Is the anger of Chelsea fans distracting from Benitez' underperformance?

Benitez Tour 2

Benitez's record at Chelsea has been poor, but the focus has mostly been on the toxic atmosphere at the club die to the fan's dislike of their manager. Has this distracted from tactical failings on the Spaniard's part?

However he performed at Chelsea, there was very little chance of Rafa Benitez ever being embraced by the fans at the club. The reaction of the crowd during the matches at Stamford Bridge during his tenure has perhaps been more angry than anyone could have expected, but most could have predicted that the Chelsea fans would not take the Spaniard into their hearts, especially as the man he replaced was a club legend who had brought them the Champions League mere months beforehand.

However Chelsea fans might regret their actions now, as they might just have given a screen for Benitez to underperform in charge of the side. Chelsea's results under the Spanish manager have not been good; they have failed in both the League Cup and the Club World Cup, been close to ignominious exits in the FA Cup and Europa League, and slipped into fourth in the Premier League.

Many reasons have been given for this, with tiredness after an intense fixture list often cited, but there is also a belief that the atmosphere in their home games in particular has made it hard for the team to perform. Benitez himself highlighted this by suggesting the fans support the team whatever their thoughts of him.

However whatever the mitigating factors, the fact is that Benitez should be doing better, and he has consistently frustrated the Chelsea fans with mistakes in his tactics. His substitutions are one are that have continually mystified many observers, with Benitez often delaying seemingly obvious changes until it's too late in the match to make a difference, or replacing players like Frank Lampard and Eden Hazard when trying to get back into matches. His starting selections have also been criticised, with Oscar, John Terry and Demba Ba sometimes unwisely left on the bench.

These are legitimate questions to be asked about his performance at the club, but they are swept away as the focus is instead on his relationship with the fans and whether he was ever given a fair chance.

Clearly the problems caused by the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge have had some impact on the team, but Benitez's own decisions have escaped some deserved criticism as a result.

image: © /choonming/

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