Chelsea and the Return of Rafa

Football, eh.  It’s a funny old game.

At the beginning of 2011 Carlo Ancelotti was in charge of Chelsea Football Club.  The previous season they had done the double, but this season they finished with nothing.  They challenged for the title, but did not win it.  Controversially – which is of course unusual for Chelsea in the Abramovich years – Ancelotti was summarily dismissed.  Apparently the owner was looking for success and looking for it quickly.

As a result the club went for something to revitalise the change necessary at the club.  Something fresh required someone fresh and who better than the fresh young new kid on the block who had made it big at Porto Mr. Andre Villas-Boas.  The thinking appeared sound, AVB has certainly given success tot he Portuguese side domestically and on the European stage.  The last guy they got from those parts didn’t do too bad either.

Unfortunately the ‘project’ did not work out from the start when AVB tried to change too much too soon and upset some of the mainstays at the club.  With results not suggesting they would progress, Roman bit the bullet and called the project to an abrupt end.  In the meantime with no quality managers sufficiently available he put in the assistant manager in charge.  It should have been clear given his track record, that Roman was appointing Di Matteo as a short-term gap.  As it happened Di Matteo did an admirable job of turning around a season that looked to be disastrous to incredibly winning the FA Cup and more extraordinarily the Champions League.

Heavy investments were made in the Summer to buy the sort of players that could improve the style of football the European Champions were playing.  As Roman would have it, what came with the investment was expectation of good results and progress.  That started well, and viewers were waxing lyrical at the impact Hazard and Oscar were having in games.  There had been a bit of problem in terms of the results in Europe, and then there was a little blip in one or two of the league performances.  Tuesday sees a defeat against Juventus put Chelsea’s challenge to retain the trophy in jeopardy.

Early Wednesday morning Chelsea sack Di Matteo, by Wednesday evening, they appoint Rafa Benitez.

From May 2011 to November 2012 that’s a fairly tumultuous turnover of managers.  That turnover is not even scheduled to stop with Rafa’s appointment stated as one of an ‘interim manager’.

The reaction by Chelsea fans has been mostly negative because of an apparent history that Rafa has with their club. There are some perceptions of him as a bit of failure at the end of his Liverpool stint and the Inter gig not working out.

Some reports have sought to make Rafa out to be the marmite of managers – you either really love or you really think he’s a loser.  As a Liverpool fan, I do not neatly fall into either category.  I was no big fan of his for various reasons, but I acknowledge what he achieved at the club in terms of the second place finish, the FA Cup and of course the Champions League with what has to be one of the most limited sides to have won it in the last 30 years.

I think the reaction of some of the Chelsea fans is hilarious.  Hilarious in how its short-sighted.  Yet to be fair that is a trait that some of us human beings share from time.

It will be very intriguing seeing Rafa back in the Premier League and to be fair, he has nothing to lose.  He wanted another big club to manage, of course he would have preferred a project, but that would not emerge in the current climate.  Chelsea is available.  It may be a somewhat hazardous job occupation unlikely to be long term, but as far as he is concerned it’s a great opportunity to re-establish the credentials that brought him to the attention of the big clubs in the first place.  After all, there are not many other coaches in European football with his track record.

If he fails there are already in-built factors that won’t tarnish his record anyway – the Chelsea players and their reputation that has played a significant part in the dismissals of at least 4 of the past 7 managers; the Chelsea fans themselves whose mentality might ‘force him’ out of the club.  There won’t be many other ‘projects’ available to him after this if he fails, but that is about the worse that can happen to the guy.

Chelsea certainly still have the makings of a squad that can still actually compete for the title.  If he’s given room for manoeuvre in the transfer market in January, he could strengthen those claims.  The ingredients are there – and if as he is so fated, he can bring out the best in Fernando Torres, there is every reason to believe he could very well change the mind of the man who sacked his predecessor, who to all intents and purposes means to appoint Guardiola as soon as the man returns from his sabbatical.

Either way, for a person who enjoys the world of football and all its intrigue, I will find it great fun to watch what will take place.




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