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Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti laughs off crisis

Carlo Ancelotti was in jovial mood at Monday's news conference
Ancelotti was a picture of calm despite his side's troubles

By Mandeep Sanghera
BBC Sport at Cobham

"Surprise, eh?" was Carlo Ancelotti's jovial greeting to the press on Monday following wild speculation over his Chelsea future.

He signed off by light-heartedly asking the assembled journalists if it would be safe to buy the newspapers on Tuesday.

In between, a calm and diplomatic Ancelotti was, in contrast to his team, in good form as he attempted to give the Stamford Bridge outfit the kind of reassurance that events on and off the pitch have recently shaken.

Chelsea have lost three of their last four games, eroding their Premier League lead, and assistant manager Ray Wilkins has been deemed surplus to requirements, though not by Ancelotti.

Former opposition scout Michael Emenalo has been crow-barred in as Ancelotti's new right-hand man in a series of events that were supposed to have had the Italian considering his future. So had he?

A biggish club within the M25

"Yes," came the answer to cue a frenzy of clicking cameras before the correct translation of the question saw the 51-year-old change his answer to "no".

Ancelotti emphasised he had not rung the League Managers' Association to discuss his position at Chelsea. When, on Sunday night, they phoned him at home to ask him what was happening, he replied: "Nothing's happening."

He also played down the impact the departure of Wilkins has had and insisted the club's recent travails were not down to his exit.

"The problem is on the pitch," said Ancelotti, speaking ahead of his side's Champions League group game against MSK Zilina.

On this front, the Italian and Emenalo stood side-by-side as they watched the Chelsea players training at their state-of-the-art training ground in the leafy village of Cobham.

Paul Clement, who had also been linked with the job as Wilkins' replacement, was also involved as the faltering Chelsea squad were put through their paces.

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti (left) with new assistant Michael Emenalo
Ancelotti (left) and new assistant Emenalo

The players seemed affected by their recent troubles. There was none of the playfulness and joking you sometimes see at these open training sessions before a European game.

Instead, although there was a serious air about them, they did not appear to carry the same confidence and authority they possessed when they were sweeping all before them earlier on this season.

Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou insisted the atmosphere was still the same in the dressing-room and praised Ancelotti for the way he keeps the pressure off the squad.

Meanwhile, the Chelsea manager was at pains to state his side remain top of the Premier League on goal difference, while they can finish top of their Champions League group with a point at home against MSK Zilina.

He insisted he retained a belief in his players and urged them to stay "focused" as he bids to turn their fortunes around, despite appearing not to have the level of funds previous managers have enjoyed under Blues owner Roman Abramovich.

However, even if Chelsea get back to winning ways, trouble - as shown by the Wilkins affair - does not seem too far away as whenever there is a boardroom interference in football affairs, it can make for an uneasy alliance.

Carlo Ancelotti (left) with Silvio Berlusconi
For whatever reason, if Chelsea were to dispense of his services, I'm sure there would be a queue of a number of top clubs who would want Ancelotti

Journalist Giancarlo Galavotti

Ancelotti is an experienced campaigner in dealing with such issues from his time as manager of AC Milan and answering to the club's owner as well as Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Giancarlo Galavotti is Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport's London-based correspondent and believes that while Ancelotti will not quit, he is in a strong position considering his standing in the game.

"In Italy we still have owners who are football people," said Galavotti.

"In the case of Silvio Berlusconi, like it or not, in terms of football he knows much more than probably the whole of the chairmen in the Premier League.

"I'm afraid the situation is not exactly the same at Chelsea. I'm not sure how to compare Mr Abramovich's knowledge of football with Mr Berlusconi's.

"I'm not sure how to compare the quality of the directors of those at Chelsea with those at AC Milan or indeed those at the major European and continental clubs.

"Whatever impact it may have, Ancelotti is a professional. He has been through a lot in his career. He can continue in his job, particularly, because I believe he has the full support of his squad.

"For whatever reason, if Chelsea were to dispense of his services, I'm sure there would be a queue of a number of top clubs who would want Ancelotti.

"That's why he is not under undue pressure because he knows there are very few coaches at his level."

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see also
Ancelotti rubbishes quit rumours
22 Nov 10 |  Chelsea
Chelsea 2-1 MSK Zilina
23 Nov 10 |  Europe
Ancelotti defiant despite defeat
20 Nov 10 |  Chelsea
Birmingham 1-0 Chelsea
20 Nov 10 |  Premier League
Wilkins wants answers from Blues
20 Nov 10 |  Chelsea
Chelsea 0-3 Sunderland
14 Nov 10 |  Premier League

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