I was invited to the Chelsea vs Swansea game last night and, as a neutral, I wasn’t sure of what to expect, but it’s fair to say I wasn’t prepared for the events that unfolded. My pre-game thinking was that a home leg in the semi-final of the League cup should have been bread and butter stuff for Chelsea. To say the game didn’t go to plan is an understatement.
This morning you will have seen the fallout from this result spread over newspaper headlines, Facebook timelines, Twitter feeds and endless callers to radio talk shows. In the main, the focus of the conversation has been berating Rafa Benitez and the performance of Fernando Torres. Listening to the conversation you would think this was the end of Chelsea’s season…
From a neutral perspective, because of the negativity that surrounds the team, it feels like it could be.
Believe me, it wasn’t doom and gloom all night for Chelsea, things started well; Chelsea fielded a strong side consisting of 14-goal top scorer Fernando Torres, backed up by the trio of Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata. David Luiz started and starred as a defensive midfielder and Chelsea played a strong backline minus John Terry. On paper things looked good and during the early exchanges of the game it was David Luiz dominating midfield and Chelsea creating chances upfront. Things seemed to be going well for the home side, but with 16 minutes played, as it’s become usual at Chelsea, the home fans waded in to the match.
The minute’s applause and chanting for Roberto Di Matteo is as touching, romantic and sentimental as it is counter-productive. Unfortunately last night it was the catalyst of the negativity that would engulf the rest of the match.
Roberto Di Matteo is gone and consigned to Chelsea’s history books. Roman Abramovich, Bruce Buck, Rafa Benitez and the team know the fans’ feelings on this. They knew before they gave the job to Benitez and they didn’t care.
This ‘show of support’ is an awkward situation that I can only liken to breaking up with a psycho possessive girlfriend that won’t accept a relationship is over – you don’t want to hear from them, but instead you receive endless phone calls, gushy texts that turn to abuse, not to mention general irrational behaviour – but you just want to get on with it and move on.
Chelsea fans need to move on from Roberto Di Matteo for the good of their club.
It still baffles me that football fans think they can influence decision making at a football club. It baffles me even more that they don’t realise that their actions in the stands CAN influence what happens on the pitch and it is the latter that played out last night.
Chelsea fans were not 100% behind the team from the outset and it started to turn the atmosphere toxic, a vibe that built up in to a second half crescendo of discontent.
Fernando Torres’ performance paid testament to the fans’ actions in the stands.
As loud cries of ‘you’re f*cking sh*t’ and ‘you’re cr@p, get off the field’ rang out from the stands whenever Torres didn’t produce, you could see his confidence levels evaporate. Add the reoccurring calls for the introduction of Demba Ba and you can see why Torres’ performance ended up as it did, the fans slowly chipped away at him. He was simply reacting as any human being would and this is not a one-off incident, it has been happening a while.
All footballers thrive on confidence – the confidence to try things, to make passes, to score goals, to perform to the highest standard – and this is even more important for strikers. What we saw last night was a manager handing his talisman and top scorer a huge confidence boost by starting him in an important match ahead of the new striker in town and a crowd that disagreed with the decision and decided to let it be known. It felt as though the crowd were almost willing Fernando Torres to fail as another reason to hate Benitez.
In the second half things started to go against Chelsea on the pitch, but off the pitch, things had conspired against the team long before.
All fans need to realise that they need to back their team every game 110%. Let me make this clear, it is not just Chelsea fans, this is a growing trend in football, fans almost want their team to fail to prove a point and get their way. Clubs make business decisions, but fans make emotional ones – this is a wide gulf and unless fans start to understand this, then it could turn in to a big problem.
Shows of fan power against managers and boards have become more frequent in the Premier League over the past few seasons. Alex McLeish being bombarded with abuse from Aston Villa fans and Blackburn fans taking it too far with Steve Kean are prime examples of this. Where are those clubs now?
Last season, Chelsea’s league season capitulated as the fans turned on Andre Villas-Boas who was tasked with changing an establishment. We have seen it at Liverpool, title contenders to top four hopefuls; change takes time, it is the reality of modern football. Eras end, big players move on and nowadays you are only as good as your last season.
Chelsea fans feel harshly treated. They didn’t want to see Roberto Di Matteo go. They don’t want to see Frank Lampard go. They didn’t want Rafa Benitez to arrive. But this is reality. The sentiment and emotion that lives in fans has less of a place in the modern version of the beautiful game, a game that is now underpinned by business and balance sheets. History is dead, fans can no longer live on past glory, expectations should change real-time rather than be predefined, especially when change occurs. I hate to say it, but it is true.
Chelsea fans are in for the long haul with another management change on the cards this summer, legends are ready to leave, and a successful cycle is approaching its end. Before a new era begins, Chelsea fans should back their team and give them a platform to achieve as much as it is possible this season, because, after all, it is success that fans really want.
All football fans should be careful what they wish because the grass is not always greener.
What is your view on what is happening at Chelsea? Are you a disgruntled Chelsea fan? Has Claus got a point? Leave you comments below and join the debate. You can follow Football Rascal on Twitter and Facebook and get involved by telling us your views because it is you, the fan, that really matters.