The Chelsea players’ well-documented affection for former boss José Mourinho was reaffirmed in the run up to the pre-season friendly against Inter Milan in the USA this week. Frank Lampard went as far as to say: ‘I love him as a man and as a manager’.However, it would be fair to say that new boss Carlo Ancelotti has a slightly lower opinion of his predecessor. He wrote in his autobiography: ‘There are worse things in life than me and Abramovich together. The worst for him had already been and gone. He had already worked with His Specialness, Mourinho.’ The book later refers to “his Mourinhoness, comparing himself to Jesus”.
While this may appear to be nothing more than a petty spat, it reveals that Ancelotti is prepared to take on Mourinho rather than live quietly in his shadow, which could be exactly what Chelsea needs. Those who have attempted to replace the Blues’ most successful manager of all time have failed miserably, apart from Guus Hiddink in his temporary tenure.
Avram Grant was Abramovich’s idea of a practical joke, except it wasn’t funny, and Phil Scolari turned out to be Brasil’s answer to Norman Wisdom (funny looking, vaguely likeable but totally inept). Ancelotti must put his own stamp on the club to be a success. Grant and Scolari both paid the price for continuing Mourinho’s way of doing things with only a few minor but expensive tweaks.
But now the new boss is experimenting with a diamond midfield formation and two strikers – unheard of under Mourinho. Last season the Chelsea midfield got so over-crowded that Ken Livingstone wanted to introduce a congestion charge in the centre circle at Stamford Bridge. In fact, after last season’s FA Cup third round, the dictionary definition of “superfluous” now reads: “Holding midfielder versus Southend.”
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