But pres­sure on new coach Ancelotti to de­liver

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FOOTBALL -

LON­DON: The start of a new sea­son is no place for cyn­i­cism, but it is small sur­prise that re­cent dec­la­ra­tions of a brave new world at Chelsea have been met with a large dash of scep­ti­cism.

The west Lon­don­ers have, af­ter all, been through more new eras in the last five years than some clubs achieve in their en­tire his­tory.

Five man­agers have come and gone in that time, some achiev­ing spec­tac­u­lar suc­cess, oth­ers mis­er­able me­di­ocrity; big-name sign­ings have been pa­raded at Stam­ford Bridge one day and then ush­ered out of the back en­trance the next.

Only the owner, Ro­man Abramovich, has re­mained a con­stant, al­beit that he re­mains largely un­seen and com­pletely un­heard.

That, in it­self, should serve as a warn­ing to Carlo Ancelotti as he pre­pares for his first Premier League out­ing in charge against Hull to­day.

The Ital­ian is a wily char­ac­ter, hav­ing sur­vived life un­der one of the most flam­boy­ant club own­ers the world game has to of­fer in AC Mi­lan’s Sil­vio Ber­lus­coni, but even he might be taken aback by the sheer volatil­ity that comes with be­ing in charge of Chelsea.

Re­sults are es­sen­tial but, in them­selves, not enough. Suc­cess must come with a swag­ger, with foot­ball that in­spires heart­felt ado­ra­tion, not merely ad­mi­ra­tion.

An owner who al­legedly fell in love with foot­ball af­ter a tu­mul­tuous Cham­pi­ons League tie be­tween Manch­ester United and Real Madrid in 2003 will sim­ply not have it any other way.

The pres­sure on Ancelotti is in­tense and while the new man­ager is un­doubt­edly be­ing well re­warded for his ser­vices at Stam­ford Bridge, it is clear he will have to earn ev­ery penny if he is not to go the way of Clau­dio Ranieri, Jose Mour­inho, Avram Grant and Luiz Felipe Sco­lari in nine months’ time.

The early signs are promis­ing. Chelsea have been im­pres­sive in pre-sea­son, adapt­ing quickly to Ancelotti’s new tac­ti­cal di­a­mond for­ma­tion, and dis­patch­ing sev­eral top teams dur­ing their pre-sea­son tour of Amer­ica.

There was also an omi­nous state­ment of in­tent de­liv­ered in last week­end’s Com­mu­nity Shield en­counter with Manch­ester United, when Chelsea shrugged off the dou­ble-blow of go­ing be­hind early on and Wayne Rooney’s stop­page-time equaliser to tri­umph on penal­ties.

If noth­ing else, that showed Chelsea’s fa­mous spirit – which has buck­led only rarely since the days of Mour­inho – is still as strong as ever.

“I have the feel­ing the good times are com­ing back,” Michael Essien, the Ghana mid­fielder, said on his per­sonal blog.

“All the play­ers started to feel the good times to­wards the back end of last sea­son when we got into the winning habit again. That’s the Chelsea we are used to and dur­ing pre-sea­son I could see that same de­sire on the faces of every­one. That’s why I strongly be­lieve there is some­thing ex­cit­ing around the cor­ner,” he added. “We are al­ready en­joy­ing the com­pany of the new boss and his meth­ods.”

Of course, Sco­lari was hailed in the same glow­ing terms last year, when Chelsea played some thrilling foot­ball in the sea­son’s early stages only for their con­fi­dence and form to wither and die with the au­tumn leaves. Ancelotti can­not af­ford a re­peat. Sapa-AFP

BACK TO THE GOOD TIMES: Chelsea’s Florent Malouda, cap­tain John Terry and Ashley Cole cel­e­brate beat­ing Man United in last week’s Com­mu­nity Shield… to­day they aim to get the new sea­son off with a bang against Hull City.

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