x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Ancelotti laughs away job blues at Chelsea

The jovial italian dismisses rumours of his quitting the job and insists 'everything is just normal'.

Carlo Ancelotti ambled into the Chelsea press area with a playful smile on his face. Enjoying the moment, the Italian greeted a room filled with three times the number of journalists that would have been there had he simply been previewing this evening's Champions League tie with MSK Zilina. "Hello," Ancelotti said. "Surprised, huh?"

A flurry of back-page headlines that Ancelotti was on the brink of quitting Chelsea notwithstanding, none should have been. No manager walks out on Roman Abramovich; they wait for the Russian to sack them and collect the multimillion-pound compensation payment.

That Ancelotti is unhappy with his lot has been clear from his public efforts distancing himself from the sacking of Ray Wilkins, his assistant coach, and the promotion of Michael Emenalo as the Englishman's successor.

Before the season even began he was complaining to friends about the weakness of a squad in which five senior internationals had been replaced by academy players, and a lack of support in the transfer market appropriate to Abramovich's instruction that he should win the Champions League.

On Sunday night he was involved in a brief discussion with the League Managers' Association (LMA) about his future at Chelsea. Yet only at the instigation of the LMA, which had been spooked by a wildfire rumour that Ancelotti was on the point of exiting the club.

Inadvertently instigated by a local newspaper reporter using Twitter to sensationally trail a report of Ancelotti press-conference comments following Saturday's 1-0 loss at Birmingham City, the gossip spiralled out of control on Sunday evening. At an LMA dinner in London, journalists were briefed on the organisation's concerns for Chelsea's manager and stories were filed.

Ancelotti, however, is a pragmatist, a man who survived eight years of Silvio Berlusconi's interventionist ownership of AC Milan and is prepared to make the best of irrational circumstances.

Yesterday, he joked that for him Chelsea "is a normal club, very normal" after stating his intention to remain at Stamford Bridge.

"I don't know if it's enough to clarify my position today to close these rumours and speculation," Ancelotti said.

"These rumours are totally untrue. I don't know why they came out. I didn't speak with the LMA. They called me last night when I was at home, quiet, to find out what was happening.

"I have my contract until 2012, here, in this club. I've said a lot of times that I'd like to stay here.

"I love not just this club, but these players. I have a lot of confidence in these players, in this squad, so there's no reason to change my ideas.

"I think that when the team don't reach the right results, obviously the coach is under pressure. Obviously I am under pressure because I'd like Chelsea to win every game, but just this. I am focused on my job and to make us play better than we are at this moment. Just this."

The pressure will increase if Ancelotti is unable to rectify a sequence of three defeats in four not particularly testing Premier League fixtures. His cause is unlikely to be aided by Emenalo's promotion to a seat beside Ancelotti on the Chelsea bench.

The club says the former Tucson Soccer Academy girls team coach will be kept from taking training sessions for his own good until he has updated his coaching qualifications.

Asked if Abramovich had explained his decision to change assistants, Ancelotti said he had not: "No. I think it was the decision of the club. You can ask the club if you want news. For me, for my job, nothing has changed. I wanted to explain in my job. Nothing has changed."

With Abramovich's track record, that change may only be a defeat or two away.

 

sports@thenational.ae

Chelsea v MSK Zilina, 11.30pm, Aljazeera Sport +2

Ian Hawkey reflects on Guy Roux's legacy at Auxerre, go to www.thenational.ae/sport