“In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance,” Lime proclaimed at one point.
“In Switzerland they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
Abramovich runs a Borgia-style regime at Chelsea where for ‘warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed’ read turbulent relationships with managers that inevitably ends with their dismissal the moment they fail to produce the ‘Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance’ side of the equation — Premier League titles, Champions League success and assorted other trophies. The lengthy Swiss-style stability at Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, in contrast, hasn’t even brought home the Capital One Cup, English football’s equivalent of the cuckoo clock.
So how can Rafa Benitez prosper in such a world? The Spaniard at least survived his first post-match meeting with his employer without being handed a P45, which would certainly have pleased a sizeable section of the Stamford Bridge support who remain implacably unwilling to forgive Benitez for slurs on the club they insist were committed during a lengthy period of rivalry while in charge of Liverpool.
“He knows it was a tough game, a difficult time after the last games,” Benitez said after speaking with Abramovich, who sat impassively in the stands as usual. Benitez knows he has already staked a sizeable chunk of his reputation on the form of Fernando Torres, the forward who prospered under him at Anfield before failing to come even close to justifying the £50m (€62m) Abramovich paid for him in January 2011.
Against City, the Spanish forward worked hard but only rarely threatened, with a shot that cleared Joe Hart’s crossbar the closest he came.
“You could see he was trying very hard,” Benitez said. “He had a good chance but I think the team has to help Fernando and create more chances, and he will score goals. You cannot expect a striker scoring just on his own, so we have to create more and better chances for him with the players we have.”
Chelsea’s next batch of fixtures have ‘winnable’ written all over them with Fulham, West Ham, Sunderland, Aston Villa and Norwich their imminent opponents yet it is difficult to see them overtaking City or Manchester United.
The champions were the better side but uncharacteristically lacked punch in front of goal.
“We were so poor in the last 20 metres,” said Roberto Mancini, the City manager. “When we have a chance, we need to score. I like everything from my team, but not the last 20 metres.
“We missed the last pass. You have to be strong with that in the box. If you are soft, you won’t score. That’s why I was upset.”