Before Chelsea’s weekend fixture against Manchester City Ron Gourlay placed Carlo Ancelotti under a great deal of scrutiny and pressure, whilst making pre-match comments to BBC Radio 5 Live, that Ancelotti’s future would be up for review at the end of the season; stating “Carlo has a contract until end of 2012. Let’s see where we are at the end of May”. Indeed, the presence of Roman Abramovich at the game made not only every single player in the squad feel under review, but the manager himself as well.
Fernando Torres played yet another goalless game and has now been scoreless for 498 minutes at his new club. It is however safe to say that the value of the £50m signing has not been an issue, and will continue to avoid the limelight if Chelsea’s good form continues. It was Chelsea’s overshadowed January transfer David Luiz that broke the deadlock at Stamford Bridge, and not the Spaniard.
Whilst showing flair and style before winning the free kick that Didier Drogba would deliver to him, providing the first goal of the game, he looks capable of everything. Trenchant defending and skilful forward bursts that accompany a good eye for goal. At present there seems to be only one problem with the Brazilian – a slightly erratic form of positional play that at times drew mystified looks from Ancelotti on Sunday.
Drogba of course, will take forward that it was he who assisted Luiz and maybe feel he can displace Torres, although there is no indication that the manager has lost any faith in the striker at all. Ancelotti even boasted after the game that “I haven’t asked him to score”. His starting place alongside the elusively skilful Salomon Kalou raised a few eyebrows for Ancelotti, who relegated Drogba and Anelka to the bench.
If, however, these decisions continue to produce the results that Chelsea fans became so used to under the Special One and indeed Ancelotti last season, I doubt the critics will be allowed too much voice at all.
In hindsight, Gourlay’s comments are made to look absurd. The foolhardy revelation that Carlo Ancelotti could be sacked is ridiculous, not only because of the victory over Man City but for a plethora of other reasons. The Italians good humour and dignity in the face of such provocation is admirable, his faith in the 15 months remaining on his contract touching. Given this season’s dismissal of Ray Wilkins without a moment to pause and consider the decision, before interrupting Ancelotti’s team selection and tactics by signing the underperforming Torres it is miraculous that he is still determined to fight on for the club.
Such huge pressure upon a manager is to a certain extent only going to provide one outcome. Claudio Ranieri and Avram Grant were both dismissed promptly and I suspect the same fate will befall Ancelotti if he fails to win either the Premier or Champion’s League – following his Double last season.
In the end it was Ancelotti who won the battle of the Italians at Stamford Bridge, the tactical introduction of Drogba and Anelka won the game for him and it was Chelsea’s ambition which triumphed over City’s caution. If this form is replicated and transferred to the Champion’s League it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Chelsea could win the European tournament, furthermore I would offer that a failure to do so would only result in one thing. Yet another Chelsea manager being consigned to the scrap heap as they try to fill the mighty boots that Mourinho left behind.