Benitez’s first game in charge at Chelsea is done and dusted, but observers will not remember the result or the team’s dreary performance against Manchester City. Instead it will be the hostile reception given to the new interim manager from his own fans that will live long in the memory.
While I was taken aback by Benitez’s appointment, the unpleasant welcome he received from the Stamford Bridge faithful hardly surprised me. The relationship between the Spaniard and Chelsea fans was anything but civil prior to this engagement, so I question the decision made by both the club and the man himself.
Offering a two-time Champions League-winning manager a contract of seven months as an interim boss is an appalling move by the Blues, but what alarmed me more was Benitez’s willingness to accept the deal. His decision seems to be one made by a manager who no longer values his own abilities.
Even if the former Liverpool boss is looking to do a Di Matteo and transit into a more permanent position, it is hard to imagine Abramovich having a better opinion of him than his Italian predecessor, a man who brought the Chelsea owner the prize he desired most and the one trophy Benitez has a slim chance of retaining.
After the game against City, the 52-year old declared that the Blues defence had improved and I do not disagree with him. However, Chelsea failed to score any goals. Benitez usually implements an organized, systematic style of play to his teams, but they are hardly ever synonymous with the type of free-flow, attacking football Roman Abramovich seeks.
Reviving the rapidly waning fortunes of Fernando Torres is perhaps the Blues interim manager’s best chance of impressing the club’s supporters and owner, but the team’s only established striker will not be able to get amongst the goals without the help of his teammates. Star playmakers Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar have been less than inspiring in recent games, though one can hardly blame them since they are playing in a team that seems to be constantly in turmoil.
—The writer is a football expert with ESPN