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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Chelsea: Is it time for Abramovich to give Benitez the boot?

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Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is a ruthless figure, just ask Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Di Matteo. The Special One won back-to-back Premier League titles at Stamford Bridge but was axed. Ancelotti won the league and FA Cup double but was fired, and even Roberto Di Matteo, the man who finally brought the Champions League trophy to the capital - and the FA Cup - got the sack. So what hope has Rafa Benitez got?

The former Liverpool boss last night saw his side blow a two-goal lead slip at Reading, the second time in a fortnight that they have missed out on all three points. Southampton were the beneficiaries of some lapse defending at the Bridge two weeks ago, but the Blues just haven't learned their lesson.

Rafa benitezChelsea have been knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Swansea City, taken to a reply in the FA Cup by lowly Brentford and lost at home to neighbours QPR. In fact Chelsea have managed just two Premeir League wins since the turn of the year. That simply is not acceptable. The fact that Benitez believes he is the right man to lead Chelsea on a full-time basis is laughable.

The former Liverpool boss was never the fans' choice. Even the appointment of Neil Warnock would have been warmly received compared to Benitez. The Spaniard rubbed Chelsea fans up the wrong way when he was in charge at Anfield and they have not, and never will, forgiven him. Even emphatic wins over Aston Villa, Leeds United and Stoke City did little to win them over.

Benitez has been abused and humiliated by the home fans since he took over. His debut against Manchester City was marred by jeers, anti-Rafa banners and support for the ousted RDM. And it hasn't got any better for him.

To be fair though it's not as if Chelsea have been playing that badly. They should have put Southampton and Reading to bed and only the brilliance of Julio Cesar prevented them from getting something against QPR. Juan Mata has been the star at the Bridge this season, but Oscar and Ramires have the ability to light up any game, Demba Ba has been an inspired signing and Frank Lampard continues to find his name on the scoresheet - making his exit in the summer look more ridiculous with each passing game.

But they simply weren't at the races at Brentford, while errors by Bratislav Ivanovic gifted Swansea the upper hand in their Capital One Cup semi-final. And their inability to see off teams in the league must be a huge worry.

Fortunately for Chelsea their main challengers for a Champions League spot have failed to fully capitalise on their slip-ups. Spurs have only won once in the league in 2013, Everton have picked up eight points this year while Arsenal and Liverpool are eight and 11 points behind respectively.

For as long as Chelsea's place in the top four is not at risk I believe Roman Abramovich will keep faith with the Spaniard, buying the owner some valuable time before he appoints his permanent successor to Roberto Di Matteo. But there are two men who will not fill the void - his number one choice Pep Guardiola, who chose Bayern Munich ahead of Chelsea, and under-fire interim coach Rafa Benitez. Or at least that will be the case if he wants to keep the fans on side.

Calling all Chelsea fans: Do you think Abramovich should give Benitez the boot or do you think the Spaniard will be given until the end of the year? How would you assess Rafa's performances in the dugout for Chelsea? Is there anyone out there who believes he should be given the job permanently? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.


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Colin Illingworth



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