Carlo Ancelotti should stay: Lack of choices, rebuilding challenge

Guus Hiddink left Stamford Bridge after his four month cameo righted the ship. The Premiership proved out of range but Hiddink won the 2009 FA Cup and the hearts and minds of the fans. There was a hint in his farewell that he would love nothing more than be back to complete unfinished business.
He is unsurprisingly linked with a return given Carlo Ancelotti’s rumoured departure this summer. The Russian job which was essentially bankrolled by Roman Abramovich allowed for a cozy transfer between club and country. Previously too, Hiddink had managed the Socceroos in their 2006 World Cup while doubling for PSV Eindhoven. He is now overseeing Turkey’s 2012 Euro qualification.
The Turkish Football Federation reading the tea leaves came out with a strong statement reiterating a clause in Hiddink’s contract that precludes any such arrangement. Even if this were possible, it would be November before Hiddink set foot on the Bridge after fulfilling his Euro commitments.
As other potential candidates go, Marcelo Lippi has mentioned his interest but Chelsea need rejuvenation – Lippi’s approach is overtly cerebral with a reliance on graybeards. Jose Mourinho will see out his Real Madrid contract and return to coach Man Utd so he can stick it to Abramovich. Pep Guardiola will never set foot in Stamford Bridge in any capacity other than visiting coach – Abramovich is just too into instant gratification for a La Masia type of cornerstone.
The problem with going through six managers in seven years is that the owner begins to attract attention. The departure of Frank Arnesen to Hamburg is also mentioned as a possible stumbling block in the search for a manager. The club will have to find his replacement first.
A true assessment might show that Chelsea’s expectations have been inflated by their overwhelming previous season and they undergoing a correction. There are suggestions that Ancelotti is also paying for some adverse owner decisions with his own low key temperament playing a part.
At the end of 2010 season, Chelsea cracked the 100 goal barrier, the first club to do so, and for good measure adding three more. It was a clinic in goalscoring efficiency. Drogba with 29 and Lampard’s 22 driving that record figure. This season Lampard spent an extended time away with injuries while Drogba is clearly two levels below that stratospheric best.
103 goals is an outlier since the title can be won with far less. Man Utd won the 2008-09 season with just 68 goals scored. At this stage, Chelsea have scored 55 with 7 games to go. This is quite close to Chelsea’s goal average and traditionally the club trails Man Utd and Arsenal in scoring.
The sudden departure of Ray Wilkins set off an 11 match swoon between November 17th to January 5th where Chelsea only managed ten points. The nadir reached with the Sunderland loss at home. Coincidence? Or something structural? Drogba’s output was a mere three goals and Chelsea nine. Before that they looked like they were continuing where they left off from last season. By accepting the Wilkins departure with a boss knows best shrug, Ancelotti indicated his deferential attitude. It probably did not translate too well with the players seeing it as unfair treatment of a veteran assistant having the ear of many of the senior players.
With Torres in the line up, Ancelotti had to play Russian roulette with his other strikers. It led to a set of inexplicable tactical decisions that potentially could have made a difference in the CL encounters with Man Utd – sending off Drogba in the first leg when he looked threatening and then sitting him down for the first half in the second leg. All for the owners desire to see Torres score and justify what appears to be a £50m albatross.
What we are seeing is a squad that cannot deliver on a consistent basis due to age, injuries, wavering mental strength, a shallow bench, and lack of creativity in the midfield. But the inconsistency also reflects a coach bowing to an owners whimsy. If Ancelotti leaves it will be a decision that will in no way solve the inherent problems of a club that has not yet started rebuilding in earnest. Ancelotti was never given that charge. It will be a challenge but he should be given that chance.

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