Ancelotti set to quit
Chelsea boss considering future as Wilkins fallout undermines authority
Carlo Ancelotti is understood to believe that the sacking of Ray Wilkins as his assistant and appointment of the little-known but influential Michael Emenalo has, perhaps fatally, undermined his authority at Chelsea.
The 51-year-old Italian is, according to sources, considering his future at the club because of his anger over Wilkins' sudden departure.
Ancelotti, who concedes that he does not have "total control of the team", is concerned that he has let Wilkins down and that his own standing in world football has been damaged and his reputation reduced by recent events.
Sources said last night that the man who brought an unprecedented Premier League and FA Cup double to Chelsea last season believes that "something is broke" and it might not be possible to repair the damage.
It could be that Ancelotti has been deliberately undermined with Emenalo close to the club's demanding owner, Roman Abramovich. The elevation of the 45-year-old Nigerian has parallels with Avram Grant's arrival at Stamford Bridge which eventually led to Jose Mourinho leaving the club. Emenalo was brought to Chelsea by Grant also.
One source said last night that it was hard to envisage Ancelotti remaining at Chelsea after this season and there was even the possibility of him leaving before then, although that seems unlikely. His contract is due to expire in the summer of 2012 although talks over an extension would not take place under after the end of this campaign, which has become derailed with three defeats in the past four league matches. Ancelotti had no say in the decision to sack Wilkins and has made clear his unhappiness. Having claimed on Friday that Emenalo would not be allowed to coach the first team and was not Wilkins's direct replacement, Ancelotti conceded after the defeat to Birmingham City on Saturday: "He's doing the same job as Ray Wilkins."
When told that such a state of affairs would never have happened to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, Ancelotti said tellingly: "You have to compare me with Ferguson? It's a different position because Ferguson has total control of the team. I am just technical direction. Full stop.
"This is not my decision," Ancelotti said again of Wilkins' departure. "This is not the reason we lost the game. We lost the game because in four games we scored just one goal. We have to improve, to stay more in focus."
Although Ancelotti remains adamant that Chelsea are suffering more through the injuries that had hit them hard than Wilkins' departure, it does appear that the decision to sack the 54-year-old has led to a deterioration in the atmosphere around the club. There have been suggestions that 'player power' may have had a part in Wilkins' demise but that could not be further from the mark as he was popular with the squad as well as Ancelotti. Abramovich and key decision-makers at Chelsea may have thought differently, however, and Emenalo, who has been the 'opposition scout', has been groomed for promotion for some time. Indeed there had been some suggestions that he might even have been earmarked to replace Frank Arnesen, the club's technical director, whose contract expires at the end of this season and who is considering his own future.
If Chelsea were to lose both Ancelotti and Arnesen in the same season, it would cause a great deal of damage at a club which had appeared, finally, to have found unprecedented stability with the pair working successfully together. Last season the Premier League and FA Cup were won while Chelsea took the bold decision to move on some ageing, highly-paid players and blood a crop of youngsters instead.
It has been claimed that Ancelotti is frustrated at the lack of transfer activity but the two big signings made since he arrived -- Yuri Zhirkov and Ramires -- were both players he wanted while he has told the club's hierarchy there is no need to sign big-name players yet. The pursuit of first Fernando Torres and then Wayne Rooney were both at Abramovich's instigation although Ancelotti does want to sign another top-class striker within two years.
Wilkins arrived two years ago to help Luiz Felipe Scolari but was retained after the Brazilian's departure. Although Ancelotti had intended to bring in his own assistant when he arrived, he grew to admire and like Wilkins.
Wilkins' contract was up for renewal but he was summarily dismissed by chief executive Ron Gourlay under Abramovich's instructions. Chelsea say they will honour the terms of his contract with a payment but Wilkins is considering legal action, under the advice of the League Managers' Association. No reasons have been given by the club for his sacking.
There may have been a sense that Abramovich was feeling things were too 'cosy' at the club and that he needed to shake it up. He has certainly done that although it may have a spectacular end result. (©Daily Telegraph, London)