Benitez not 100% sure his job is safe
Benitez continues search for first Chelsea win
Rafael Benitez has admitted he is not certain his position is secure after his nightmare start to life at Chelsea continued with a 3-1 defeat at West Ham.
The reverse means Chelsea have now gone seven Premier League games without a win, Benitez still searching for his first triumph, having already become the first manager of the Roman Abramovich era not win one of his opening two matches.
Chelsea's fans again made their feelings known, chanting "You're not welcome here'' and joining in with a song from the home fans that went "You're getting sacked in the morning".
Benitez might only have been in charge for three games but his position is already being questioned in some quarters with Roman Abramovich not known as a patient owner.
Asked if he feared he would not last very long at Stamford Bridge, Benitez - whose contract is until the end of the season - said: "I would say that it depends on the things that we can do on the pitch. So, if we improve on the pitch, it will be easier for everyone.''
Pressed on the fact he did not sound 100 per cent sure of his position, he replied: "No, I am not 100 per cent. We didn't win today - that is the main thing.''
Benitez insisted he was not wracked by fear over the job he has only been in for less than 11 days but admitted it might be a tougher assignment than he had envisaged. He said: "It could be in terms of, it's a top side, it's in the middle of the season and obviously the results were not the best, so we will try improve things and it will take some times maybe. We will see.''
Benitez insisted his focus was less on his job and more on improving on a game in which his players badly let him down. The 52-year-old all but admitted his current squad - shorn of injured stars John Terry and Frank Lampard - lacked fighting spirit.
"We have some of them,'' he said. "But, obviously, we have also players who are injured who will come back and they will give another character or something different.'' Suggesting too many of Chelsea's players were not as strong without the ball as they were on it, he added: "The kind of players that we have, sometimes they have to be in possession.
"And when you are not in possession, physically, you have to cope and manage with players who are quite strong and we didn't do it well.''
Benitez was confident he had the support of his players and that they were not unduly affected by the fan protests against him. He had looked set to enjoy some much-needed respite today after Juan Mata ended Chelsea's five-hour, 34-minute goal drought - the longest of the Abramovich era - after 13 minutes.
But the visitors wasted chances to score again and were made to pay with a controversial goal from their former striker Carlton Cole and late efforts from substitutes Mohamed Diame and Modibo Maiga. Benitez branded Cole's header - which stood despite the forward climbing all over Branislav Ivanovic - "unlucky'' for his side.
He added: "The first half we could score two or three goals, finish the game, and it would be totally different. We didn't do it. The second half, we didn't start well, they were on top of us and then we couldn't manage. It is difficult to explain when you are so good in the first half, how can you not manage in the second half?''
Benitez refused to be drawn on whether Chelsea's title challenge was already over as they failed to close the seven-point gap to Manchester United ahead of the leaders' game at Reading.
There is no love lost between Benitez and West Ham boss Sam Allardyce, who said: "We don't have sympathy for each other. We compete against each other, toil, play mind games and tactically have to outweigh each other. And we've come out on top today.''
Allardyce suggested Benitez was in a Catch 22 situation. "You can't do it if the fans aren't behind you,'' he said. "But the only way you can get the fans behind you is to win. If you're winning, the fans will always, always be behind you.''
Allardyce hailed the man-of-the-match performance of Cole, who replaced the injured Andy Carroll. On-loan Liverpool striker Carroll could be out for up to eight weeks and Allardyce said: "He's in a brace. He stays with us.
"Liverpool use the same specialist as we do. The specialist has given this diagnosis of what to do and hopefully Andy will recover as quick as the specialist said he might.''
Information from the Press Association was used in this report