An Open Letter to All Chelsea Fans

Dear disgruntled fans of Chelsea Football Club,

It’s time to stop. It’s time to stop this petty belittling of Rafa Benitez. Your point has been made to Roman Abramovich and the board that you disagreed with the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo and subsequent hiring of Rafa. As a fan of multiple mediocre professional sports teams here in the lovely state of Ohio, you learn to take things with a grain of salt.  At least try to look at things with more of an open mind.

Chelsea have not had a full 6 days break between games since November 17. That is nearly a 2 month run of having a midweek game EVERY week. Normal travel and exertion, coupled around a very taxing trip to Japan, has got to be very difficult on a person’s body. The fact of the matter is, Rafa is not the problem currently. He is the scapegoat for problems that lie much deeper within the Chelsea hierarchy where it seems that the players have way more control over the situation than is necessary. The squad is clearly not deep enough. Most of Chelsea’s league performances have been very good as evidenced by stabilizing their 3rd spot. Clearly the cup performances have been disappointing, but it seems as if the performances lack more of the cutting edge that we have seen in league games.

Clearly an emphasis has been put on the league finish by Abramovich. He knows the importance of finishing in the top 4. Last season was a magical run. Mired in disappointment over AVB not being ready for that intense player power grab and languishing in 6th position, up steps a Chelsea legend who rallies the fragile group with great camaraderie and defensive mindsets. Brilliant player manager for one-off, knockout style games. But simply put, I was unimpressed with his tactical efforts in a lot of league matches this season. I don’t think he deserved the sack but, over time, I was unsure about his long term prospects. Previous struggles at West Brom may have pointed towards a bigger issue.

Start with the use of Mata, Hazard and Oscar all at once. Clearly, Mata is the best of the bunch, but all three are very technical players. However, they seemed to narrow up very easily. All three want to turn and face the ball to collect, and then subsequently dribble one-on-one with a defender to create space. Teams were happy to sit off Chelsea as a result and just clog up the area just outside the top of the box. Not enough width and the underuse of Victor Moses were a huge detriment to Chelsea’s early season attacking efforts in tough matches.

Two other glaring weaknesses are the lack of pace in the back half of the field and lack of a future captain. It is clear that the board and Roman don’t always seem to agree. The jettison of squad depth over the summer was shocking to say the least. It is obvious that Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel both lacked the pace to play the holding midfield role against teams willing to press high up the field like Shaktahr and Juventus.

Nobody on the pitch in that loss to Juventus showed a will to lead the team forward. Sometimes eras are just meant to come to an end. Rafa has been around the block before. The only man to unseat the dominance of Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga twice, and giving Liverpool it’s crowning achievement in recent memory, dethroning a dominant Milan side in a thriller. He has made mistakes just like anyone else, and I’m sure the time off helped him evaluate himself. The fact that everyone harps on him for playing mind games is crazy. He tried to play along, and it occasionally backfired. Let us not forget that some of the Liverpool-Chelsea Champions League ties were some of the most drama-filled matches in recent history.

The fact of the matter is this: Lighten up and enjoy the ride. Demanding utter perfection out of these players is crazy. Abramovich clearly cares about the club, as evidenced by him saving it from Ken Bates. He has invested loads into the club, and the board/ older players seem to get in the way of the business decisions he wants to make. There is a brilliant business mind locked up there, whether or not you agree with his policy on managers. Ever since Mourinho got into the first of many spats with ownership over his career, things were new levels of great for Chelsea Football Club.

Woe is you for airing your petty grievances. The stadium is a place to go to wear your support for the cause, 100%. Rafa needs this stepping stone to get back on the international scene. And who knows, maybe if fans are more willing to be reasonable, then great things can still be achieved this season. It’s all a part of the sporting drama we love so much.

Justin Yerina

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