Chelsea Remain Goalless Under Rafa Benitez
Replacing a beloved manager, and formerly calling out Roman Abramovich (Chelsea's owner) for using money to buy success, Benitez is in serious need for a victory to win over the Chelsea fans. His first match as manager was a tie with reigning Premier League champions, Manchester City, which is no sort of shameful result. His second match, however, came just three days later against Fulham, who sit at 11th place in the league table, and were not expected to cause any problems for Chelsea.
Benitez had fans scratching their heads right off the bat, with his decision to bench midfielder Juan Mata - arguably Chelsea's best player thus far in the season - in favor of natural left back Ryan Bertrand. Benitez also started Oriol Romeu - who played in only two PL games under Di Matteo - over John Obi Mikel, who had been a frequent player during Di Matteo's tenure. Finally, Benitez slid right back Branislav Ivanovic into the center, and benched center back Gary Cahill.
Chelsea struggled mightily to get anything going offensively through the first hour of play, until Mata made an appearance in the 63rd minute. Mata immediately provided an offensive spark that had Chelsea moving the ball well and creating opportunities to score, making Benitez look like a fool for holding him on the bench for so long.
Then we have Gary Cahill, a center back who is always a threat to score when he is able to get into the box for set pieces. Chelsea took 10 corner kicks - Cahill's bread and butter - and came away with no goals.
Benitez also subbed in Marco Marin - who had yet to play a second of PL action in his career - in the 82nd minute, over a player such as Victor Moses, who has given Chelsea immediate offense in the past.
The disappointing game finished at 0-0, and drops Chelsea seven points back of Manchester United for the Premier League lead.
Chelsea have now failed to get a victory in their past six PL contests, and are in dire need of a win if they want to stay relevant in the Premier League title race. They'll have every chance to get hot starting on Saturday, when they'll start a ten game run against far inferior teams, beginning with West Ham United.
The Rafa Benitez era has surely gotten off to a sore start, but the new manager still has a wonderful opportunity to get things turned around. Another scoreless game this Saturday against West Ham, however, just may have the Chelsea faithful calling for Rafa's head.