Garry Birtles: Rise of minnows is welcome sideshow to Chelsea farce
ROMAN Abramovich's latest bout of trigger-happy managerial shenanigans has all but ensured the Premier League title race is going to be a two-horse race again.
You suspected from the start that he only gave Roberto Di Matteo the job permanently begrudgingly.
His hand was forced when the Italian inspired that Champions League success.
But, as soon as a few bad results appeared on the horizon, he had an excuse to shuffle him towards the Stamford Bridge exit.
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The appointment of Rafael Benitez is the equivalent of raising the white flag in the title race, both metaphorically and in reality.
If there was no better man to take the helm than him in the short term, you have to ask why Chelsea needed to make a change at all.
But, now they have, the title race will be fought out within the confines of Manchester.
Hopefully, it will turn out to be every bit as exciting as last season.
But, in the meantime, it is not the race for the top spot that is the most intriguing thing about the start to the campaign.
No, what has really got me excited is the prospect of other clubs being able to break the domination of the big four or five in the top flight.
West Brom's start to the season has been nothing short of remarkable. They suffered a stutter when they lost to Swansea this week, but I'd love to see them get back on track and establish themselves as contenders for a Champions League place.
And, if not them, it could be Everton who force their way into the exclusive club that is normally only occupied by United, City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool.
It is unlikely that the Baggies or the Toffees will ever properly challenge for the title, but their success so far has shown that the top four is not as much of a closed shop as we thought.
And, while Abramovich continues to use Chelsea as his personal play thing, such thoughts provide an welcome sideshow.