Many Chelsea fans on Twitter were shocked by the XI we started with against United. Some complained about the double pivot, but the majority of the concern was with the absence of Eden Hazard and John Terry. John Terry is our Captain, our Leader and our Legend and seeing him on the bench over and over again is a bit worrying for us and him. Eden Hazard is our big summer signing who’s been crucial in many matches and is rated as one of the best players in the world at his age. However, I believe the Board have instructed Rafael Benitez to carefully select his lineup and to focus on a top 4 finish more than anything.
I think the Board has ranked it like so :
- League – top 4 finish
- FA Cup
- Europa League
This was all clearly evident in the lineups this past week. I’ll show you how they looked.
West Bromwich Albion – League :
Azpilicueta Ivanovic David Luiz Cole
Mata Oscar Hazard
Steaua Bucharest – Europa League :
Ivanovic Luiz Terry Bertrand
Oscar Hazard Benayoun
Manchester United – FA Cup :
Azpilicueta David Luiz Cahill Cole
Oscar Mata Moses
The XI that started against West Brom is the strongest lineup, XI v United is 2nd and lastly, XI v Steaua. We’ve seemed to prioritize our season just like under Di Matteo when he was an interim. We focused on the cup competitions over the League and we succeeded. We won the FA Cup and Champions League and completely wasted the last 2 months in the league. That’s the priorities from last season and this season it’s the reverse. The League is now more important than the cup competitions. Our XI against Steaua was one of the weakest I’ve seen in years and the lineup used against Manchester City, Arsenal, WBA and the latest league matches have all been some of the strongest available. Even in the FA Cup, we fielded relatively weak squads and against Middlesbrough, we played the youngster Ake. I doubt Rafael Benitez would ever do that in the League (bar final day depending on importance).
For me, the League and a top 4 finish is the top priority no questions asked. The FA Cup will give us Europa League football and so will the Europa League itself considering we win one or the other, but a top 4 finish would give us Champions League football and given our experiences with the Europa League compared to the Champions League, I think the choice is obvious. A top 4 finish must be achieved or else we’ll settle with a different manager than what we’d get if we finished in the top 4. Roman Abrahmovich and the Board are reported to have made 2 lists – managers that would come if we get CL and managers that would come if we don’t. The latter had the names of Zola, Poyet, etc. while the first list had Mourinho, Pelligrini, Conte, Klopp, Capello, etc. The name difference is evident and it just shows what Chelsea could become. A top 4 finish is needed and has to be achieved or else, we face a tough next few seasons.