As Everton have drawn their last five matches at Stamford Bridge it seems premature to suggest this one indicates a crisis is brewing at Chelsea, but context is everything. With five points from 18, winless in four league matches, the champions are enduring their worst run of results for a decade. Insiders and outsiders are still bemused by the axing of Ray Wilkins and the team, their own manager admits, is "scared" and playing "poor football".
Like the Australian cricketers, the aura has gone. Everton, 16th before kick-off and coming off a 4-1 home drubbing by West Brom, were hardly replete with confidence themselves but the way they pushed forward in search of a winner in the closing minutes showed that avoiding defeat at the champions is no longer the summit of opponents' ambition. As Phil Neville said: "The only disappointment is that we didn't win."
Carlo Ancelotti usually defends his players, but he has clearly decided on a different approach to shake them out of timidity. Having been critical before a game he called the "most important of the season", he gave them both barrels afterwards. The Italian emerged from a long post-match inquest to say he was "angry" and "very disappointed". His team "played only long ball", were "afraid", "unable to play our football", "lacked desire in the second half" and "have to wake up".
Ancelotti added that although he was not sleeping well and not relaxed, he did not feel under pressure for his job. In a sane world he should not. He is a proven manager, injuries have hit the team, and firing him would only make the club more unstable. However, as Wilkins can testify, normal rules do not apply at Chelsea. The last time their results were so poor, Ken Bates fired Gianluca Vialli. Roman Abramovich has since been even less patient. The Russian was not present on Saturday ("cooking fondue for the Blatters in his dacha", suggested one tweeter) but may be back for a demanding trio of forthcoming matches: Tottenham (a), Manchester United (h), Arsenal (a).
Ancelotti added that the players needed to stick together and not seek a scapegoat. His team had began nervously but improved, John Terry hitting the bar before Drogba put them ahead from the spot. That was down to a knee-jerk decision from Lee Probert, after Nicolas Anelka leapt into a stationary Tim Howard. "Anelka's mullered me," said Howard, "and I thought the [yellow] card must be for him. When he booked me I was dumbfounded, but nine times out of 10 when the referee sees that kind of collision, he thinks that the goalkeeper has gone for the player."
Probert also missed a penalty when Seamus Coleman cleaned out Ashley Cole as he was about to put Chelsea two-up. He was right, though, not to over-react when Tim Cahill caught Petr Cech as the Australian attempted to stretch past Terry to reach a cross. As Moyes pointed out, the fact Cech has been hurt in the past does not make it an offence. Probert also handled well a clash between Florent Malouda and Phil Neville. The latter drew credit for getting up and running away after it appeared that Malouda had delivered a retaliatory slap following a heavy tackle. Yet replays suggested Neville had initially over-reacted, nursing his face where there had been no contact, before quickly repenting.
After Jack Rodwell hit the post Jermaine Beckford levelled, and might have laid on a winner if he had better awareness. Beckford was the main man at Leeds and, admits Moyes, still needs to learn about team-play: "Drogba would have played someone in and they'd have won the game. That's the difference in quality. If you get those moments and don't make the right decision it kills you." It will come, Moyes has to polish such uncut diamonds, but players like Cahill, Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines shows he can. It may not look it from the league table, but Everton's faith in Moyes shows the value of stability. Ancelotti, and, surely, most Chelsea fans, will hope that the club''s capricious owner recognises the principle applies to rich clubs as well.Reuse content