Benitez is staying, but is Champions League qualification safe?
Ron Gourlay is heavily featured in the press at the moment, speaking from Bangkok after announcing Chelsea‘s summer tour to the Far East. During his interview, he has given reason to debate on one or two things, and it’s interesting to hear what he has said. From Frank Lampard to next summer, I would like to start on what he has said about Rafa Benitez.
“Achieving one of the Champions League qualification slots is very important to this football club. Our whole philosophy is based on success on the football field and we have been doing everything in our power to ensure one of these slots. We want to be pitting ourselves against the top clubs in Europe next season.
“We said from day one that Rafa was coming in as interim manager till the end of the season. It is important that we remain focused on the job in hand, which is qualifying for the Champions League, and then at the end of the season we will sit down, have a look at the situation and we will determine how we go forward.”
It is pretty much to the point, and puts a temporary end to the situation regarding Benitez’s immediate future at the club, in my opinion. Although blatantly obvious, the club has decided to ignore the supporters’ protests and to continue with the interim manager.
Now, we may not agree with the ongoing decision, but it seems that nothing is going to change any time soon, so we have to get on with it.
For Benitez himself, he has got away with what he said after Boro a week ago, and if anything, has now been given public backing. It’s a surprise that he is still here, but we have no choice now but to get on with it.
As for the message from Gourlay to Benitez, it reaffirms the clubs priority as a top four finish this season. To me, Gourlay has indicated that the FA Cup and Europa League would be a welcome bonus, but all our eggs are in one basket and that’s the Premier League.
So what does that mean for the next two games against Steaua and Manchester United? Will we see a different approach from Benitez now, because it’s obvious that the only target he personally has is the top four?
I still think Benitez is a massive, massive gamble at this club. We sit five points above the Arsenal in fourth, and look comfortable for the time being, but it’s not enough in my book. We should have never lost the points we have under Rafa and are still in danger of losing even more in my eyes.
It will be all well and good if Benitez delivers fourth place or higher, and the club will see his “interim” appointment as a successful one. But, what happens if we miss out on the top four this season under him?
Would the club hold their hands up and admit they made mistakes this season?
I doubt it.