Time is Running Out For Ancelotti To Right Chelsea’s Ship

Usually when a team has top spot in the Champions League group stage locked up going into the final matchday, there is little emphasis put on the result of that team in that final group fixture. Not so when you are Chelsea and are currently mired in a run of form that better suits the Ken Bates era than the reign of the Roman Abramovich. The 1-0 loss to Marseille has heaped more pressure on Italian boss Carlo Ancelotti as his seat grows warmer with every draw and loss. Whether it is right or wrong to speculate about Ancelotti’s future is secondary because this is Chelsea and recent history suggests he better right this ship quickly or he faces the chop from the Russian billionaire.

Chelsea entered the month of November on top of the Premier League heading into a clash at Anfield with a Liverpool side in desperate need of a season changing win. Behind raucous home support the Reds dealt Chelsea a 2-0 defeat which on its own said more about Liverpool’s need than Chelsea’s. That loss however sparked one of Chelsea’s worst runs of form in the league since Abramovich took over at Stamford Bridge. The Blues have taken just 5 points out of the 18 on offer since the beginning of November.  This rather poor period for Chelsea has seen them lose consecutive matches to Sunderland and Birmingham in the league, defeat the über-minnows of MSK Zilina in unimpressive comeback fashion in front of the home supporters on a European night, draw a pair of 1-1 matches back in the league with Newcastle and Everton and rounding out this forgettable run was an away defeat to Marseille 1-0.

While the away loss on Merseyside can be forgiven, it was the manner in which Chelsea was thoroughly defeated at Stamford Bridge by Sunderland that started the alarm bells to ring. The 3-0 defeat was a bit flattering to Chelsea in truth with Sunderland failing to capitalize on many a decent chance on goal. That combined with the away loss to Birmingham allowed the murmurs about Ancelotti’s job security to quietly grow.  Those whispers became full on questions when his side failed to collect more than two points from Newcastle and Everton. Those results saw them leap-frogged at the top of the table first by Manchester United and then Arsenal. A once seemingly secure lead has now been surrendered in a month without having to face a squad in the top six of the Premier League.

In fairness to Ancelotti he has been without his first choice pair in central defense on a regular basis, the formidable duo of club captain John Terry and Alex. Terry is truly the general on this team and his loss is glaring at times even though in the past year or so he has had his own share of less than average outings by his high standards. Alex’s inconsistent selection comes at a time when it seems the Brasilian is finally emerging as a top defender. He has taken the opportunity offered him by the departure of Ricardo Carvalho to Real Madrid to solidify his place alongside Terry as Ancelotti’s first-choice pairing. Another loss has been Frank Lampard. The midfielder’s absence seems to be missed more and more since his comrades and cover have missed matches due to cards (Michael Essien v. Fulham) or are just not good enough as in the case of Jon Obi Mikel and Yuri Zhirkov.

The lack of quality on the field has been matched by a strange off-field incident involving an assistant. The day after Chelsea’s last league triumph, the club severed ties with assistant Ray Wilkins on November 11th. Wilkins came on board for his second stint as the No. 2 in September 2008 and has backed up three managers in that span. He was the caretaker boss when the club sacked Luiz Felipe Scolari in a surprise midseason move in December 2008. He returned to his assistant role when Guus Hiddink was personally tapped by Abramovich to see out the ’08-’09 campaign for the Blues. Recently he was the assistant for current boss Carlo Ancelotti. His departure has remained a sore spot for some at the club because of the timing and how it was handled. Ancelotti himself has stated that he did not want Wilkins to leave and that the decision seemed to come from above. Many have pointed the finger at the Director of Football Frank Arnesen but he has in turn resigned. Only at Chelsea it seems can the dismissal of an assistant garner such attention and can also be handled so poorly, but then again the spotlight a string of defeats attracts tends to shine at all possible causes.

The injuries and the Wilkins’ situation aside, Chelsea and Carlo Ancelotti are about to go from the November wilderness and into the December gauntlet. They did successfully top their Champions League group in spite of their last two performances in the competition and will likely face a weaker opponent in the round of 16 not to mention having the 2nd leg of the tie at Stamford Bridge. They find out the opponent Friday and then set the Champions League aside until late February. In the meantime it is a fair question as to whether Ancelotti survives December and makes it to the round of 16 as Chelsea boss. Chelsea’s next four Premier League games may not decide the title but they may eliminate the Blues from the title race should they perform like they did the month prior. Chelsea travels to White Hart Lane Sunday to take on a Spurs side that has proven to be a difficult proposition at home. They return to the Bridge to take on Manchester United a week later which is always an explosive affair. Chelsea then begins the always tough Holiday program of matches with Arsenal at the Emirates December 27th before hosting the Premier League’s surprise package of the season Bolton on the 29th to round out the month.

The unstated but yet clear goal of this club under Roman Abramovich has been to lift the European Cup. Chelsea has come up short on many strong campaigns in that competition which led to the hiring of Carlo Ancelotti who led AC Milan in 2003 and 2007 to Champions League glory. He was the man with the experience deemed necessary to lead Chelsea to this aim. Although he fell well short of the target in 2010 and was bounced out by former Chelsea hero Jose Mourinho and his Inter Milan side, Ancelotti helped to stabilize the club and help guide it to its third Premier League title in less than six seasons.

Ironically that trophy and the competition it belongs to may be Ancelotti’s undoing at Chelsea. If he does not come out of the next four fixtures within six points of the leaders for example he may lose the dressing room and eventually Roman Abramovich. There is precedent when it comes to Chelsea (see Mourinho and Scolari) and these players. John Terry has proven he is not afraid to stand up to the boss when he feels the ship is sinking, he has done so against Mourinho even against Fabio Capello at last summer’s World Cup for England. Chelsea may not be at full blown crisis level yet, but a loss Sunday at Spurs combined with a clear winner in the Man United/Arsenal fixture may spell the end for Ancelotti. He needs a win Sunday combined with a complete turn around of form in the next 30 days to survive and have a chance at winning “The Pride of London’s” first European Cup come next May at Wembley and end Chelsea’s hurt in the Champions League. That may seem like a drastic forecast but such is the current climate of expectations at Chelsea year in and year out that it is the task Carlo Ancelotti now faces.

10 thoughts on “Time is Running Out For Ancelotti To Right Chelsea’s Ship”

  1. I think the next 2 matches could be key for Chelsea. Spurs & Man Utd – if they lose both, I think it could be curtains for Carlos. Win just one and suddenly the Man Utd v Arsenal match becomes the key game.

  2. Mikel Obi isn’t good enough for you, but he marshaled the defensive midfield all of last season with very minimal output from Essien who was out, and guess what we won the league.
    The truth is we have a threadbare squad, fantastic first 11, but Spurs, and Man United have a far better bench than we do.
    Another thing is we have become far to predictable, and that is tactical and Ancelottis fault. Mikel wasn’t on the field yesterday, Essien was and we still lost, so I wonder what you have to say. Abrahamovich needs to spend now..

    1. Chelsea team now is far much predictable in play and approach. Ancelotti at fault here. The team is always playing 4-3-3 system with little or no changes at all in system of play when things are not adding during the game. In Jose days the system could change during the game and get a result. We could see a team playing 4-4-2 and change to 4-3-3 or any other system to improve team performance.

      Another Ancelotti fault is failing to blend youngsters like Josh, Sturridge, Patrick and Bruma with senior players during premiership games and surprise opponents. He is using same players all the time that makes other teams prepare for us easily.

      Ancelotti looks not the right manager at the moment tactically and is tough for him if this continues. we are surely not used to losing each and every game. Amen.

      1. This team is predictable, sluggish, and sometimes (I’m looking at you, Nico) looks like they just don’t give a damn what happens on the pitch. They need to step it up, especially in the attacking third.

        I agree that the youngsters need to see more playing time. However, it feels like the real problem is the gap between the starting XI and the youngsters. There’s no one for Ancelloti to call on when things aren’t going well.

        I’ve said before (and when everyone had already handed them the trophy, I might add) that this team looked old and vulnerable, and I think that’s still true. The Blues need to spend in this next window to get some younger, but still experienced, legs. No matter what happens this season, many of these players will soon be out of the top flight, and preparations need to made for that.

        And for crying out loud, Carlo, change up the formation once in a while! What do we have to lose at this point?

  3. “Chelsea’s next four Premier League games may not decide the title but they may eliminate the Blues from the title race should they perform like they did the month prior.”

    With half the season yet to play??

    I don’t think that is any more true than the predictions from some early on that Chelsea would run away from the field or mine of last spring that Man Utd. had it wrapped up (brilliant, that).

    One thing about the EPL, you can complain all you want about the predominance of the so called Top 4, but within that group literally anything can happen—-injuries, some combination just starts to click, off field distractions, a ball hits a balloon, whatever. It is way too soon to bury anybody.

    “If you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs…” might not make you a man, but it can make you a champion.

    Sorry, Rudyard.

    1. OK, anything can happen among that elite group, I’ll grant you that. But where does that leave the Stokes, Birminghams, Wigans, West Hams, Evertons of the world? I suppose there’s always Europa.

      I wish Europe would follow South America’s lead and allow the Europa winners a spot in the next year’s Champions League. Last night’s Sudamericana final was tremendous, and much of that can be attributed to the elite Libertadores spot that was at stake.

      Anyone agree?

  4. To have such a crazy amazing start, then to just start tanking like this… it’s sad and confusing. If I have my timeline correct.. Chelsea started the downturn after Wilkins was canned. Which makes me think that early season success was entirely thanks to the Wilksin/Ancelotii pairing (& well, yes, lacking the injuries of our player leaders). If Carlo can’t do this without Ray, then I agree, his days are numbered.

  5. They need Lampard and Benayoun fit. Benayoun can really change their style of attack because he is a very smart player. Lampard is just pure class.
    …then again, Spurs are without 1/2 of their starting team and it hasn’t seemed to impact Redknapp.

    One of these days Chelsea is going to have to stick with a boss though, the turnstile can’t go on forever… can it?

  6. A 17 year old being our MOTM shows how we’ve been performing. Obviously we’re missing Franko. Obviously we have little depth. But our players haven’t been playing as well as they can and should. Drogba’s love-fest with Marseille was annoying and the rest of the team (other than JMcE) played terribly as well…
    Disappointed, but not panicking.

  7. When I watch Chelsea now compared to earlier this season, the side looks tired, shows far less confidence and, bottom line, doesn’t look like they’re having fun anymore. I realize that’s an odd thing to say, but earlier this season, especially, the team played with an incredible energy and the players seemed to enjoy playing that style. Now that fun has gone.

    What changed? I don’t think Wilkins had that much of an influence. I believe it’s something else.

    The Gaffer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *