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Wenger questions short-term Benitez

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has expressed his surprise at Rafael Benitez accepting a short-term role with Premier League giants Chelsea.

Di Matteo guided Chelsea to victory in the FA Cup and the Champions League last season, but was sacked this week following a 3-0 defeat to Juventus.

That loss has left Chelsea on the brink of elimination from the group stage of the Champions League, prompting the club to bring in former Liverpool and Valencia coach Benitez until the end of the season.

“Di Matteo has come in a difficult situation and he has won the Champions League and FA Cup,”
Wenger said.

“He has done well and wasn’t given any time, at all, this season. It’s a complete surprise to me.”

Spaniard Benitez won the Champions League and FA Cup with Liverpool, having previously claimed La Liga with Valencia, ahead of heavyweights Real Madrid and Barcelona.

And given such a pedigree in the game, Wenger is surprised at Benitez’s willingness to act as an interim manager.

“Rafael Benitez is a guy with a record, a manager with a stature,” he said.

“And it is a surprise that he has been appointed for such a short time. I am surprised he accepted.”

Former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, now in charge of Real Madrid, sympathised with Di Matteo’s plight.

“I am never happy when a manager is sacked (Roberto Di Matteo). Never happy because it can happen to them and it can happen to me,” he said.

And one man who knows exactly how Di Matteo feels is Andre Villas-Boas, who brought the Italian to Chelsea as his assistant prior to the 2011/12 campaign.

Sacked by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich after 257 days, five fewer than his predecessor lasted, Villas-Boas believes Di Matteo can bounce back.

“I think most of the managers who’ve recently left that club (Chelsea) have moved on to a new position,” he said.

“We’re grateful, most of us, for having been through that club and that experience, now, all of us are in different situations and working in other clubs using that experience.”

Benitez’s reign begins with one of the toughest challenges of all – welcoming unbeaten reigning champions Manchester City to Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Thu 22 November, 2012
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