So Roman did what Roman does. Scolari, Ancelotti and Villas-Boas all experienced dips as the cold of winter started to set in and all eventually paid with their jobs. In the case of Di Matteo, Roman decided to change the manager whilst the autum/winter slump was in its infancy. I’m guessing he did this with the hope Benitez can turn things around as previous slumps at this time in the season have casued irreparable damage to the league campaign.
He has sacked Di Matteo, a legend at the club for his playing days and for being the manager who finally delivered the Champions League. Ironic Abromovich should turn to the scourge of Chelsea for so many years, Rafa Benitez. Under Rafa Liverpool eliminated Chelsea in two Champions League semi-finals, sandwiched between these two they stopped Chelsea winning the double by knocking them out of the Fa Cup, again at the semi-final stage. It was Liverpool, under Benitez who ended Chelsea’s run of 86 games unbeaten at home in the Premier League with a 1-0 win. Chelsea were on top of the league before that game in October 2008, but it was Liverpool who emerged as real title contenders according to England’s Premier League Betting and Scolari was sacked in February after defeats at Old Trafford and Anfield.
Di Matteo was not given until February. The Chelsea hero has been replaced with someone the Chelsea faithful regarded as something of a nemesis in his Liverpool days. One of the reasons for the this appointment has to be that it is something of a last role of the dice to get Torres scoring again. Quite frankly I don’t see Benitez being able to somehow magically transform Torres. Benitez facilitated Torres’s form at Liverpool, but much bigger forces were at work that meant Torres enjoyed the best spell of his career.
After leaving his boyhood club Athletico Madrid Torres spoke of the huge relief and how the move was good for everyone. This was not a story of a young man who would miss home and not hack it away from the safety of a stadium full of adoring fans. Torres was heaped with the pressure of being the saviour and face of Athletico from about 17. Whilst Athletico had to suffer the embarressment of trying to climb out of the Segunda División in the early 2000s their city rivals were enjoying a great period, winning League and European titles. One consolation in the hearts of all Athletico fans was, ‘we have Torres, a future star.’ He was captain by 19 and felt people in the dressing room were hiding behind him. He had the weight of a huge club on his shoulders and at the time, a miss similar to the one at Old Trafford last season (good run, going past the goalkeeper before missing) was seen as ‘typical Torres.’
Away from the pressures of Madrid and into a club whose fans had not had a prolific striker to adore since Owen, Torres scored 29 goals in his first season. He was in a dressing room with legends like Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard and Sami Hyypia. It wasn’t all about him and he was happy to just feed off Alonso and Gerrard and do his job. Torres was immersed in the Liverpool spirit, and at the end of his second season was playing for a club with a heavy Spanish influence, who were regulars in the latter stages of the Champions League and had just finished the season with 86 points coming second in the Premier League. He was completely happy with his surroundings.
Then things fell apart under Benitez and Torres became disillusioned. He was no longer the star of the Spanish national team as he had been at Euro 2008, in South Africa at the World Cup Torres was mostly a sub and was heading back to a club who were no longer in the Champions League. Torres was desperate to stop his career sliding so moved to champions Chelsea.
Moving to Chelsea may have brought the medals Torres was seeking, just not how he wanted them. Drogba was still the main man at the bridge and they were never able to strike up a partnership. It just feels like he has never really got to touch with the identity of Chelsea. Torres valued the history of Liverpool and the soul of Anfield. Chelsea is a club where managers are churned out every few months and players like Terry and Ashley Cole bounce from one PR disaster to the next. Torres isn’t a mercenary, he wants a bond with the fans and with the club he is at like he has had before. I don’t think Benitez can fix this. He may help Torres somewhat but I don’t see a return to the form where he was one of the best strikers in the world, too much water, or managers and the soullessness of Abramovich Chelsea has run under the bridge at Stamford.