Sunday, 20 December 2015

Nightmare Just Beginning For Chelsea's ‘Three Rats’

Chelsea fans think they have now known the ‘three rats’ to blame for Jose Mourinho’s departure – their names were scribbled across a banner hurriedly designed for Saturday’s victory over Sunderland – so for Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa and Eden Hazard a new start today under Guus Hiddink could be very uncomfortable indeed.

Hiddink, who was so successful in steadying the ship six years ago following the departure of Luiz Felipe Scolari, looks on paper to have an even simpler job this time – to take a group of champions up the table from 16th to a more respectable finish.

Given the incredibly low point at which he takes over the reins, and the vastly-improved performance which saw Chelsea beat Sunderland 3-1 at the weekend, you would think that is money for old rope. Especially for a man who lost only once in his first spell in charge of the club.

But the toxic atmosphere at the Bridge as supporters vented their fury at the sacking of Mourinho suggests otherwise; especially as the bile was aimed not at owner Roman Abramovich, who once again wielded the axe, but at the club’s under-performing players who ‘betrayed’ the Special One and in particular at the trio in question.

Fabregas and Costa were both booed when the teams were announced and again when substituted in the second-half – and reports suggest the latter was so desperate to get out of the stadium he was dressed and gone by 5.15pm. If the Spanish international wasn’t hanging around on Saturday you have to wonder how long he will be hanging around at all.

The January transfer window provides Chelsea with an opportunity to off-load players who have helped create the problem in west London this season — and of the trio Costa seems the most likely to depart.

His negative demeanour, his petulance when throwing a training bib at Mourinho at White Hart Lane, his poor disciplinary record and, just as importantly, his lack of goals mean he may well be the scapegoat sold to pacify the fans. Unless Didier Drogba, being lined up to help inspire the strikers, can work wonders with him over the Christmas period.
In contrast Hazard, despite his moodiness and obvious clash of personality with Mourinho, is such a huge asset in the transfer market – and on the pitch when he performs to his ability — that this may not be the right time to offload the 2015 Player of the Year, even though Paris St Germain have made it very clear they are ready to bid. He would also be extremely difficult to replace.

Fabregas, too, may not be easy to move on. Given his performances in the second half of last season and again this year, there are now huge questions marks over what he brings to the pitch and how he fits into a team environment off it.

There were claims in his Arsenal days Fabregas was a complicated character to manage while Barcelona were clearly happy to get rid of him even though they had Iniesta and Xavi on the verge of retirement. Significantly, Arsenal, who had first option on his signature, showed no interest in taking him back to the Emirates, either.

Who, realistically, has the money to take a gamble on Fabregas now? It’s hard to think of a club in England who would be tempted–Liverpool perhaps? But the problem for Chelsea is Fabregas’ value is dipping and his star is waning.

The possibility of Pep Guardiola being tempted to Stamford – Bayern have now confirmed he will leaving Germany next summer – creates another dilemma. If anyone is capable of getting the best out of Fabregas then surely it is Pep; so perhaps selling him now would be hasty. Chelsea may well reach the end of January, then, with at least two of the three rats still on board – and Blues fans have long memories.

Their persistent protests at the appointment of Rafa Benitez shocked Abramovich two years ago when, despite suggestions the anger would quickly fade, it never did. Supporters in the Shed End and the Matthew Harding Stand made absolutely certain the fat Spanish waiter had no chance of taking the job on a permanent basis. If that’s what’s in store for Fabregas, Costa and Hazard then, for them, the nightmare is only just beginning.

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