The more I think about this hiring, the more a hate it. 51 reasons why:
1. The fans hate him. He will not get a warm reception, to say the least.
2. They don’t have much passion, though. At least according to Benitez. We’ll see about that Sunday, when chants of “There’s only one Di Matteo” and “fat Spanish waiter” could resonate through the stadium.
3. Some more Benitez quotes:
“Chelsea is a soulless club.”
“Drogba is a diver, a whiner, and a cheat.”
“We don’t need to give away flags for our fans to wave.”
“If Chelsea is naive and pure, I’m Little Red Riding Hood.”
“I would never take that job, in respect of my former team at Liverpool, no matter what.”
4. He’s a poor man manager. Apparently, he never talks to players in training sessions.
5. He’s also a micro-manager. In these two respects, as well as in his lack of tactical versatility, and his relationship with the media, he reminds me of Andre Villas-Boas.
6. Chelsea’s Senior Players. Chelsea might have the hardest dressing room in the world to deal with. They don’t like being micro-managed, and they were what ultimately did AVB in.
7. By contrast, the fans, players, and rival coaches all respect Di Matteo.
8. Rafa’s Personality is very similar to Abramovich’. Wanting to be in complete control.
8. Di Matteo’s personality, again,is the complete opposite.
9. Benitez picks fights with other managers.
10. He plays politics within the club. Abramovich, and the people who control the club, notoriously pushy, won’t like that.
11. He has poor relationships with owners. He has blamed both Hicks and Gillett, and Moratti, for his failures at Liverpool and Inter, respectively, and seemed to have a rocky relationship with them even when he was at each club. In today’s press conference, he seemed to believe Abramovich would be easier to work with than Hicks and Gillett. Er…no.
12. The fans and media are waiting for a first loss. So the fans, owner, players, and media all have reasons for trying to take down Benitez. What happens after the first loss, or even before then, will be interesting to see, and the nosy media will be sure to jump at the slightest rumor.
13. And the first game is against… Manchester City, trying to stay within touch of the Premier League leaders. Why would you fire your coach right before the biggest game of the season so far? If Benitez looses this one, it’s hard to see him staying at Chelsea for long.
14. He often takes a while to find tactical balance. To make matters worse, Benitez had a very poor start at Liverpool, and there is reason to suspect the same here. Rafa is rightfully lauded for his well-organized 4-2-3-1, but he never changes his formation to suit the players. At Liverpool, he bought thirteen players a season as he tried to fit them in to his rigid system. It took a while to find tactical balance, time he doesn’t have at Chelsea. And the main reason RDM’s side performed so poorly in recent weeks was the lack of balance between defense and offense.
15. Benitez plays the transfer market. Unfortunately, at Chelsea, the manager doesn’t control the transfers. (Chelsea are often criticized for this, but it’s actually a good thing— the owners change less often than the managers, so there will be some consistency to the transfer decisions). Emenalo will buy some players, and Benitez will have to fit them in.
16. Liverpool’s youth team. One of the best things Benitez did at Liverpool was build a good youth system. Players like Suso and Sterling are breaking into Liverpool’s first team, and given them hope in a dark year for them. But he can’t chase those players at Chelsea— the Blues have nine players twenty-one or younger better than either of those two (Courtois, De Bruyne, Hazard, Oscar, Lukaku, McEachran, Piazon, Moses, Chalobah).
17. Tactical Similarities to RDM. I suspect that RDM wasn’t fired for the only reasons that makes sense, his tactics, but if he was— well Benitez’ are almost exactly the same. A manager criticized for never moving away from his 4-2-3-1 is being replaced by a manager who always plays 4-2-3-1.
18. The Pivot. One of the main differences is Benitez’ reliance on a strong double pivot. But Chelsea have very few options in this area of the pitch, and their inability to cover for the four offensive players was one of the reasons RDM’s formation didn’t work.
19. Defensive Wingers. Benitez will almost surely make the wingers far more defensive. This will certainly help the pivot, but Chelsea’s defensive wingers- Bertrand, Ramires, Azpilicueta- are weaker players than the players who have been playing on the wing- Hazard, Mata, Moses, Marin. The key question of Benitez’ reign will probably be whether Benitez’ more defensive moves will be worth the decrease in offensive fluidity.
20. Lack of Plan B.
21. The defensive woes. These are the two main reasons, apart from Torres, that people have put up as reasons for RDM’s firing. With Terry and Cole’s long absences, Di Matteo’s remarkable job handling the defense last season, and Benitez’ similar tactics, the jury is still out as to whether Benitez’ tactics are better than RDM’s.
22. The spectacular fall of Benitez at Inter. Once again, debates with managers, a struggle to find balance, quibbles with the owner.
23. Inter’s treble. When Benitez took over Inter, they had just won the Champions League, Italian Cup, and Serie A. He left them fifth in Italy.
24. Where Inter are now. Leonardo took over Inter and led them back to second. Since then, though, Inter have stayed around fourth place in Italy. A lot of this blame can go to the ownership, but the same problems showed up at Liverpool.
25. Where Liverpool are now. Liverpool are facing similar problems to Inter. Selling Xabi Alonso, and buying a series of flops, had a part to play, and started Liverpool’s long slump.
26. He used to be Liverpool’s manager
27. He was fired at Liverpool. Chelsea should not be picking up Liverpool’s leftovers.
28. He’s been unemployed for two years. His major achievements came more than five years ago. Doesn’t seem like a good fit for Roman Abramovich’s what-have-you-done-for-me-lately policy.
29. Torres will be happy. Fernando Torres hasn’t even tried to make runs. He’s created a bad atmosphere around Di Matteo. He’s been given chances for two years, during which Chelsea have done everything they could to make Torres more confident. It hasn’t worked. If Torres is happy, something is wrong.
30. Torres needs to stop being pampered. It hasn’t worked.
31. Too much money has been thrown at Torres. Not just 50 million pounds for the transfer. Just as much for wages. Three coaches, and millions of pounds to get them. Trophies and league placement bring price money, as well.
32. Financial Fair Play. If you took the money spent on Torres, and changing managers, Chelsea would easily pass, and be able to buy a Falcao-like player every transfer window. Instead, they have to cut down on wages to old players, and fall farther behind Manchester City.
33. The lack of positives. So plenty of negatives; there must be some really good reason to buy him. The best seems to be that he will help Torres develop.
34. Torres has a peak. He’s slower than five years ago, and has Hazard, Oscar, and Mata on his team. At the beginning of the season, the team was able to win despite not having a striker. Just bench him.
35. Daniel Sturridge exists. This is probably what makes me the most frustrated about all of this. Di Matteo was finally tired of Torres. Due to an ill-timed Sturridge injury, he wasn’t able to start against Juventus; RDM tried the false nine, something he had to do considering the lack of striking options, and it failed spectacularly. But Sturridge was going to start, soon. Instead, it’s back to Torres.
36. January is near. And if Roman really doesn’t want to play Sturridge— just wait a month! Buy a striker in January, instead of firing a good coach, and hiring an OK one.
37. Too late for the Champions League. The timing of this mess is also ridiculous. Right before the Man City game, right after Chelsea lost control of their own destiny in the Champions League.
38. Di Matteo is a knockout round master. Last year’s Champions League, last year’s FA Cup, this year’s Capital One Cup. If Juventus does lose to Shakhtar, RDM, one of the leading candidates for FIFA coach of the year, would be the better manager to have for the rest of the Chmapions League.
39. Why fire RDM? Benitez might be the best manager available at the moment. The firing of Roberto Di Matteo, arguably the harshest Roman Abramovich sacking ever, was already questionable, and it would only make sense if Jose Mourinho was available. But Benitez?
40. Why not fire Di Matteo earlier? If Chelsea felt that Di Matteo wasn’t the right man to coach them long term, don’t extend his contract in the summer.
41. Laurent Blanc. Is Benitez the best unemployed coach not named Pep Guardiola? There’s certainly a case to be made for Blanc, another 4-2-3-1 coach who can have trouble with dressing rooms.
42. Not a good short-term choice. Most people believe Rafa Benitez is only an interim manager until Guardiola or Mourinho become available at the end of the year. Why would you hire the manager Chelsea fans hate most if its’ only for a few months? Just keep RDM, who is performing just fine.
43. Not a good long-term choice. Because of his tendency to fall out with owners, and the fans’ hatred, Rafa might also be the worst possible long-term coach.
44. RDM vs. Rafa: The Trophies
Roberto Di Matteo at Chelsea— less than a year, 1 Champions League, 1 FA cup
Rafa Benitez at Liverpool- six years, 1 Champions League, 1 FA cup
45. Di Matteo’s new team. The Di Matteo firing could hurt Chelsea in another way. What if he signs for another Premier League team. Mancini’s seat just got a little warmer.
46. Benitez’ style, defensive, well-organized, controlling the game without the ball, is unlikely to endear itself to Abramovich.
47. Defensive goals. Part of the Blues success this year has come from their goal scoring defenders. Under Benitez, Cahill, Ivanovic, and Luiz will probably be less likely to go forward.
48. Roman’s reputation. With another coach fired, even more harshly, will top managers start to avoid Chelsea?
49. Torres will start. This can’t be emphasized enough.
50. Torres has a different team than at Liverpool. Instead of having strong pivot players, Torres has strong attacking midfielders, many of whom will be benched. Don’t expect incredible improvements.
51. How will the young players react? With fans booing, the coach under pressure, and the senior players unhappy, how will the young core of the team react? Will they really play better than under Di Matteo?