It's a well-known fact that as Chelsea manager, Rafael Benitez is not a popular man. His derogatory comments about the West London club while at former club Liverpool certainly haven't aided him in any shape or form in his time in charge, and neither have the results.
Chelsea's 2-2 draw with Southampton is a fair reflection of Benitez's time in charge so far; things are rosy when they are winning, but come crashing down when they can only muster a disappointing draw.
Yet it hardly seems fair that the man who took over from Roberto Di Matteo, who was brutally sacked by the club in November despite winning the Champions League in May 2012, is also the man to blame when the team throw away a two-goal lead against Southampton.
Regardless of who Roman Abramovich decides to put in charge, the club's fans should always look to support the team.
Perhaps Abramovich and his advisors should have considered who the fans wanted as their new manager when he appointed a coach only a minority of Chelsea fans would be happy to have at the club. Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink would be up there with the favored choices. The fans though, would've taken anyone over Benitez.
There was a sense of this consideration when the club axed Andre Villas-Boas. Abramovich was heavily criticised for not giving the young coach a chance, but with the fans disgruntled, the Russian looked to club legend Di Matteo to help save Chelsea's season as his 'interim' first team manager.
Di Matteo received full support from the fans, players and before they knew it, they were the European champions just three months after being appointed.
But sacking Di Matteo this season hurt the Chelsea faithful. The Italian was a fans' favorite, even despite their inevitable Champions League exit. And to employ a man who is disliked by the fans who pay to see their team play is, in my eyes, not a wise move.
Nevertheless, it's not a situation bad enough to condone fans booing their own team at home even before the game has started.
Because at the end of it all, who are they really protesting against when the boos ring around the stadium? Do they honestly believe that booing when the team run onto the pitch will make any difference to the fact that Rafa Benitez is the club's manager? Is it likely that Abramovich will listen to the calls to fire Benitez?
Probably not. But the reality of this perilous situation that Chelsea find themselves in is that they need to have the backing of the fans. It is absolutely crucial to have the fans' support when playing a game of football, and it's not just to do with money or attendances.
It's evident in football games that when the crowd rally the team to either grab that winning goal right at the death or grab a shock equaliser, the majority of the time it provides the inspiration required to make it happen. This is one of the reasons why playing at home is such an advantage; to have 1,500 fans at a stadium is good, but 40,000 fans? It makes a difference, believe me.
In the game against Southampton, Chelsea were 2-0 to the good and cruising thanks to goals from Demba Ba and Eden Hazard. After half time, the Blues searched for a third goal and all seemed well again, with no signs no booing.
Then Rickie Lambert came on for the visitors. The striker scored a magnificent header and all of a sudden, the home fans sensed that they could throw away their two-goal cushion. The chants of support disappeared, the fans started to become frustrated and the tension in the air was clear for everyone to see.
The Saints fans, however, believed their side could complete a superb comeback and cheered on their side, with emphatic chants towards star midfielder Gaston Ramirez a highlight, and they did equalise thanks to a wonder strike from Jason Puncheon.
Of course, it's the players who are paid large amounts of money to play and are therefore responsible for the results, as well as the manager. However, if the fans had supported the team right from start to finish, they would've had the belief to see the game out and would be coming away happy with three points. Instead, the moans and groans were instrumental in Chelsea's second-half destruction.
Contrast this with Saturday's 4-0 hammering of Stoke at the Britannia Stadium, where the fans were fantastic. For the whole 90 minutes they sung their hearts out. There may have been the odd protest against Benitez, but the idea was to come away with three points. And they did that. Even the Stoke fans, who were enduring a nightmare afternoon, opted to stick by Tony Pulis' side.
So what can we draw from this? Where does the solution lie?
Well, the criticism of Benitez may be justified, I'm not doubting that for a moment. But the facts speak for themselves: one league win in seven games at home, their worst run since 1995, only emphasizes the need for the fans' backing at Stamford Bridge.
The reality is that Chelsea are now six points behind Manchester City, and more importantly, 13 points adrift of leaders Manchester United. If they are to finish the season strongly and challenge for the Premier League title, Benitez and his troops will need the support from the fans.
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