Club Focus – Chelsea – Ancelotti’s audition starts well

This season’s title race continues to fluctuate almost by the game. Manchester United are still favourites, Arsenal continue to be their own worst enemy and Chelsea are still in the mix after another impressive performance and result, which further eradicates the memories of their mid-season implosion.

Nine points off top spot is still not the position reigning champions should be in, but title tilts are all about timing and momentum, and moving into the final quarter of the campaign, Chelsea resemble a growing and persistent threat to anyone harbouring Premier or Champions League ambitions. Their record buy still can’t buy himself a goal, but the all round positives are outweighing the negative of a misfiring striker. The Blues have won four of the last five, scoring nine, conceding just two and disposing of two of their fellow top four along the way.

Immediate comparisons are being drawn on the differing fortunes of the January transfer acquisitions with Fernando Torres still to get off the mark, whilst new darling of the Bridge David Luiz sweeps everyone off their feet with his bright eyed and bushy haired shenanigans. But barring Luiz, Chelsea is not a place players settle in quickly. Trace the tree back to Roman Abramovich’s arrival and not many have hit the ground running. Of yesterday’s match squad, the likes of Ashley Cole, Branislav Ivanovic, Michael Essien, Frank Lampard, Florent Malouda, Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka have all taken time to integrate themselves into the Chelsea way before becoming integral sums of its parts. The embodiment of this theory is Ramires, scorer of the brilliant second goal against Manchester City, capping off another increasingly influential and confident show from the little Brazilian.

The summer signing from Benfica was previously emblematic of the faceless Chelsea of mid-term as he wandered expressionlessly through the winter months, unable to make any impression on a communal struggle. But much like the side itself, ‘Rambo’ has eventually found an understanding and purpose borne from the priceless commodity of games and wins. Torres obituaries are unwisely premature. The longer the £50m Spaniard goes without a goal, the longer questions about his starting place will go on, but the alternatives are hardly blasting him out of contention. Drogba has only two goals since the turn of the year with Anelka intermittent also. Equipped with four genuine forward men, Ancelotti can essentially pick and choose his hand to suit, with sufficient options to come from the bench. It’s not a bad look.

Where Chelsea are now and how they got there is irrelevant, it’s what happens from here on in that matters. Prior to Sunday’s game, Chief Executive Ron Gourlay effectively put Ancelotti and the rest on audition until the end of the season by saying the club’s overlords will “see where we are at the end of May.”

That is all that Ancelotti and his men can do. A minimum of eleven games is a focused and tangible project measurable with silverware. At one point the difference between Manchester United and Chelsea was fifteen points and the divide seemed that wide. Soon, Chelsea could trim the gap to six points and to Sir Alex Ferguson it will feel that narrow. Let’s see where we are at the end of May.

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