Dear Roman (I assume you are OK with the informal approach),
As a long-standing devotee of Chelsea Football Club for some 42 years now I feel that it is time that we had a feedback session with regard your tenure of our club.
When you first rolled into town in 2003 you were welcomed with open arms. As a club and a set of fans we had endured years of being under the occasionally friendly, but often rather embarrassing Ken Bates. Now Ken did have some rough edges but he was also fiercely loyal to the club and despite being a PR disaster as fans we were never left in doubt as to what Ken thought. Being a kindly soul he would tell us at every home game with his own section in the programme – whether we wanted him to or not. Having said that most of us fans would take any form of communication no matter how poor over none at all. Which is sadly where we find ourselves today.
Let’s talk about yesterday first though, Roman. Now of course we know that you have kindly spent a lot of money on the club, trying to placate us bipolar fans whilst concurrently keeping us excited and inspired, but I fear you have just made a few too many errors now and that it may be time to step back, or aside. The new interim coach was a highly unpopular decision given his rather fractured relationship with our fans. But it is now obvious why you fired an ostensibly nice and potentially bright young coach in Robbie Di Matteo as he dared to override your edict that Fernando Torres will play every game and must be fixed no matter what. There was nothing wrong with the team fielded yesterday, crammed as it is with exciting players, but for the sullen, forlorn figure of £50m ‘striker’ Fernando Torres.
Yes, we started the game brightly and for much of the first half we dominated both possession and chances. Blimey, I thought at one point that Mr Benitez might be finally starting to show his worth and that far from just shoring up the defence, we might just be getting back to the team that sat top of the Premier League for 12 weeks. But no, because as usual we are simply not ruthless enough with our chances. And especially those created for your investment Mr Torres. We have a truly sparkling squad of exciting players and for the first half there was some champagne stuff being played. But time after time the bubbly would go flat as the halitosis affect of the non functioning investment wafted over it. The problem is that this is now affecting a lot of other investments as well. At half time every fan must have feared a one goal lead would not be enough. And once again our fears were proved correct.
Now unlike many I am not a person who dislikes Mr Benitez and was willing to give him a fair go at things despite knowing he has a penchant for negative football. I was mildly encouraged by a 0-0 draw against Manchester City, the reigning champions. But our display versus Fulham was dismal. And that’s me being polite. And Mr Benitez didn’t seem to have a clue how to change that game. Leaving the Hollywood investment on the pitch was not the answer and 42,000 others knew that.
And the same yesterday. West Ham came out having had a very visible rocket placed somewhere quite sensitive by Sam Allardyce. He’d taken the bull by the horns and made changes. A gamble that worked. But as we’ve become accustomed to our fragility it was obvious that we had no plan B to counter the Hammers and unlike us they didn’t turn their noses up when presented with chances. I had hoped your own gamble with Mr Benitez might pay off but it seems your new man is just that. Just another man taking the Chelsea dollar and carrying out your orders to the word. And that order is ‘play Fernando Torres’ no matter what. During a game where, let’s be frank, he stunk the house out, much like every other game in the past few weeks, he was left on the pitch basically not bothering anyone or even interfering with play. Replacing arguably our two most creative and dangerous players (Moses and Hazard) with almost identical like for likes in Oscar and Marin was not the answer we were seeking. As we now know it was all too little too late. The European Champions humbled by newly promoted West Ham. Hardly the stuff to get chests puffing with pride about. And that’s all that’s worth saying about yesterday. Despite our array of talent we look gutless, dispirited, rudderless, leaderless and most of all insipid. I will steal a catchphrase from an ex-employee and favourite son of Chelsea…
Something is broken with our club.
My dear Roman, it is my firm belief that you are the architect of everything at the club. Good stuff has happened because of you. League titles, FA Cups, the Champions League etc. But all the bad stuff is also down to you. The instability created by you in the running of the team has made us into a laughing stock the equal of anything that Uncle Ken managed. Your irrational inability to see that Mr Torres is a broken gadget that cannot be repaired is not even worthy of parody here. If Mr Torres is the question then hand on heart I’m not sure Mr Benitez is the long term answer. Your despotic nature is eating at the very soul of the club. Our PR is possibly the worst in the league despite you never speaking publicly. Which means your board are not doing their job properly. Or you’re not. It’s not just money that sits at the centre of football. It’s about so much more. Our situation is currently so embarrassing that even the latest target of your desire seems unwilling to sacrifice his sanity on the cross of your financial generosity. And even if Mr Guardiola did change tack then how long would he last? Six months, a whole year? Basically any figure would be speculative and probably meaningless.
There is one possible way out of this although I’m not sure it’s going to be very palatable but it would almost certainly bring stability to the team and success in the league. It would mean rehiring Mr Jose Mourinho. This would be unpalatable because my guess and that of so many others is that you know sacking him was a huge mistake. One you can’t blame on anyone else. One you can’t hide from.
But is that as bad as the other solution? Which would be to sell the club on to someone else. For some of the bipolar masses this suggestion is heresy, but for me I think it’s worth looking into. A global brand, sheltered in a well-to-do area of South West London will always be an attractive proposition. I’m not demanding you jump. I’m merely asking you to consider passing your toy onto someone else willing to drive and lead the club onto greater success. Someone to guarantee our future who preserves the soul of our great club.
I hope this letter finds you well, and that the comments here are taken in the constructive manner they are meant. We’re all very grateful for all you have given us but now is the time for you to step back and employ a CEO who knows football (that nice Mr Kenyon is free I believe), allow him or her to run the club independently, and then offer that nice Mr Hiddink to oversee the club’s footballing strategy. I’m sure Mr Emenalo would accept reporting to Mr Hiddink. Then when Mr Mourinho is back on a five-year contract we can all concentrate on rubbing the other teams’ noses into the ground.
The Observer, Dominic Fifield: “Chelsea’s retreat into the chasing pack continues apace. Rafael Benítez’s side surrendered a grip on this derby and contrived to end up overwhelmed, overrun and utterly embarrassed, with all the disillusion that has festered over recent weeks erupting again in a show of open revolt in the stands. All four sides of the arena united in a chorus of “You’re getting sacked in the morning” spat at the Spaniard, though that represented one of the kinder chants aimed his way by the disgruntled visiting support. At present, it is hard to see this marriage of convenience working out and Benítez admitted as much.”
The Sunday Telegraph, Jason Burt: “For all of his tactical acumen, his impressive CV, the wholly understandable reasons why he took the post, albeit on a temporary basis following the irrational sacking of Roberto Di Matteo, Benítez is in danger of drowning here in a sea of bile and invective.”
The Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “It gets worse. After successive goalless draws, Rafa Benitez concluded his third game at Chelsea with the club’s first defeat in London’s East End since 2002. Not only that but the new manager was outwitted by his old adversary Sam Allardyce, whose two substitutions at the interval changed the game after West Ham had gone in one-nil down.”
The Official Chelsea FC Website: “The Blues slipped to defeat at Upton Park, throwing away a 1-0 half-time lead with a poor second-half display.”