A relaxed Carlo Ancelotti met with the press at Cobham this morning ahead of the Watford FA Cup game at the weekend.

Looking back to the Fulham game, he pinpointed half time as a significant point in the season so far.   He told us that he had chosen not to rant and rave at the players who had failed to perform and seen us go in a goal behind, instead concentrating on the technical details of the changes that he wished to implement before the second half started.   He was quick though to praise the spirit of the team, and particularly the senior players; Terry, Lampard & Drogba who it seems had resorted to more “traditional” methods of motivating their underperforming team mates.

Ancelotti stressed how difficult it was to pull a game around in those circumstances and took the opportunity to praise his team for doing so successfully.

This led onto a discussion about Drogba and the others heading to the African Cup of Nations.  The manager emphasised that the loss of Drogba the man was as significant as that of Drogba the striker, but that he was unworried particularly to be losing players at a time at which we would only be playing one game a week.    He seemed to feel that the congested nature of the fixture calendar in  December made it all the harder for him and his training staff to pull round the slump, given that he had so little time on the pitches of Cobham.    It’s fair to say that he expects a further improvement as January progresses.

When asked about the FA Cup itself, Ancelotti was quick to report that the club had left him in no doubt as to the importance of the competition as soon as he took over the reigns this summer, and when asked if he desired a watch similar to the very expensive one purchased by the players for Guus Hiddink after victory at Wembley in May, he indicated how pleased he would be to receive one in similar circumstances in 2010.

Moving onto the game itself, he felt that Nicolas Anelka would be ready to train with the team tomorrow, having trained alone yesterday and that he would most likely start in what he promised to be a strong line-up.    

Finally discussion moved onto the possibility of new signings in the January transfer window.   An assertion from the press that he had said he would not be buying anyone in the window was met only with laughter, though he did stress how difficult it was to sign players of appropriate calibre at this time of year.    In light of the morning’s financial results he confirmed that there was no issue with regards to the availability of funds from the club, but closed the conference by asserting again how much confidence he has in the squad as it stands.   I think that’s called giving yourself a little “wriggle room”.

So, a new year, improving performances and who knows when it comes to new additions.  More than once Carlo declared his satisfactions at being the best team in his first six months in England – let’s hope he’s talking in similar terms when the pots are handed out in May.

Photo by kind permission of Dan Davies