Why the 12th man is behind Chelsea’s poor home form

Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez has called for the team to end their poor run of results at Stamford Bridge ahead of their clash with Arsenal this Sunday.

The Blues boss insisted in his press conference,

“We cannot be happy drawing at home. The next game has to be totally different.”

The Blues have claimed just one win at home in the Premier League since Benitez took over the reigns from Roberto Di Matteo back in late November.

That win came against Aston Villa in the Blues’ 8-0 thrashing but they’ve drawn three home games and lost one to the Premier League basement team Queen’s Park Rangers.

I’m going to go out on limb and assert my belief that it has to come down to the manager’s relationship with the fans. Roberto Di Matteo was a Chelsea legend and fans’ favourite at the Bridge, even before he won the Champion’s League and the FA Cup with the club last season.

In stark contrast, Benitez is very unpopular and has received one of the coldest receptions I’ve ever seen upon his first game in charge against Manchester City – for weeks after his appointment fans continued to voice their dissatisfaction with the new manager’s takeover and would cheer, clap and jeer on the 16th minute of every game in a reference to Di Matteo’s squad number back when he was Chelsea player.

I’m no expert in metaphysics but I’m certain that the energy created by 41,000 people must have an effect on the manager, the team, and, consequently, the performance. There is a reason why a home crowd is often referred to as the ‘twelfth man’ – it’s because of the lift it gives to the players on the pitch when fans back their team.

I have no doubt that the Chelsea fans back their team – that is not in question – however, it’s still apparent they have little faith, belief, and, more important, desire to back Rafael Benitez. They just don’t like him and they didn’t want him.

That permeates around the ground and, almost by osmosis, infiltrates the team. It has a ripple effect that seeps in as a lack of desire, a lack of faith and belief, and that can become a self-fulfilling prophesy in a way.

If 40-odd thousand people around him don’t believe Rafael Benitez can succeed at Chelsea, how are the players expected to? If Chelsea want to improve their team’s home form, they need to believe in Rafael Benitez – whether they like him or not.

image: © Ben Sutherland

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