Before our last game with Chelsea, the 0-0 draw away at Stamford Bridge, we spoke to Ramon Isaac about the appointment of Rafa Benitez, who had replaced Roberto Di Matteo just days before the game. We thought it would be nice to see how things had progressed, and get his thoughts on Sunday’s game.
Last time we spoke, Benitez had just been appointed and you were less than pleased. A few months on, how’s it panned out?
There really hasn’t been much to change my mind. We’ve been vilified as fans for not getting behind the manager and just accepting the situation but the animosity lies deep beyond just the alleged comments of “plastic fans”. He’s had one of the worst win percentages of Chelsea managers in the Abramovich Era and has ‘led’ a team who were a mere 4 points adrift to 16 points behind United. His comments since taken over haven’t helped much either, whether he’s just naive or actually believes the only reason we still want him out is because of his so-called success at Liverpool just irks me, every time. Don’t get me started on that rotation policy either…
It’s seems almost self-defeating having him in charge. How do you see the managerial situation changing?
It’s a difficult one to guess what might happen next in terms of the managerial situation. Abramovich has tended to be quite unpredictable in his hirings, he’s taken international managers, experienced veterans and at the same time has hired those wanting to make a name for themselves. A return for Jose Mourinho or the even more unlikely Guus Hiddink could see instant success; they’re both notorious for their immediate impact but both are somewhat like a mercenary (not a slight on them). I think Abramovich himself is growing tired of all the changes so I think the next appointment could be in it for the long-haul, although I wouldn’t put money on it.
There’s nervousness around the Bridge it seems. What’s the atmosphere been like at the home games you’ve attended?
It’s a shame that I haven’t been able to go to many games recently barring the win against Wigan and the away game at Reading. It’s strange when you hear talks about a poisonous atmosphere at home but it was definitely more intense away. Whilst some may argue the results of the two games are the explanation, the abuse was in full force whilst we were still 2-0 up at Reading, needless to say it got ugly after. As for the home game, it just seems slightly more subdued and it is no surprise, the fans are tired with respect to transparency on the running of the club and it has had an impact on the atmosphere.
Wax lyrical about Oscar. He looks super talented; bags of potential there
I could write the “Great American Novel” on Oscar. At 21 he’s head and shoulders above anyone else in Brazil as their #10 and has been the instrumental figure for them whenever I’ve seen them play. His performances domestically here haven’t quite replicated his international form but that is in part down to Benitez’s mismanagement of him tactically as he’s tended to waste him on the wings. Yet, if you want to see this boy play all you need to do is look at his European record – always the competition used to judge someone’s brilliance – Oscar now has 6 goals in 7 European games (5 of those in the Champions League). He has this ease on the ball well beyond his years, there is something Kaka-esque when you see him glide past players and the awareness of what is around him that sets apart the truly great players, he isn’t afraid to be innovative either and he tends to pull it off more often than not. His eye for a pass is special and whilst he isn’t the most imposing figure ever to grace the pitch he doesn’t shy away from getting stuck in and fulfil his defensive duties. I maintain that he could be the greatest player this club has ever seen and it’s fitting that he plays with the best in Frank Lampard.
Juan Mata has been brilliant. He’s vital for you, isn’t he?
Oscar could become the best player but he’ll have to surpass this genius. Juan Mata is arguably the best footballer in the premiership, he’s amassed an incredible 17 goals and 19 assists for Chelsea in all competitions this season which is remarkable. There are two players who when missing from the Chelsea line-up I feel deflated and they Cech and of course, Mata. It’s astonishing that he’s only been in the premiership for 18 months but he has set it well and truly alight. He, like Oscar has a wonderful knack of finding space in between the opposition lines and his reading of the game allows him to make the best decision every time. His versatility in being able to play in any of the three positions in behind the striker without compensating his performances means that he is invaluable. Excellent control, set piece specialist, there really isn’t much that Mata can’t do that you would expect from someone in his position and he does it as well as anyone.
Where do you think Chelsea will finish?
I think this weekend will be a huge determining point in our final position, win and the confidence is there to end the season well, lose and we will likely drop down the table. That being said I think 3rd is the most likely scenario come the end of the season. Inconsistency has plagued this team for the past 2 and a half years and a lack of squad depth means there is a huge burden on the likes of Mata, Hazard and Oscar to perform every time. Benitez’s rotation policy may not be the most effective approach and if he isn’t careful it could cost the club Champions League football for next season.
What’s the word for the summer? Who can we expect Chelsea to sign?
If you listen to the papers it varies from Cavani, Falcao, Neymar, Lewandowski… I’m surprised I haven’t been linked at this rate. However, in this case it would seem “There’s no smoke without fire” We are desperately in need of another striker and central midfielder, maybe even two if Frank Lampard isn’t re-signed. The rational choices would be the like of Etienne Capoue from Toulouse in midfield and any one of the four previously mentioned attackers. Slight preference for Edinson Cavani, he’s the complete striker and would thrive behind the creative brilliance at the club in similar fashion to Hamsik at Napoli. The more likely option seems Falcao and swoop for both him and Atletico manager Diego Simeone could be a possibility.
Would you have taken Drogba back?
No. Not because I don’t think he would’ve helped the club, he definitely would have. This is a man though who had a fairytale ending to his Chelsea career, he didn’t have the greatest time in the league that season but his dominance in the cups and inevitably his impact in finals was what Drogba became a legend for and that is the last memory I want to have of Drogba at the club.
What have you made of City’s season?
I said the last time I was here that I was disappointed that City didn’t win the league by more last season, so to be battling it out for 2nd I’m quite surprised. On paper, City have the strongest squad in the league but they’ve struggled to be as clinical in attack and conceded some very soft goals throughout the season. Individual errors have been costly but when it has clicked there haven’t been many better teams. Silva and Aguero provide serious problems for any defence but the supporting cast hasn’t always been there to help out. Kompany and Hart have had a decline in their performances from last season when they were crucial to winning the title. Another failure in Europe was another major disappointment, unquestionably the luck of the draw wasn’t with you but 3 points from 6 games was not good enough. With no pressure on the team now as the title is almost out of sight and believing that lightning won’t strike twice with a United collapse, City will be a dangerous team to play against.
Prediction – My heart says 3-1 Chelsea (Optimistic, I know). My head says 2-2, I can’t see either defences preventing the opposition attack and it should be a thrilling game.