The soccer spread for Tuesday’s Champions League match between Chelsea and Manchester United was always going to go against the Blues, who went into Old Trafford down 1-0. Sure enough, Chelsea crashed out of Europe’s biggest club competition with a 2-1 loss, and even though the team selection may not have been all his own doing, Carlo Ancelotti’s tenure as manager at Chelsea is likely over.
The Blues paid over $81 million to pry Fernando Torres from Liverpool on the eve of the transfer deadline, but things haven’t gone well at all for the Spaniard since he arrived from Anfield. But it wasn’t a surprise that Torres was named in the starting lineup at Old Trafford as the consensus theory is that Ancelotti has been forced to play Torres in order to validate his hefty transfer fee. This isn’t the first time that owner Roman Abramovich has been accused of interfering in team selections; he was instrumental in the signing of Andriy Shevchenko, who clearly wasn’t a part of then-manager Jose Mourinho’s plans, and there were other factors that led to Mourinho eventually leaving Chelsea.
So Ancelotti was the next in line to try and make Abramovich’s version of fantasy football work, and the acquisition of Torres hasn’t worked yet, although to be fair, teams just don’t gel in two months. Take the example of Miami in the NBA; it has taken a while for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to figure out how to play together, and they haven’t worked out all the kinks yet heading into the postseason. It’s going to take some time for Torres and Didier Drogba to learn how to work together, but the odds are that Ancelotti won’t be the one who gets to reap the benefits of their partnership. Abramovich hasn’t been known for his patience; since June 2003, six managers have worked under Abramovich, although Ray Wilkins’ one game between Luiz Felipe Scolari and Guus Hiddink really shouldn’t count. Abramovich wants championships, especially the Champions League, and when he doesn’t have things go his way, heads usually roll (figuratively, of course), even though Ancelotti has done extremely well with what he has to deal with in London. With no hope of any titles this season, don’t expect the Italian Ancelotti to be on the Chelsea bench for the 2011-12 campaign.