"At the moment there's a bit of a feeling that we're not sure what's going to happen when we go out there.
"If we're honest we all think that. That's just the way it is. You can't help that. It won't change anyone's determination to want to win but you can't help but feel it as we haven't been winning.
"The end of (Luiz Felipe) Scolari's reign was a bit like this. You lose the feeling of being able to win every week. Once you've had that and lose it, it's hard to get it back."
-- Frank Lampard 14/1/2011
Despite all the public outcry for the removal of Carlo Ancelloti, for such a statement to come from a key player was tantamount to a death knell for the Italian manager. Less than three months ago, any talk of Ancelloti’s future would have revolved around the length of his contract extension, but as we see so often in football, change happens fast.
Last season was a dream debut, culminating in a domestic double and the start of this campaign was indicative of even further strengthening as defensive parsimony was combined with lethal efficiency. However, one win in nine league games has left the Blues nine points from the summit with an extra game played, and the opprobrium has surely reached the director’s box, possibly even his Monte Carlo (no pun intended!) yacht.
Felipe Scolari was removed just three years ago at a similar time of the season when the club’s Champions League qualification was in jeopardy, and it seems to be only a matter of time before Ancelloti follows suit. In this instance, however, Roman Abramovich might be better served by showing more benevolence toward the Italian.
The Premier League isn’t the only method of European qualification and if the club were to focus their efforts solely on Europe, the benefits might be considerable and the Russian oligarch could even be rewarded with his holy grail.
As curious as it may seem looking at the league table, Chelsea arguably possess the best possible manager to guide them to European Cup glory. Ancelloti’s tenure at AC Milan culminated in three Champions League finals, as an old squad made light of erratic league form. Sound familiar? Two of those finals were won, a third only denied in the most spectacular of circumstances by Liverpool in 2005.
The age profile of the current squad doesn’t look conducive to a challenge on two fronts, even the one for fourth place coupled with a Champions League assault may prove a couple of miles too far for the collective legs of Chelsea’s squad.
By using the likes of Jeffrey Bruma, Patrick Van Aanholt, Josh McEachran, Gael Kakuta and Daniel Sturridge in their league encounters, Chelsea can protect their key men as well as blooding their likely future replacements.
By keeping faith in Ancelloti, Roman Abramovich may finish the season with the trophy he craves most and a new squad waiting in the wings that may well further embellish the Stamford Bridge trophy cabinet.
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