I read a post on a Guardian blog recently that suggested Ancelotti ‘must’ step out from Mourinho’s shadow. It made some interesting points, but drifted somewhat to the conclusion that he stood more chance of succeeding in doing so than Grant and Scolari because he has increased backing in the transfer market from Abramovich. You can read it here.
The real, most immediate and interesting question however, is actually: should he try to?
This isn’t about whether Ancelotti will achieve the successes needed to make Chelsea fans loosen their talon-like grip on the Jose era. More pressing, is how Ancelotti will go will go about targeting success: rip up the rulebook and start again, or tinker at the edges of an already successful team? Everything starts with this question – transfers, sales, training and tactics.
Scolari tried to ‘emerge from Mourinho’s shadow’ with the new rule book approach. He adopted a more liberal style on the pitch and even his demeanour off it portrayed a more widely appealing image to non-Chelsea fans. But he failed.
Conversely, Grant and then Hiddink both achieved success, but they remained within the safe confines of Jose’s tactical shadow. Hiddink achieved success through upping fitness, organising the defence, employing tighter tactics and working with players to increase the team ethic. Credit is due to Hiddink for being so successful in these respects, but these are all hallmarks of Mourinho’s Chelsea.
We have long been told that Roman wants his Chelsea to play more flamboyant football (though of course we’ve never heard it from the horse’s mouth – perhaps he just wants to win). But to rip up the rulebook and start again in the hope of creating a new team that wins while playing differently is risky. Rumours that Drogba will sign a new contract soon seem to suggest that upheaval isn’t in the offing. The way Chelsea play, their attacking style, mentality and approach the game, largely revolves around the Ivorian’s presence in the squad. Without him, Chelsea would need to set up completely differently in midfield and attack and that might take very significant investment in new players.
In my view, the club is actually still in a very similar position now as it was two or three seasons ago: being two or three quality signings short (in the right positions) of being full-time contenders on all fronts again. Having the equivalents of a 2006 Robben and Duff in the squad would see the team take on an entirely new dimension and allow it to play differently – without disturbing the team through too much change.
The only way for Ancelotti to ‘emerge from Mourinho’s shadow’ – in the eyes of fans – will be through renewed success on the pitch. To do that though, Carlo would be best off sticking close to the shade.
Disagree and think more wholesale changes are needed? Post a comment.