Whilst Ancelotti is in no immediate danger of the Abramovich axe, the FA Cup defeat to Everton has once again further underlined the depths to which last season’s double winners have fallen since last term. The surrendering of the cup means Chelsea have now almost certainly lost both of the honours they so impressively collected last campaign, and by the time they next resume Premier League duties, they could be five points adrift of the Champions League chasers with trips to Manchester against United and City offering two of their next three fixtures. Questions as to how and why Chelsea find themselves in this dilemma unquestionably lead back to Ancelotti, and these questions have been circulating for a while now, but the defining one for the Italian is whether he has the abilities to revive his team.
On another day, things could have been different. The post-match press praise has been lavished upon the Toffees but, in truth, they brought little to the party. Apart from the goal, David Moyes’ side did nothing more than what most sides seem to find the rule against Chelsea these days by parking the bus in front of the Chelsea goal. The Londoners should, however, have had a penalty and still created numerous goal scoring opportunities, which could have overpowered Leighton Baines’ late strike.
But would the situation have been any different for Ancelotti had Chelsea progressed and avoided criticism for another week? In their two previous goalless league encounters with Liverpool and Fulham respectively, Chelsea managed only around 40 shots on goal, without many proving troublesome to the opposing teams’ goalkeepers. Their narrow midfield and front three force their game plan into the centre of the field – effectively helping the other side out by constricting their creative forces into controllable areas.
These flaws could be easily resolved, yet Ancelotti appears reluctant to change his tactics. As time ticked towards the final whistle at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, the former Milan coach stood motionless on the touchline. As The Blues desperately tried to find their way through a resilient Everton defence their lack of width was clear for everyone to see. Yet, after seeing his side go goalless for three successive games Ancelotti only called on Nicolas Anelka at the start of extra time to reinforce his team. The Frenchman subsequently created Frank Lampard’s opener after some neat wing play and a cross from the by-line.
For all of their sins the Chelsea squad are a resolute bunch and they need to show the world that they can get back to their trophy winning days, because a similar commitment is needed here from the entire squad to take the something from a barren season.