Ancelotti refuses to let Emenalo near first team

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The Independent Football

Roman Abramovich certainly pays his managers handsomely, and Carlo Ancelotti is no exception with an annual salary estimated to be £6.5m. However, that does not mean the job is always a comfortable existence, as Ancelotti has found in the past 10 days.

Ancelotti had no say when his assistant manager Ray Wilkins was sacked last week, and it was not his decision to appoint the former Nigerian international Michael Emenalo as his replacement, as the Italian made abundantly clear yesterday. All this, and Chelsea lost 3-0 at home to Sunderland.

Ancelotti might be the manager but it is Abramovich who has decided to promote opposition scout Emenalo, a man who has worked his way through the club's corridors of power since he arrived in October 2007 as one of Avram Grant's trusted advisors.

And it was also Abramovich's decision to dispense with players like Michael Ballack, Joe Cole and Ricardo Carvalho last summer and leave Ancelotti with just 19 players over the age of 21, making it the smallest squad in the Premier League.

Ancelotti distanced himself from the appointment and stated that Emenalo, 45, would not be working with the first-team squad. The Chelsea manager said: "The club made this decision after the decision on Ray. It was not my decision. I'm not here to explain how I feel at this moment. I'm professional. I will continue to work. I want to stay focused on my team. Emenalo was a fantastic support last season for the opposition scouting. He was involved in our meetings and will be again in the future. He won't be involved in the training sessions."

Abramovich's move to sack Wilkins and appoint Emenalo carries echoes of his decision to introduce Grant to Chelsea's coaching staff three years ago, a move that contributed to the breakdown in the relationship between the owner and the then manager Jose Mourinho, which came to a head with the Portuguese's departure in September 2007.

No one is saying that Emenalo's appointment will presage a similar chain of events now. However it begs the question why Abramovich has seen fit to meddle once again, in a way that would appear to undermine the manager who won the Double last season in his first year in charge.

For the moment at least, Emenalo will remain in his role as head opposition scout. "It's not a new job, it's the same job he did in the past," Ancelotti contended. The Italian chuckled when it was pointed out to him yesterday that Emenalo's report on Sunderland could not have been much good, as Chelsea lost 3-0 to Steve Bruce's side at Stamford Bridge.

Ancelotti's pressing concern is to win today at Birmingham City, to dispel the fears that the champions are on the wane with serious injuries to Frank Lampard and John Terry.

Ancelotti said: "I'm happy for our rivals to think we're at a weak moment. It will give us more motivation to do better. This is an important moment for us. We don't want to put our heads in the sand because it's an important game. We can move on from the defeat or we can stay in a difficult moment. It depends upon us."

At least the Italian will be able to recall centre-half Alex to the side, to strengthen a back four that last weekend consisted of four full-backs. The Brazilian needs an operation on his knee which will rule him out for eight weeks, but he has been told he must play on, for the moment at least.

Alex said: "I need surgery, and maybe after the game I will go to Brazil and do the operation on Thursday. We have too many players injured, so I said to the coach I can play. I am not 100 per cent fit but I can play."

Ancelotti is optimistic Terry may be ready to play Newcastle United next weekend, after consulting 63-year-old Belgian chiropractor Jean-Pierre Meersseman, the brains behind the renowned Milan Lab, about the trapped nerve in his thigh. Ancelotti said: "There was good news from the visit in Italy – that it's a tight muscle, which we have to relax, so the nerve can move without a problem... It's not true that he'll be out for a month."