Ancelotti insists misfiring Chelsea squad 'not good enough'
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 that 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. We struggled to manage without (Frank) Lampard, (Didier) Drogba, (Michael) Essien, (John) Terry and Alex. It was very difficult."
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 doesn't care if his team finish second or third, as long as they qualify for the Champions League. 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 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 Brom, 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 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." (© Independent News Service)