yet the songs remained “we don’t care about Rafa” and they will continue until he leaves. It has nothing to do with his abysmal management style. For a supposed tactical genius there has been no variation, no countering of obvious ploys, no spine to actually hook the golden one when he inevitably plays like a statue and an unerring ability to stifle the creativity of one of Brazil’s best players. Di Matteo at least saw the problem and tried to tackle it by dropping Torres and using Hazard down the middle. If he had been given Ba in the summer, would we be here now? We have only needed a competent striker this season before attempting to land one of the world elite this summer. Look at the dynamism and tempo of our play in the Southampton game compared to the Swansea one.
What is the master plan here? That suddenly amidst the chaos we are going to go on a run and win the league title? The players who have had that effect on the club previously are either no longer with us or not deemed good enough to retain. For all the merits of our new core they are miles away from forming the dependable spine that has seen us somehow remain successful despite being run into the ground by poor management. Does anyone advising the owner know the meaning of the word “no”?
There will be no superhuman Didier Drogba style effort in the Champions League this year to see us home. We have barely been able to defend without Terry. Lampard deserves much more from a club that he has held together through a decade of his life. Ashley Cole remains one of the best full-backs on the planet, yet we are going to let him leave on a free transfer. We sell Meireles and let Essien leave on loan when we have no midfielders. The only real positive this season is that we finally seem to be finding our talented youngsters loans that actually benefit them.
If you really look at the situation the shrewdness of the politburo to hire Benitez is beyond brilliant. They hire a deeply unpopular manager and hope that their ludicrous policies translate through him without resonance in their comfy seats. They rid the club of perceived disruptive influences, namely the core of predominantly English players and lower expectations to such a point that whoever comes in the summer does so with a clean slate. However, this very calculated political move has been met with even more fervour and disdain than they could have possibly envisaged. The booing of Buck and arguably for the first time eyes being cast towards the ownership say everything. We should be an established European force now, yet through the chaos and reactionary decision making we are again on the hunt for a manager to seemingly start all over again.
So what happens for the rest of the season? If we can sign another striker, predominantly use Ba as the number one striker, get Terry back and not drop both Hazard/Mata for important games we should be okay this season. However, does anyone trust the FSW™ to not butcher the season any further with his ridiculous rotation policy, tactical foresight, awful man management and general chunky woefulness? The buzz of home games has lessened while the away support seems to once again rise to the task of facing adversity head on (BANG!).
It isn’t Torres’ fault that he is finished as an elite player, nor that we paid £50m for him or allegedly skipped part of his medical and no Chelsea player should ever be booed by his own fans, regardless of how poor they have played. I hope he rises to the challenge and some of his early season zip returns but I am not holding my breath on this. Demba Ba must become the focal point of the side and at least allow Torres some time away from the spotlight. My only concern is that I don’t think our number nine has the stomach for the fight. You don’t know how good you have it until it’s gone and I suspect many fans are looking at Drogba now wondering if we will ever see such a complete force of nature play for the club again. We can but hope that the season ends well and Benitez makes way for a manager who the board listens to and respects. I never want to look beyond the current season but with Benitez in charge I can’t help but look to the summer already. Very sad indeed.
Welcome to Rafa’s Flying Circus, we can only hope that the tour does not last beyond the summer.
You can follow Joe on twitter @JoeTweeds.