Chelsea players are not fighting for Benitez and the fans have still not taken to him
00:10 GMT, 28 January 2013
02:24 GMT, 28 January 2013
After the rucks and rows with opposition managers over the years, Rafa Benitez developed the skin of a rhino.
As manager of Liverpool he called it on with Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson, engaging in hand-to-hand combat as they competed for the game’s highest honours.
At Chelsea, employed as the club’s interim coach until the end of the season, he faces a unique challenge.
Hard times: Rafa Benitez is struggling to get the Chelsea players to play for him
Tough crowd: The Chelsea fans make their feelings clear
Chelsea fans still haven’t taken to Benitez and he was getting on their goat again when they were in danger of being blown away by Brentford in the FA Cup.
There were only 1,800 Chelsea fans squeezed into the Brook Road Stand, but their message in the 79th minute came over loud and clear.
‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ was the chant as Benitez prepared to replace a right back with another right back.
Chelsea were 2-1 down when it turned hostile and the idea that Cesar Azpilicueta could provide the attacking thrust to bring Chelsea back into this game seemed improbable.
Benitez just brushes it off, insisting that he simply concentrates on the job in hand. ‘I don’t hear any of it, I am on the touchline, I am concentrating on trying to win the football match,’ is his standard response to the fans’ dissent.
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Benitez deserves more respect than this after a career dedicated to the art of management.
He may not be the perfect fit for Chelsea, but he remains, in the words of Brentford manager Uwe Rosler, ‘a world-class coach’.
Twice named UEFA manager of the year, a European Cup winner with Liverpool in Istanbul in 2005 and a FIFA Club World Cup winner, his list of achievements is pretty impressive.
Going ahead: Brentford's Marcello Trotta puts his side 1-0 up
Chelsea fans will never take to him, that much is clear, but he could do with a bit of a breather when it comes to this club. They began the season under Roberto Di Matteo in seven competitions and are fortunate to still be in two after this escape at Griffin Park.
Benitez appeared to have it cracked when they steamrollered Aston Villa 8-0 in a Premier League fixture at Stamford Bridge.
Since then they have spluttered through games, beaten easily over two legs by Swansea in the Capital One Cup semi-final and somehow surviving yesterday’s fourth-round tie.
This is a team in transition. Ross Turnbull, in goal yesterday, is an accident waiting to happen and his clumsy performance against Rosler’s team, only his 18th appearance for Chelsea, should probably be his last.
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The rest lack motivation, uncertain of their goals after landing the European Cup against Bayern Munich last season. A great side would be using the aura of that famous win to gobble up trophies.
Instead the only silverware left is the FA Cup — if they can get past Brentford in the replay on the weekend of February 16-17 at Stamford Bridge — and the Europa League will be on if they beat Sparta Prague. It seems beyond them, particularly if the body language of the players in recent weeks is anything to go by.
They don’t fancy it any more and the legendary fight to the finish, along with their match-winning mentality, is a thing of the past.
Benitez is battling on, but the lack of application will be getting right under his skin.