Carlo Ancelotti has admitted he was fortunate to survive Chelsea's mid‑season slump after fielding questions over his future at the club in the wake of suggestions from the chief executive, Ron Gourlay, that the manager's position will be reviewed in May.
Victory over Manchester City leaves the reigning champions in third place, some nine points from Manchester United at the top with a game in hand and a trip to Old Trafford to come. Chelsea have now won three league games in succession, though Ancelotti found his position back under scrutiny after Gourlay's pre‑match comments.
The chief executive, speaking on BBC 5 Live, had offered a glowing appraisal of the Italian's impact last season when the club secured their first league and cup double. "Carlo is a world‑class coach," he said. "His record speaks for itself, and his record at Chelsea in a short time – winning the Double in his first season in a new league, coming from Italy – is a great feat." Yet, when asked about the manager's future, he tempered that praise by adding: "Carlo has a contract until end of 2012. Let's see where we are at the end of May, then we'll judge the coach and other people at the football club."
Ancelotti remains committed to Chelsea and hopeful of seeing out the final year of his contract, admitted if either side wished to terminate their relationship then that would herald a parting of the ways. "I'm happy to work here, and you know my contract finishes in 2012 so there is a year to run," he said. "Then we will take a decision. I'm happy in this moment. So I think we will continue. If one party – the club or myself – is not happy to continue, I think we'll have to [split].
"But I know very well that this team slept for two months and, in that moment, I had fantastic support from the team. A lot of coaches that sleep for two months, at this moment, are at home watching the game on television. I am here. Fortunately."
That admission was made with Chelsea showing signs of recovery after their mid-winter stutter had seen 10 points taken from 11 games. This team feel upwardly mobile again, despite the continuing toils of their £50m forward, Fernando Torres. The Spaniard endured a seventh game for the Londoners without a goal – he has now been scoreless for 498 minutes at the club – before being replaced with this contest goalless and 20 minutes to play.
His substitution prompted some sections of the crowd to boo, with the owner, Roman Abramovich, merely mustering a wry smile. "It doesn't matter," said Ancelotti when asked about the pressure that is building on the club's record signing to open his account. "With Fernando in the team, other than in the Liverpool game, we've won all our matches. I hope [Didier] Drogba, [Nicolas] Anelka and [Salomon] Kalou also start to score, but Torres just has to keep going. He shouldn't lose confidence. I haven't asked him to score. I've asked him to move well, and he has given us good movement. We have to be patient, and so does he. The goal will arrive.
"We have nine games left to play and we have to try our best. United won on Saturday, so the gap's the same. The most important thing is to remain focused game by game, and I want to see the same spirit and attitude. In my opinion, this return to form has come too late. If it had come earlier ... well, our moment is good now."
Chelsea were reliant upon two Brazilians signed from Benfica for their goals here, the outstanding David Luiz opening the scoring with 12 minutes remaining as City tired before Ramires scored in stoppage time at the end. The visitors, their efforts undermined by fatigue after their midweek Europa League elimination to Dynamo Kyiv – when they had played for 54 minutes with 10 men – had been denied Carlos Tevez with a groin injury. The striker, whose energy was sorely missed, will return to Argentina during the international break, but has not been selected by his country.
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