Carlo Ancelotti: Chelsea will repair Fernando Torres and restore his killer speed

24 March 2011 08:24
Carlo Ancelotti turns translator for a moment. 'In Italian the word is riconoscenza,' he says. 'When people remind you of what you have done in the past. What you have achieved. Recognition, you say. In football there is no recognition. The past is the past. In football there is nothing like that.'

He is responding to the suggestion that, whatever happens between now and the end of the season at Chelsea, he has credit in the bank. A League and Cup double in his first season as a manager in English football, a remarkable feat that surely offers him protection. Judging by Ancelotti's answer, he is not so sure.

A better translation for riconoscenza would be gratitude. But because the last few months at Stamford Bridge have been so difficult, the pressure would appear to be on. The gratitude would seem to have gone.

How times change: Carlo Ancelotti led Chelsea to the league and cup double last season. now they sit fifth in the Premier League and are struggling to qualify for the Champions League next term

As part of this interview, Ancelotti is asked to reflect briefly on happier times - or, more specifically, a moment in time, in a match, that proved to be something of a turning point. A moment of real significance.

'(Andriy) Shevchenko's penalty in the Champions League final in 2003,' he says. The most boring Champions League final in history, which AC Milan won in a shoot-out after a goalless draw against Juventus? 'For you maybe, but not for me,' he says, laughing. 'No. The most boring final ever was Steaua Bucharest against Barcelona, when the Steaua goalkeeper saved four penalties.' Terry Venables, Barcelona manager at the time, might of course have a different view.

Then Ancelotti recalls the Steven Gerrard back pass towards the end of last season that enabled Didier Drogba to score at Anfield and all but secure the Barclays Premier League title. That was a deliberate act in the eyes of Manchester United's conspiracy theorists but not something that raised the remarkable Ancelotti eyebrow. 

'The day we won the championship,' he says with a smile. It does now seem like a distant memory, as does the interview Ancelotti gave to this newspaper towards the end of October when his side were sitting pretty at the summit of the table and a second title already appeared to be in the bag. Roberto Mancini certainly thought it had already become a race for the runners-up spot.

Slow start: but Chelsea's ?50m man Torres is not yet fully fit, insists Ancelotti

Since then, however, much has changed. Ray Wilkins has been sacked as assistant manager and the team have not only surrendered a commanding lead but slipped out of the Champions League places with a run of results that, in isolation, would deposit them in mid-table mediocrity.

Ancelotti talks about a loss of confidence but I ask him to respond to this idea, being whispered in certain quarters, that he has lost the confidence of his players because of his failure to retain Wilkins. Ancelotti is not terribly keen to revisit the Wilkins saga but he is prepared to answer the question.

'I was sad to see Ray go but I don't believe the players have lost confidence in me, in my behaviour,' he says. 'It's the same. With Ray and without Ray. We have lost confidence because we have not been able to do the things we want to do on the pitch. This is the reason.

'Look, the players might seem to be interested in things that happen away from the pitch, outside the training ground, but they are not so interested, I don't think. They want to win football matches.

'The relationship between the manager and the players is the most important thing. To have a good feeling. It doesn't mean that for the manager everything is OK.

Big scalp! Didier Drogba began the match against Fulham in midweek on the bench

'But I am happy because, just as the staff with Ray was good, the staff without Ray is also good. I would only be unhappy if I could not come here every day. It is just that the moment is different (from when he gave the previous interview). Then we had confidence. We had power. Now we have more difficulty to use our strength and our power.'

Why is that? 'It is not a tactical problem or a technical problem,' he says. 'We have different problems. The first reason was a lot of injuries to important players at the same time, and we lost confidence. Sometimes last season we had the same problem. We struggled to play quick. We had this problem in some games. But, with the game in the FA Cup this weekend and in the Champions League next week, hopefully we can regain our confidence.'

Naturally, he welcomes the arrival of Fernando Torres and David Luiz and he goes on to explain why his ?50million Spanish striker will soon be back to his very best. But first he reflects on the change of formation that was designed with Torres in mind. That worked so well in Torres's absence at Sunderland but then failed against Liverpool, forcing the Italian to abandon the system and drop Drogba for the Fulham game.

Against Sunderland, as Ancelotti says, 'it was good'. Playing in the hole behind Drogba and Salomon Kalou, Nicolas Anelka was terrific. Against Liverpool, however, playing behind Drogba and Torres, the system was not so good.

Carlo's favourite Chelsea moment: Didier Drogba rounds Pepe Reina to score the goal at Liverpool that set up a 2-0 Chelsea win, which all but wrapped up the Barclays Premier League title

'Because Liverpool played a different shape with three (central) defenders and they maintained a good control of Anelka, using Lucas,' says Ancelotti. 'They played three against two against Drogba and Torres. When you play against three defenders it can be difficult to find the space in the middle, if you don't open the pitch to attack. You need to use more width.

'You need to create a situation on the full back where you go two against one, using a midfielder and the full back. We were not able to do this. We also suffered because we didn't have the experience of playing against a three. Here in England it is normally always four. I saw Dalglish play 3-5-2 in their previous game but I wasn't sure he would use the same system against us. But he did and they had good control defensively.'

Dropping Drogba, he says, was not easy. 'It was a tough decision but with these kind of strikers it is a normal rotation,' he says. 'Sometimes you can use both. Sometimes you can use Torres, sometimes you can use Didier. Maybe Didier will play Saturday (against Everton) and Torres will play Tuesday (at Copenhagen). Maybe both will play on Tuesday.

'It is not a problem. I have won a lot of titles but I have put Kaka on the bench, Shevchenko on the bench, and now Didier on the bench. Big scalps!

'The players are always the same. They are not happy to not play. They have difficulty understanding why, even when you try to explain.

As it was: Ancelotti's interview with Matt Lawtonin October, when Chelsea looked a shoo-in for the title

'It was difficult for me to understand when I was a player, when Fabio Capello came to me to explain to me why I didn't play. I would listen but I would not agree. It allows me to understand a lot of things when I am a coach. Didier is OK.'

Torres is OK too, despite a difficult start to his new life at Chelsea. 'I am happy because Torres is here and because he has come in a good condition and with fantastic attitude,' says Ancelotti. 'He is not 100 per cent, but he will score. And he will regain that speed, that acceleration, that people think he has lost. He had a problem last year, with his knee, and he tried to recover quickly to play in the World Cup. He was not 100 per cent at the World Cup.

'He then came back in September, having basically been injured for five months. When a player is injured for five months, to come back to have the speed as well as the skill, to have that acceleration, you need to have time. So we are arranging for him specific training to work on his speed.

'That acceleration is not back yet. But he doesn't have a big problem. The knee is fine. It is coming. In the last game against Fulham, two or three times he was quick. He moved very well. He is improving. With the people we have here I am sure we can get him back to his very best.

'He is a good professional, and the attitude is always important. We just have to arrange the right training for him.'

Complete defender: Ancelotti has hailed Luiz (right)

With Luiz, signed from Benfica for ?25m, no such special requirements are required. 'He is a very good player,' he says. 'Not just a very good defender. He is a very good player too. This is the difference. He is the complete player. He's strong, he's quick, he's good with the head. Good anticipation. But he also has fantastic skill with the ball. With Luiz and Torres now here, we have more possibilities to do our best.'

This season, the Champions League would now seem to be the priority and Ancelotti visibly bubbles with excitement at the mention of a competition he won twice as a manager with Milan never mind the two European Cup victories he enjoyed as a player.

'As things stand now, we obviously have more possibilities in the Champions League and the FA Cup,' he says. 'The Champions League is strange. I saw all the games this week. Arsenal against Barcelona, Roma against Shakhtar, Valencia and Schalke, and Milan against Tottenham.

'Tottenham played very well, but in the second half they played very well defensively. Arsenal defended all the game because against Barcelona you have to defend. They tried to play the counter attack. Schalke the same. Defence and counter attack. Shakhtar the same. Shakhtar won, Tottenham won, Arsenal won and Schalke drew. Last year Inter Milan played all the last games, from the last 16 against us, defensively. In the semi-final against Barcelona they defended for 180 minutes.

'They did the same in the final. Barcelona played a fantastic game on Wednesday but so did Arsenal. Wenger did a fantastic job. Arsenal were a little lucky, but the way Wenger set out to play against Barcelona, in my opinion, was correct. They were fantastic on the counter attack, and in the end they won.'

Arsenal were so impressive, says Ancelotti, that he can see them eliminating Barcelona at the Nou Camp. 'It's not so easy for Barcelona now because Arsenal are very dangerous on the counter attack,' he says. 'With (Theo) Walcott and (Samir) Nasri. Very good.'

Recognition, he feels, that is deserved.

Carlo Ancelotti was speaking to promote the 188SPORT 'Moments In Time' campaign to find the greatest game-changing moments. Join the debate today at Torres is not to blame! Chelsea boss Ancelotti says striker not at fault for slumpWenger and Ancelotti slam UEFA over Champions League final ticket-price hikeFans' groups blast UEFA over ?176 tickets to Champions League finalHe's seen off Messi - now it's a case of Revell and McGleish for WengerDrogba back in Chelsea line-up as ?50m Torres sits out FA Cup replayMissing out on Champions League spot would be a disaster, admits Lampard All the latest Chelsea FC news, features and opinion

 Explore more:People: Fabio Capello, Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba, Roberto Mancini, Nicolas Anelka, Carlo Ancelotti Places: Copenhagen, Barcelona, Liverpool, Milan, United Kingdom

Source: Daily_Mail

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