Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti dimisses crisis talk
02 October 2009 07:25
The club owner is not normally in such frequent contact with the manager but the sight of him, and trusted director, his eyes and ears at Chelsea, Eugene Tenenbaum, both at the training ground on Friday was something that previously would have raised suspicions.
After all, this was a week in which Chelsea had lost, poorly, away to Wigan Athletic and then struggled away to the Cypriots of Apoel Nicosia in the Champions League. Two performances that were deemed unacceptable by Ancelotti who – on both occasions – lost his temper with the players.
"I spoke with Roman," Ancelotti confirmed on Friday. "That's normal. He watched training and said 'hello' to the players."
Did the billionaire pass judgment of recent displays? "I didn't ask him if he was worried," Ancelotti said. "I think he is happy because his team is in the top of the table, and top of their Champions League group."
Not quite top of the Premier League, of course, with Manchester United easing ahead on goal difference last weekend which, given they play Sunderland at home ahead of Chelsea's meeting with Liverpool on Sunday, could add pressure on Ancelotti if he does not get a positive result at Stamford Bridge.
Recent comments by the Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck – "we are playing well but, to be fair, looking at our early fixtures, we should be picking up those points" – surely will not have helped and even if the jitteriness is real or, as appears to be the case, perceived then the club have only themselves to blame. Snap decisions have been made in the past.
Ancelotti brushed aside Buck's remarks by saying: "Yes, I think we did our job until now. We have to wait for the next game against Liverpool."
Chelsea also face Aston Villa, Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City within their next seven league games. After that a more accurate assessment of Ancelotti's regime can be made.
Not that, so far, there is the remotest sign of dissent at what he has achieved or his ways of working. The manager is popular with the squad who, also, and crucially, respect his training and tactics and the way he has conducted himself. It would be fascinating to hear, however, if Abramovich had, in recent days, taken the soundings of his unofficial players' committee of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba.
Ancelotti has one strong piece of mitigation to whatever criticism he does face. He was unable, for a variety of reasons, to significantly strengthen the squad during the summer and although he, in public, naturally professes to being happy with the personnel he has, it was not for no reason that bids and inquiries were made for the likes of Franck Ribery, Andrea Pirlo, Sergio Aguero, Alexandre Pato and Daniele De Rossi in the summer. With a Fifa transfer ban in place until 2011, unless Chelsea can overturn it with their expected appeal, that failure to recruit is looking more unwise.
Even so the talk of Tenenbaum's birthday party last Friday night was just how well things were going and how strong the squad was. Two poor performances have led to a little doubt being cast on that but Ancelotti, who survived eight seasons working for the quixotic Silvio Berlusconi at AC Milan, said he has acted quickly to remedy matters.
"Normally when things aren't good, you have to look, analyse, and we've done that," Ancelotti said. "We have resolved the problem. It's normal in football. This is my work."
So what exactly was the problem? "The problem we met in the last game was possession of the ball," he explained. "It was too 'soft'. We have to improve the speed of our possession. Only this. We have to change this. The speed of the passing. The passes for the forwards."
It means he may toy with including either Deco or Joe Cole on Sunday – both were brought on in Cyprus – but there will be relief at the return of Drogba who, Ancelotti rated, as the best striker in the world along with a certain Fernando Torres. "He's a complete striker and I like him," the Italian added of the Spaniard who Chelsea tried to lure from Liverpool not so long ago.
Meanwhile, Chelsea have confirmed that their director of communications and public affairs Simon Greenberg has resigned from the club and will leave in January. His departure follows the resignation of chief executive Peter Kenyon.