West Ham's manager, Sam Allardyce, accused Chelsea of missing leadership on the pitch after his team recovered from a half-time deficit to defeat them 3-1 on Saturday. He even identified the man to fill the role but Rafael Benitez, the beleaguered leader off the pitch, said it was too early to throw him back into the fray. "I think they're missing John Terry. I think they're missing leadership," Allardyce declared of the former England captain, who was recently suspended for four games and then sustained a knee injury on his return against Liverpool. With Frank Lampard also out, Petr Cech has been captain, but as well as being less voluble than Terry, he is not best placed as a goalkeeper to galvanise the team in the way that Kevin Nolan did for West Ham.
Benitez, who again suffered chants of "You're not wanted here" from Chelsea supporters, implied that only Lampard of the senior pair had any realistic chance of being fit for Wednesday's Champions' League game at home to Nordsjaelland, in which even victory over the weakest team in the group will not be sufficient for qualification if Juventus avoid defeat in Donetsk.
"He will train on Monday and we will see. He is doing well, but the calf is dangerous, because you never know. He needs more confidence from training. He may say he feels fantastic, or he may not be 100 per cent sure."
Of Terry, Benitez said: "He will train part of the session on Monday so, hopefully, will be close, but with the knee you never know. He has to play games and then see the reaction. At the moment he can run, can do a lot of things, but he has [to have] control when he turns. He is turning, but in a game you have to turn without being aware of this."
Whether or not either player returns at Sunderland on Saturday – a game Chelsea wanted postponed because of their commitments in the World Clubs Cup – both are likely to travel to Japan. As Benitez said, there are "not too many options".
What disappointed him most was that, after looking solid in defence in the two goalless games that started his reign, Chelsea looked dangerous in attack for half an hour, but were then overrun in the second half.
"I thought we had taken one step forward," Benitez said. "We were still strong in defence but we had more balance, and we were making chances in attack. The second half everything changed." The manager said he had been "angry" in the dressing room for the first time and thought his players shared the mood. He said of the leadership issue: "Always character and leadership is necessary in a team.
"But you cannot say we lacked leadership in the first half. We have to win games, and everyone will be happier." But will they? The banners, the chants and the fans' forums say not.
The new manager's predicament, not helped by an ambiguous reply when asked if he was confident of seeing out his seven-month contract, inevitably overshadowed a fine day for West Ham; an impressive performance by Carlton Cole against his first club compensating for the news that Andy Carroll's knee injury will keep him out until well into the new year.
West Ham: JAASKELAINEN 7, DEMEL 6, COLLINS 6, REID 7, O’BRIEN 6, O’NEIL 5, TOMKINS 5, NOBLE 6, JARVIS 7, NOLAN 7, C COLE 8
Chelsea: CECH 6, COLE 5, IVANOVIC 5, CAHILL 6, AZPILICUETA 6, HAZARD 6, RAMIRES 7, MATA 7, MIKEL 6, MOSES 6, TORRES 5
Goals: WH Cole 63, Diame 86, Maiga 90. Chelsea Mata 13. Subs: WH Taylor 7 (Tomkins, h-t), Diame 8 (O'Neil, h-t), Maiga (C Cole, 87) Chelsea Oscar (Hazard, 73), Marin (Moses, 78).
Bookings: West Ham Noble. Chelsea Cech, Mikel. Man of the match C Cole. Match rating 8/10.
Possession: West Ham 45%. Chelsea 55%.
Attempts on target: West Ham 13. Chelsea 9.
Referee M Atkinson (Leeds). Attendance 35,005.
Champions League: Eye on the opposition
* Chelsea's final group stage opponents, Danish minnows Nordsjælland, warmed up for Wednesday's Group E trip to Stamford Bridge with a 3-0 win at home to Brondby last night to stay second in the Superliga.