Whether or not the backlash of the fans has played its part in Rafa Benitez's tumultuous reign at Chelsea, at some point he is going to have to accept his portion of the blame in the ever-increasingly ugly charade at Stamford Bridge.
He was fully aware of the title interim manager when he accepted the post and the vitriol from the supporters came almost instantly. But Instead of acknowledging the fans ire, Benitez insisted that results would turn the tide.
He has currently overseen the second worst performance of any manager in the Abramovich era and the standard of performance, and the results, have dipped well below the level prior to him taking over.
Benitez points to his admittedly impressive trophy haul, but the phrase 'past glories' more than springs to mind, and he conveniantly neglects to mention or respect the trophy haul of the club he has recently taken control of.
There are many Chelsea fans who would have forgiven the incidental remarks made in a former guise if he had approached his tough task with an ounce of humility and then proceeded to do a good job.
He has failed on all counts and this has to be acknowledged.
Before his post-FA cup tie outburst, Rafa Benitez would have had you believe that all is currently well at Chelsea. He claimed to have improved the team since he controversially took the reins three months ago, the club was on course to better last year’s sixth place and perhaps, most tellingly of all, the forlorn figure that is Fernando Torres has found the shooting boots he donned during the halcyon days of 2008.
Except of course, for anyone not living on Planet Benitez, this is plainly not true.
The facts, which as we know Mr Benitez is so fond of, tell a very different tale indeed. Granted, with Chelsea there is a very strong argument to suggest that this farcical situation is entirely self-imposed.
The decision to sack Di Matteo is just the latest in a series of lousy moves on the part of Roman Abramovich. And the less said about everything else, from the dismissal of Ray Wilkins through to the Mark Clattenburg affair, the better.
When Benitez assumed control of the club, Chelsea were four points off league leaders Man Utd and challenging for five trophies. Prior to the clubs recent narrow victory against Sparta Prague, the beleaguered manager said:
“We are still improving a lot of things but you also have to win games. As soon as you lose or draw, everything changes.
"But the team is working very hard, the staff are working very hard, and I think we're going in the right direction."
Unfortunately for Benitez, and with delicious irony, after just 13 wins in 26 matches, capitulation in the Capital One and World Club Cup, a shocking home defeat against rivals QPR, not to mention a players revolt and a now uphill battle to finish in the top four, the facts tell a different story.
Whatever your stance, the powers-that-be at Chelsea need to start taking responsibility for their part in what is going on, but so too must Benitez. There are a large portion of Chelsea fans that dislike him simply because he is doing a very bad job.
There is absolutely no doubt that Mr Abramovich and his odious cronies Bruce Buck, Ron Gourlay and Michael Emanalo must accept a huge share of the blame. But to suggest Benitez is just an innocent bystander, caught up in a mess that preceded him is only half the story.
Remember, he chose this job and plainly thought, with Chelsea currently champions of Europe, fighting for five trophies and having a newly re-enforced squad, that he could come out of this ill-fated experiment with a few medals and a restored reputation.
Granted, the almost toxic atmosphere during games as a result of this decision can only have had a negative impact on the team, but when it comes to the simple job in hand, Benitez is failing miserably, and contrary to his attempted Jedi-mind-tricks in the media, is doing so because of his own woeful decision making.
If that is not his fault, it is difficult to see who’s it is. For a start, a simple apology for the disparaging comments he made as Liverpool boss and a promise to give his all for his new side, and their supporters, would have gotten him over the first tricky hurdle.
Instead he grinned through the abuse with almost admirable ignorance and assured the fans that they would be swayed by positive results. Judge him only on results, he asked.
Unfortunately for the Spaniard, the results, along with his managerial decisions have been awful. His bewildering squad rotation system has left the team with a visible lack of cohesion and consistency, yet the one player he has picked unreservedly is having the most negative effect on the team.
Namely Fernando Torres.
Persisting with a lone striker that doesn’t score goals and then continually defending him in the press is both misleading for the player and sends the wrong signals to those competing for the position.
Namely Demba Ba who has barely had a run of games since his £7m signing, despite an impressive start and Fernando Torres’s apparent lack of any footballing ability. Now you can’t blame Benitez for a striker’s poor form, but you can blame him, and only him, for continuing to pick that striker.
Let us not forget that one of Benitez’s chief tasks when he took over 3 months ago was to get the best out of his misfiring compatriot. Unfortunately for all involved, Torres seems to have, incredibly, got worse.
Benitez has tackled this issue by picking the Spaniard anyway, to the obvious detriment of the team and, worse still, insisted publically that he was pleased with how the £50m goalscorer was performing well and “working hard for the team”.
Really? Money well spent then.
The same goes for the staggering decision to continue to omit John Terry from a defence that has become synonymous with conceding goals. Say what you want about the ex-England captain but he is a good defender, which appears to be exactly what Chelsea need now.
Benitez’s solution? Restore David Luiz to a position that he has been continually exposed in, in the most important game of the season. That is not Mr Abramovich’s fault, that is bad management.
But perhaps most tellingly of all is the frightening lack of results that have arisen from his squad rotation. Just once since he took over at Stamford Bridge have Chelsea played the same starting line-up concurrently. This lack of consistency is mirrored in their will-they-won’t-they patchy form.
The pig-headedness with which the Spaniard continues to shuffle around the team on a hell-bent pursuit of ever present 100% fitness is clearly not working. Nor, it may be suggested, is continually addressing the fans in such a combative manner and accusing them of being jealous of his ‘success’, while refusing to take any responsibility for his actions.
Contrary to the Spaniard's achingly positive press conferences after such evidently awful results and displays, the facts speak for themselves.
If Rafa Benitez is to restore his reputation and take something positive from his ill-fated spell in SW6, it is time he took his own advice.
image: © EG Focus