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Ancelotti passion shows why Blues are on to a winner

Carlo Ancelotti has not won anything yet, but tonight he can crack open a bottle of red wine and raise a glass at having passed something of a minor landmark -- he has lasted longer in the Stamford Bridge hotseat than Luiz Felipe Scolari.

One year ago today Roman Abramovich arrived at Chelsea's £20m training ground outside southwest London to tell Scolari it wasn't working. And with that, the World Cup-winning coach, known as Big Phil, packed his bags to try his luck in Uzbekistan.

Twelve months on and Ancelotti can congratulate himself on having survived longer than the famed Brazilian. But he has done much more than just survive. Under his leadership Chelsea enjoy a two-point lead at the top of the Premier League, have progressed without a hiccup to the knockout stages of the Champions League and are heavy favourites to retain the FA Cup.

Ancelotti is succeeding with much the same players that had failed under Scolari; they failed to win enough games, and they failed to give the manager their full backing. But first under Guus Hiddink, who safely saw Chelsea through to the end of last season, and now under Ancelotti, a squad that had seemed virtually unmanageable a year a go has become the outstanding team in England.


The furore that greeted captain John Terry's recent bedroom revelations, and the subsequent decision to strip the Chelsea defender of the England captaincy, has done nothing to affect morale at the club. The leaders' 2-0 defeat of Arsenal on Sunday was not the result of a dressing room torn apart by inner doubts and tensions.

Ancelotti has taken Scolari's players and made them greater than the sum of their parts. His achievement in instilling harmony and focus to the ego-driven dressing room should not be underestimated.

Scolari complained after his dismissal that he had been undermined by 'player power' and accused Petr Cech, Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba of going behind his back and moaning to Abramovich. Ancelotti has a far deeper understanding of the workings of a modern dressing room, having spent eight years at AC Milan, and accepts the balance of power has swung away from managers in the past decade. His handling of the Terry situation last week was clear evidence of this. He stood by his player, and expected the same in return. In contrast Scolari was happy to blame players publicly for mistakes, creating a culture of scapegoats, a culture of which he ended up falling victim to.

This approach has enabled Ancelotti to bring out the best in the likes of Drogba, who was dropped by Scolari but has scored 22 goals so far this season. Florent Malouda, Deco and Ricardo Carvalho have also undergone something of a renaissance at the club.

Chelsea's performance in their victory over Arsenal last weekend demonstrated the maturity of the team. A year ago, player power proved to be the downfall of Scolari. Now, the same player power appears to be driving Chelsea and Ancelotti towards the Premier League title.

Meanwhile, skipper Terry has described the support he has received from the club's fans as "incredible". The 29-year-old has refused to comment on the allegations but broke his silence to thank the supporters on the club's television channel.

Terry said: "On a personal note I would like to thank every single fan. It's been an emotional day for myself and how the fans have been with me over the past two weeks has been quite incredible.

"I didn't expect that today and I would like to thank every single individual fan for the way they treated me. It was a great performance and, I mean it from my heart, I would like to thank everyone."