RAFAEL Benitez was seemingly back to square one at Chelsea after their crushing defeat at West Ham saw him confess he may already be on borrowed time at his new club.
Saturday’s collapse at Upton Park piled the pressure onto interim boss Benitez, whose 12 days in charge of the European champions has been the stuff of nightmares.
Parachuted into the job to stop the rot Roman Abramovich believed had begun to set in under Roberto Di Matteo, Benitez’s Chelsea were more rotten than ever in their 3-1 derby defeat.
A heaviest Barclays Premier League loss of the season is not the only damning statistic that threatens to make Benitez’s reign the shortest of any Chelsea manager of the Abramovich era.
The first boss not to win one of his first three games in charge under the Russian, the first not to witness a goal in his first two, the first to lose to West Ham, seven points dropped and a top-four place now under threat – never mind the title itself.
Although not in charge for all seven games, the statistics also point to Chelsea’s longest winless run in the league for 17 years, their lowest points tally after 15 matches since Abramovich bought the club, and a ten-point gap to leaders Manchester United.
On top of all this is the fan revolt against the appointment of the former Liverpool boss, which looks certain to intensify in Wednesday night’s Champions League game with Nordsjaelland.
Chelsea were scoring goals but conceding them at an alarming rate when Benitez took charge and although he stemmed the tide in 0-0 draws with Manchester City and Fulham, the second half yesterday suggested that may have been a false dawn.
‘‘We had a lot of chances, so we were much better in attack,’’ Benitez said.
‘‘But, now, we have this situation in defence that we have to improve again.’’ Benitez admitted he was ‘‘not 100 per cent sure’’ his own position was secure but added: ‘‘My concern is to improve to team.”