The ‘Interim’ One: Rafa Benitez’s rant although ill-advised, has some substance to it

Rafa Benitez's comments in midweek didn't derail his side's Premier League outing on Saturday. Brendon Netto discusses why the Chelsea boss makes a fair argument.
 Brendon Netto
 Comment | England
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Rafa Benitez’s latest rant against a section of the Chelsea fans and his title as ‘interim’ manager isn’t going to win him any popularity contests. His untimely outburst may have only served to amuse rival supporters and infuriate his own but regardless of the effect it has had on the team and the club hierarchy, the fact remains that it consisted of a few valid points.

Benitez made his comments during the post-match press match conference following Chelsea's 2-0 FA Cup triumph over Middlesbrough. He claimed that some of the Chelsea fans were 'wasting their time' by chanting in protest of his appointment and creating banners to express their disgruntlement at the same. He also condemned the 'interim' part of his title as manager and suggested that it was used as a fail-safe in case the club did not meet the minimum requirements.

Fans show their discontent

Chelsea entertained West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge on Saturday but the match in itself was far from entertaining. The hosts edged a 1-0 victory but delivered a mediocre performance in what was a pretty drab affair. Surprisingly, the backlash from the fans, in response to Rafa's comments, wasn't as severe as many expected.

Yes, there were still plenty of 'Rafa out' banners in the stands which were joined by a few 'The Interim One' banners as well but considering how much the Chelsea fans despised him even prior to his comments, perhaps the Spaniard got off with nothing more than a slap on his wrist.

The stands provided the entertainment on Saturday

Nevertheless, when looking at the situation objectively, Benitez was probably right to insinuate that the fans have indeed wasted their time protesting against him. The simple fact is that he is on a short-term contract. Roman Abramovich is clearly scouting for a new manager to take over in the summer so regardless of the team's performances or achievements this season, Benitez will be gone at the end of it.

Their protests aren't going to get him out the door any sooner and if they don't protest, that doesn't mean he will stay beyond the term of his contract either. Abramovich won't be swayed by the fans' emotions towards the manager; he made that abundantly clear when he so ruthlessly terminated Roberto Di Matteo without a second thought. So why not put aside your differences, much like Benitez is so eager to do, and focus on getting behind the team?  

The reality of the situation is that the chants and banners are not going to coerce Chelsea's shrewd owner into making any rash decisions (he prefers doing that all by himself). The fans' hostility not only distracts the man trying to orchestrate their side’s success at present but it distracts the players as well. The chants in particular could only serve to be constant reminders to the players of the repercussions off the field should they fail on it and unnecessarily heaps even more pressure on them.

He isn't goin anywhere for now

As for the tag of 'interim' manager, the club's hierarchy probably should take responsibility for that. It does seem like it was always a bit of a ploy to ensure that Benitez would take the fall for any failures the club may suffer this season. 

Furthermore, by attaching the word 'interim' to his title, the club effectively handicapped Benitez right from the start by undermining his authority. It definitely sent out the wrong message to the players who were basically given the license to do as they please because the man in charge wouldn’t be around for long anyway and is therefore unable to influence their careers at the club in the long-term.

Manager Games Wins Draws Losses GF GF/Game GA GA/Game Win %
Di Matteo 21 11 4 6 48 2.29 33 1.57 52.38
Benitez 28 15 7 6 61 2.18 27 0.96 53.57
Benitez's stats this season against Di Matteo's shows that the Spaniard has steadied the ship

The interim tag also conveyed to the fans that their beloved Champions League winning manager, Di Matteo was relieved from his duties when the club didn’t even have a permanent replacement on hand. It also suggested that the club had practically given up on the current season and chose instead to start afresh once the new one comes around.

This isn’t Rafa’s first rant of course; who can forget his famous tirade against Sir Alex Ferguson a few years ago when Manchester United were chasing down Benitez’s Liverpool in the league? Things didn’t pan out too well for the Spaniard on that occasion with United eventually winning the title but his latest outburst has a lot more substance to it and can’t be discarded as some sort of pedantic cry for help.

Fans need to focus on supporting the team

Whether or not Benitez cares about Chelsea in the long-term or is irrelevant. Whether or not he is the right man for the job is also irrelevant. Any success he achieves with the Blues this season will only enhance his CV and reputation, attracting better offers for him in the summer.

Keeping that in mind, he will want to finish in the top three in the league, win the FA Cup and go as far as he possibly can in the Europa League. Incidentally, that’s exactly what Chelsea want from the rest of their season as well. So correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't it just make sense to let him go ahead and try to achieve that? Because, chant or no chant, Chelsea are stuck with him for the time being, so they might as well try and get the best out of him.


Was Benitez's comments justified? Leave your comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.

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