Carlo Ancelotti Deserves Special Praise Among Chelsea's Worthy Champions
And so to Chelsea go the prizes and the plaudits after a season of both disaster and triumph ended on a bright note for the men in blue from Stamford Bridge.
Even had the circumstances not been so heavily loaded with responsibility and tension, the manner in which they demolished a weak Wigan Athletic team was testament to the strength and style which this Chelsea team have combined so effectively this season.
This was a team who after three seasons without success were hungry to return to their halcyon days under Jose Mourinho, a hunger that began to grow under Guus Hiddink and was furthered under Carlo Ancelotti.
The Italian will have plenty to thank Hiddink, and his other predecessors including his bete noire Mourinho, for after this campaign.
Because as soon as he arrived at Stamford Bridge, the Italian will have realized that throughout this team runs as strong a spine as any in the league, a sense of leadership and determination which, despite their ups and downs, has kept Chelsea forever driving forward to success.
In goal, Petr Cech has begun to resemble the authoritative goalkeeper he was before his cruel injury blow. Across the back four, both Ashley Cole and Branislav Ivanovic have thrived on the responsibility which Ancelotti has afforded them and enjoyed bountiful campaigns.
At its heart, both John Terry and Alex offer real defensive steel, and resolute leadership. Especially Terry, who for all his off-field woes, deserves nothing but respect for the manner in which he has lifted his form when it was most needed—how England fans will hope it continues.
In midfield, the Italian has had to switch personnel as often as Claudio Ranieri once did at the Bridge, coping with the injury blows to the likes of John Mikel and Michael Essien, yet he has built a more effective and cohesive midfield than any during Roman Abramovich’s time here.
Here the real depths of Ancelotti’s resources have been fully utilised, with even part-timers Deco and Juliano Belletti thriving. But the real driving forces behind the title push, Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda have been given free rein by Ancelotti and have rarely performed better.
Then in attack there is little more to be said about Didier Drogba and his partner-in-crime Nicolas Anelka.
It is a mystery why so many pundits deemed the pair incompatible because with Drogba rampaging upfront and Anelka dropping deep both to link play and move into areas where he can truly wreak havoc, it is more than a match for anyone.
The effectiveness of this team cannot be questioned, as wins home and away over the course of the season against their three biggest rivals, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Liverpool demonstrate.
So, too, does scoring seven goals on three different occasions, against Sunderland, Aston Villa and Stoke City, plus their latest eight against Wigan Athletic. In total, Ancelotti’s team have four men in double figures for the season just in the league, in Drogba, Lampard, Anelka, and player's player of the year Malouda.
While their closest rivals Manchester United have often resembled a one-man band dependent on Wayne Rooney, Chelsea have by comparison been a symphony orchestra-such has been their overall strength.
Little wonder Roman Abramovich, a devotee to entertaining football, was smiling so broadly at the season’s denouement.
Yet for all the strength within this team, the real man who deserves respect is the quietly spoken Ancelotti on the sidelines who deserves all the acclaim.
A title, perhaps even a double, in your first full season in England has been matched only by Arsene Wenger, yet the Italian has little of the Frenchman’s histrionics or sense of bitterness after defeat.
After every knock down his Chelsea team have taken this season, Ancelotti has taken it on the chin and lifted the team time and time again, with little complaint and none of the usual mischief which too many managers tend to adopt in title races.
By comparison, Ancelotti has been afforded precious little in the way of resources—Yury Zhirkov, a Russian recommended to Abramovich by former boss Hiddink was his only signing, compared to his predecessors, but he has utilised them far better.
Nor did they have to contend with the kind of off-field drama that threatened to destabilise his team and their captain as Ancelotti encountered, but there were precious few complaints, and his conduct remained as respectful and gracious as ever.
He has even sought to utilise the club’s youth structure, so often neglected by his predecessors, which judging by the team’s recent FA Youth Cup victory ought to prove bountiful in years to come.
The experiences he has given to highly thought-of youngsters Gael Kakuta, Fabio Borini, Sam Hutchinson, and Jeffrey Bruma over the season could serve Ancelotti well in the future.
But the question is what next for the Italian? Next season the pressure for European success will be far greater especially given that it was for this purpose that Ancelotti was initially introduced.
So too will be building on what he has already acquired, with the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur set to improve over the summer, so Ancelotti must build on a team which, in parts, is aging.
Talk of bids for Fernando Torres, Alexandre Pato and Sergio Aguero will no doubt intensify over the coming weeks, as will the steady line of rumours of moves for Benfica winger Angel Di Maria and former-target Franck Ribery.
But such talk, for now, should be left for another day because quite rightly Ancelotti and his team can afford to celebrate this sweetest of triumphs.
The smiles on the faces of the Chelsea players, both young and old, at the end suggested that this was a special moment for all of them.
Yet in amongst the crowds of deserving players and staff at the Bridge, Carlo Ancelotti, the architect of this latest success, deserves special acclaim for his role in bringing the good times back to Stamford Bridge.
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