Sacking of Ancelotti underlines Abramovich’s ruthlessness

As Chelsea’s season finished with a whimper following their limp 1-0 defeat against Everton on the weekend, the axe finally came down on Carlo Ancelotti’s reign at Stamford Bridge. The sense of inevitability about the Italian’s departure has overshadowed Chelsea’s run in; the team’s failure to build on a domestic double in his first season in charge making up the mind of a notoriously impatient Roman Abramovich.

The ruthlessness with which Ancelotti was disposed of, so soon after the final whistle, underlines the brutal results-driven nature of the modern day game. Moreover, this latest sacking maintains Abramovich’s record of parting company with every manager who has failed to win the league under his ownership, with the exception of Luiz Felipe Scolari who did not even get the chance to finish the full season. The minimum requirement for retaining the manager’s job at Stamford appears to be the Premier League title, ideally accompanied by the Holy Grail, the Champions League, which continues to elude the Londoners. While there is a long list of apparently willing candidates for the vacant seat, it is hard to imagine that such pressure and knowing how disposable they are could be appealing to someone like Guus Hiddink, who is rumoured to be Abramovich’s favourite to take over.

Chelsea’s challenge on the two major fronts was ended after they twice came up desperately short against Manchester United. Having been knocked out of Europe by United over two legs, they were also comprehensively outplayed in the league game at Old Trafford, effectively surrendering the Premier League crown to their opponents. The main damage, however, was done in a disastrous mid-season run that saw them win one game in nine, following Abramovich’s dismissal of trusted assistant manager Ray Wilkins.

Another factor that did not reflect well on Ancelotti was his failure to integrate £50million signing Fernando Torres into his team. Attempting to do so, often at the expense of Didier Drogba – himself not having the best of times – seemed to destabilise the team and nullify their attacking threat. This left the Italian with a problem with no obvious answer: play Torres and the team suffered, choose not to play him and effectively rebel against the club owner, who it would appear was solely the man behind the Spaniard’s signing. The seemingly lose-lose scenario emphasised, along with Wilkins’ exit and the release of five senior players last summer apparently against Ancelotti’s will, how his position as boss appeared somewhat undermined.

Only a couple of weeks ago, chief title rival Sir Alex Ferguson had defended the Chelsea boss saying: “The guy has won two European titles, he has won the Scudetto, and the Double with Chelsea, so you cannot question that record.” He concluded: “I do not see why he should have to answer the question [about his future].” Ancelotti himself, as he did in defeat at Old Trafford, remained dignified and gracious about his position following the match: ”I accept and I respect Chelsea’s decision. I spent two fantastic years in this club. I think I did a good job.”

The dynasty that Roman Abramovich is trying to build at Chelsea will be all the more difficult to achieve with constant chopping and changing as he strives to find the next ‘ideal’ man for the job. It sits in stark contrast with their rivals at Old Trafford where Ferguson, in his 25th year as United boss, has lifted another Premier League trophy.

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