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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

BREAKING DAWN

It’s been a poor season for Chelsea. The lowest return on points since Abramovich bought the club in 2003. No trophy has been added to the cabinet. A season that began on such a positive note in rampaging form finished as a damp squib, they flattered to deceive in the final two months when they were said to be in rampant form with a return of 22 pts out of 24, which provided a mere smokescreen to the fact that they never played a competitive team away from home in that run at all, and when they were pitted against one like Stoke at the Britannia they could only draw or when faced a Tottenham at home, they needed the help of a linesman to beat them. Trounced at home to a spirited Everton side in the FA cup, embarrassing defeats at their Stamford Bridge fortress at the hands of Sunderland, Liverpool, Man United, which was once their pride has done a lot of damage to the ego of the squad who quite frankly used to beat teams at home in the tunnel before the game itself, such was the buccaneering reputation of the team at home that sides never stood a chance even to win a point there let alone three. Champions league ended in disappointment yet again, even the 50mn pound addition of Fernando Torres could not salvage a team that got outplayed, outthought and outfought by a superior Man United side over the two legs in the quarter finals. This is in a nut shell the Chelsea season, a disastrous one which brings us onto the most intriguing topic of all, the performance and fate of manager Carlo Ancelotti.

Failure to land a trophy at the bridge has cost every manager his job in the Abramovich era and it is widely being tipped that Ancelotti could be shown the door come the end of May when he is to meet the club officials for a review of the season. A thorough gentleman and universally adored by his peers, fans and the media alike, he deserves all our sympathies for the problems that he has had to contend with this season. A meddling owner who in trying to make a statement that he is the big daddy of them all, as he sacked his assistant manager the highly influential Ray Wilkins, for reasons best known to him. A decision that quite possibly exposed Ancelotti’s lack of although blossoming, knowledge of the British game. Come the second problem, the signing of Fernando Torres, a brilliant striker who is in the worst form of his life at the moment, his signing in February shook the entire setup of a team who had just started picking up the shambles of their disgraceful run and getting their act together again. The highly expensive prize Ancelotti paid in making his players play a formation so alien to them in order to integrate a 50 mn pound present journeyman albeit great striker cost the club their champions league dream, his decision to start with Torres in the quarter final at Old Trafford was widely criticized. Ancelotti learnt it the hard way that the team could only play in their characteristic 4-3-3 that brought the side their best run of from in the season, a run that made Man United nervous and made everyone feel that there was a danger that the Blues could catch up but it was all but a false dawn.

The season has highlighted many a glaring errors that Ancelotti and the club made right from the time in July when he boldly proclaimed that his side was fit and competitive enough to reclaim the title they so emphatically won. His failure to find a replacement for the dynamo called Ballack or the artistic Deco proved his undoing as his side cried for creativity in their mid season loss of form when Lampard went missing in early winter. A vulnerable back four was the last thing he needed as he first sold Carvalho and then Alex went missing through injury, Bosingwa’s defensive frailties were brutally exposed. His faith in the youngsters faltered as he could not trust them enough to revive a team that was in its worst run of form from mid October until Christmas, a point where the serious lack of depth in his squad was brutally highlighted.

The core of the team is now in their thirties, have been carrying along a few journeymen with them. Drogba’s best days are behind him and the idea of expecting him to score 30+ again would be foolhardy and that’s why the inquisition of currently out of sorts though incredible Torres makes sense. David Luiz looks a great signing but is defensively raw and will need a good pre-season under his belt which looks unlikely with the Copa America looming on the horizon. Ramires has started finding his feet in the team, McEachran in two years time could be worthy of the no.8 shirt. But the squad needs a serious rebuild. A team has to be built around Torres, a team that would cater to his needs, a team that would enable him to reach the heights that we all know he can, similar to a team that Mourinho built around Drogba during his tenure at the Bridge.

The big question though remains whether the hierarchy at Stamford Bridge still trusts in Ancelotti to allow him to build his team, a team that they believe would dominate the next decade, similar to these current core of players who have dominated the scene since 2004, remains to be answered. A big decision awaits Abramovich in the summer, a decision that could well shape the direction the club will take into the next decade of this century. Ancelotti already knows his fate and if the media is to believed then he is set to be sacked come the end of May. But the prospective list of candidates that could take over from him just doesn’t match the pedigree that Ancelotti boasts of. Homecoming approaches as the dream of coaching Roma looms on the horizon. He has a decision to make.

But the big decision has to be made by Abramovich. Accept that the club needs stability and show patience and keep Ancelotti could be a upturn from the ruthless Roman we know, the one who fires managers who fail to add silverware to the trophy cabinet. Wisdom says Roman needs to act sensibly, show patience and persist with his man but whether he chooses to do so remains the most intriguing bit of announcement that will come out of Stamford Bridge this month end.


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