After the frenzied media build-up to last weekend’s game, when the press pack circled the Bridge smelling blood, Rafa-geddon didn’t quite materialise for the headline writers. Hoping that an in-form West Brom would snatch a win, the manager’s head would roll, and the home fans riot in protest they instead witnessed Chelsea ease to a comfortable win with the fans behind the team. A real disappointment then for the gathered hacks and two penny-worth commentators.
Benitez’s measured midweek interview , with an ultimately ill thought-out pop at his Chelsea fan club, was a strange way to put on a united front. However he did make clear he was leaving (start planning the parties now) and that fans should support the team rather than ‘waste time’ aiming grief his way. Some of the sentiment and idea of these comments made perfect sense but, in typical fashion of the short-lived Benitez reign, it was somewhat bundled in the delivery. A bit like taking the opportunity to add lots of trophies to your CV only to contrive to cock it up and then blame the people who pay your wages.
Although a truce of sorts seems to have broken out on the terraces Benitez unfortunately is the manager, his appointment was never welcomed by fans, who’s views weren’t considered, and he is the only person we can aim our grievances at. He’s the focal point for our frustrations. Meanwhile one of the key people behind this decision takes none of the fans ire and gets very little of the blame.
For those that don’t know Michael Emenalo is Technical Director at Chelsea and has responsibility for the programmes in our Academies, scouting for new players and supporting the first team strategy. He is the man who is the link between the first team coach and the owner, as such his advice and influence at the club is pretty significant. Alongside the board Emenalo was key in advising Abramovich on this season’s progress and appointing a coach without listening to the fans’ heated opinions on the matter – at best it was an ill conceived and short-sighted decision. You may remember Avram Grant’s role as Technical Director proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back during Mourinho’s time and the role is rumoured to be a stumbling block to the special one’s unlikely return now. Is it little wonder then that Emenalo doesn’t want to listen to the fans views?
Emenalo oversees the excellent youth set up at Chelsea. Cobham has state of the art facilities, world class coaching and a strong scouting network to develop some of the best young talent in the game. A key role for Emenalo is to integrate the top products of our youth system into the first team squad. Well so far, so little on that front. I think it’s time to question the thinking behind some of Emenalo’s decisions. Romelu Lukaku is the obvious example, having excelled at West Brom this season as Torres’ still toils, we signed Demba Ba rather than recall the loanee. With the busiest fixture schedule in the history of the club likely this season, it was decided to loan out youngsters such as De Bruyne, Piazon and McEachran, as well as Essien and Benayoun, when their contributions might have proved vital for us at various stages of the campaign. Of course the youngsters should eventually come back as better players but might it not also have been a breakthrough season for these young pros if they’d been given the opportunity? Benitez has mentioned a lack of squad depth when injuries hit and it appears his hands were tied on recalling some of the talent out on loan. Where some of the youngsters fit into the squad next season will be the new manger’s and technical director’s decision – we have to expect a lot better from Emenalo’s loanee programme as what’s been delivered to the first team during the current campaign.
Some of the decisions from the technical director have been quite baffling at times and yet Emenalo has only been promoted as other more prominent and better qualified coaches have been sacked. Are these decisions beyond reproach and does he wield too much influence in the backroom set up? It seems we’ll never know. Whoever the new first team coach is who comes in this summer they’ll do well to look at this set up and have a think if it’s as successful as it could be.
Here’s a strangely impressive team of players currently out on loan from Chelsea and doing the business for other clubs that aren’t ours:
Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid)
Sam Hutchinson (Nottingham Forest) – Tomas Kalas (Vitesse Arnhem) – Kenneth Omeruo (Den Haag) – Patrick van Aanholt (Vitesse Arnhem)
Nathaniel Chalobah (Watford) – Michael Essien (Real Madrid) – Josh McEachran (Middlesbrough)
Kevin De Bruyne (Werder Bremen) – Romelu Lukaku (West Bromwich Albion) – Lucas Piazon (Malaga)
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