Chelsea squad not good enough, says Ancelotti

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti yesterday looked back over the remains of what will go down as the worst season of Roman Abramovich's eight-year reign and confessed the squad was not good enough.

With speculation mounting that he will be replaced in the summer, the Italian refused to take any questions on his future, so instead was quizzed on the club's past – specifically where Chelsea went so wrong this season.

Ancelotti confirmed that he fully supported the decision last summer to release five senior players – Michael Ballack, Ricardo Carvalho, Joe Cole, Deco and Juliano Belletti – but admitted the decision to start the season with just 19 first-team players did leave the Double winners vulnerable when injuries hit them hard in late autumn.

Ancelotti said: "I don't think the squad was good enough this year. At the start of the season, we couldn't have envisaged having very important players out at the same time. We struggled to manage this – without [Frank] Lampard, [Didier] Drogba, [Michael] Essien, [John] Terry, Alex. It was very difficult. At a certain point in the season, we needed to put [Paulo] Ferreira in at centre-back because we'd lost all our other centre-backs. You cannot think at the start of the season that you'd have all these players out."

Chelsea started the season with the smallest squad in the Premier League, the 19 senior players including three goalkeepers. The aim was to integrate young players from the academy gradually but when injuries struck the policy left Chelsea horribly exposed. The limitations of the squad became apparent in November, when they were beaten 3-0 at home by Sunderland, and Ancelotti decided he could not rely on Chelsea's young lions any more. "In the difficult moment, it was harder to put the responsibility on them," he said.

The elephant in the room is the sacking of assistant manager Ray Wilkins just three days before the defeat to Sunderland. With one blow Abramovich's decision to sack Wilkins and promote Michael Emenalo as his replacement destabilised Chelsea's dressing room and undermined the authority of the manager. Coming as it did when Terry and Lampard were both out injured, and Drogba was suffering the effects of malaria, the timing could not have been worse.

Ancelotti yesterday threw in the towel on Chelsea's title defence, and admitted he does not care whether his team finished second or third, just as long as they qualified for the Champions League. "Second or third place is not important for Chelsea. The first thing is to win the title. The second thing is to reach a position that allows us to reach the Champions League next year," he said. Chelsea are two points behind second-placed Arsenal.

The main concern for Chelsea going into tonight's home game with Birmingham City remains the ongoing goal drought for their £50m striker Fernando Torres, which now stands at 12 games and covers 701 minutes. Chelsea were more like their old selves in Saturday's 3-1 victory at West Bromwich Albion, where Drogba was preferred to Torres and Chelsea reverted to a more familiar 4-3-3 formation. Ancelotti admitted he is tempted to stick with the same team as Brazilians Alex and Ramires are again both missing, but also gave his support to Torres.

The Chelsea manager said: "It's very difficult to change the team that played so well against West Brom, not just for the result, not just for the performance. It's not a good moment for Fernando, but I want to do my best to support him. To score one goal, for him, could be the best medicine."



PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz