Some eyebrows were raised when Rafa Benitez named a fairly weak starting eleven to face Southampton on Saturday, and Chelsea played about as well as most of us expected with that group on the pitch. Southampton absolutely dominated Chelsea for the vast majority of the first half, and probably should have been 2-3 goals ahead at the break. Chelsea can certainly feel a bit fortunate that they were only a goal down at the break, leaving them a realistic chance of leaving with a win.
Despite the fact that Chelsea were played off the pitch in the first half, no changes came at the break. After an uninspiring 15 minutes, Rafa made his first change. Eden Hazard came on for Marko Marin, correcting one of the glaring errors in the selection made at the start of the game. Chelsea were a bit unlucky on 67 minutes, when Victor Moses was denied a pretty clear penalty.
Several minutes of insipid play later, the idiot making decisions decided to install Ramires and Yossi Benayoun as Chelsea went in search of a leveling goal. To nobody's surprise, that goal never came. Chelsea lost, Arsenal won, Surs won, and City won. A chance to keep a comfortable cushion in the race for Champions League football turned into yet another massive disappointment in what's quickly becoming the most disappointing season that I can remember. Here are a few angry thoughts as I dream about Rafa (deservingly) getting the sack:
- I understand the need for rotation, and I appreciate that Benitez wants to be proactive in his rotation. That said, READ THE [FUN]ING MEMO RAFA! A top four finish is priority number 1, and it's not really very close. After that, feel free to pick one of the cups to focus on. At no point is it acceptable to run a lineup like this out in a Premier League game in order to rest players for a pair of less important cup ties coming up. [Fun] your resume and [fun] going for trophies...do what's right for the long term health of the club that was stupid enough to hire you in the first place. What's right for Chelsea is qualifying for the biggest club competition on the planet and ensuring we have the funds that it brings. Period.
- As bad as Rafa's team selection was, his substitutions were equally disappointing. Eden Hazard for Marko Marin made sense, but waiting until 60 minutes had been played to pull the trigger was moronic. Ramires for Mikel might have been ok, but there were much more (potentially) impactful moves that could have been made.. The Yossi Benayoun for Oscar move was just mind-bogglingly stupid.
- John Terry's headed goal was very well taken. That said, it was possibly the worst set piece defending I've seen in the Premier League this season.
- Ricky Lambert's free kick goal moments later was sensational. There's really nothing anybody could have done to prevent that, when a ball is struck that well from that spot it's going to end up in the back of the net. Very nicely done.
- Will anybody be surprised if we need more than one hand to count the changes made for Monday? I certainly hope so, because this particular starting eleven looked like they'd be outplayed at the pee-wee level.
- I honestly won't be disappointed if we get our asses handed to us on Monday and Thursday, as it will force Rafa to get his [fun]ing priorities straight. Just tossing him on the street and replacing him with someone that gets it is probably still a better option, but for whatever reason, it just doesn't seem to be happening.