Someone wanted to know if Carlo Ancelotti imagined he still had the confidence of Roman Abramovich. His reply was somewhat self-deprecatory, which for admirers of the Italian and fans of Chelsea was surely as depressing as Arsenal's confirmation that the reigning champions are running pretty near empty.
This is especially disturbing in view of Abramovich's continued failure to understand the vital dynamics of a successful club.
The flaw is now so evident that if Ancelotti is shown the door in the near future he might consider pinning a note on it for the benefit of his successors. It should be a warning against any misplaced hope.
Hope, this is, in the capacity of Abramovich to grant his managers the kind of support and confidence that, without any significant exceptions, have been the key ingredient in the development of the most solid football success. Certainly, it was the foundation of Ferguson's Manchester United, a phenomenal story of progress which simply couldn't have happened under the fatally tinkering regime of an Abramovich.
United had to wait the best part of five years before achieving the kind of results and obvious transformation which might, rationally, have been expected to have underpinned Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge when he launched himself with two League title wins. There was, of course, a more immediate example at the Emirates on Monday night, when Arsène Wenger was able to talk buoyantly about maybe finding the lost chord after five barren – at least in terms of trophies – years.
Now it appears Ancelotti could well be being measured for the chop.
It is really quite sickening when you consider his achievements in his first season and the aura of well-being, give or take the odd sign of Chelsea's need for some vital reseeding, created right up to the moment the oligarch pulled one of his now depressingly familiar tricks with the crude sacking of Ray Wilkins and the reimposition of one of any big club's most depressing scenarios: a great football man besieged by the presence of board-appointed non-entities. Such a development was the death knell of Mourinho; that, and his inability to sign the players he wanted and decline the ones he didn't.
If Ancelotti goes the way of Mourinho and Luiz Felipe Scolari, Abramovich's gunbelt notches will provide the darkest evidence of his extraordinary belief that in football matters he knows best. He will have culled the winners of a World Cup and two South American Cups and four Champions League trophies and a hatful of league titles.
In the case of Ancelotti, it could be argued in the next few weeks that he cut down a football man in full flight, one who had lived successfully for the best part of a decade under the mercurial and ruthless Silvio Berlusconi, and was brilliantly preserving the last of the strength of a distinctly ageing team.
Abramovich denied Ancelotti his request for a significant addition to the midfield engine room weakened by the cost-cutting departure of Michael Ballack, imposing the light-weight Ramires, a Brazilian World Cup fringe player unsuited to the physical demands of the Premier League, rather than someone of genuine weight like German powerhouse Bastian Schweinsteiger. He then thrashed the spirit of the football department with the humiliating ejection of Wilkins.
Does Ancelotti really want the confidence of Roman Abramovich? He might be reflecting soon that when another Champions League winner, Guus Hiddink, was told he had it, he couldn't get on his Harley-Davidson fast enough.
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