Early Doors

Dead man walking

Early Doors

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Carlo Ancelotti be warned: Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is not known for his patience.

This is a man who had no compunction is pulling the trigger on Jose Mourinho, despite the Portuguese having won six trophies in three years, becoming the most successful manager in the club's history.

Since then, at Abramovich's behest, the managers have tumbled with a similar frequency to Didier Drogba in the box.

Avram Grant was next to go, despite having led the Blues to second in the Premier League and the final of the Champions League. It simply wasn't good enough for Abramovich.

Luiz Felipe Scolari wasn't deterred by the clear danger lurking ahead. He too was promptly fired for not impressing Abramovich after just over seven months in the job.

In came Guus Hiddink, who had the right idea: take on the job with a pre-agreed end date to the contract. It would take something spectacularly bad to get fired if you're leaving after four months anyway.

Who knows whether the Dutchman would have got the chop if he had not honoured his commitment to the Russian national side and instead joined Chelsea permanently? After all, he only managed to win the FA Cup and take Chelsea to the semi-finals of the Champions League during his brief stint in charge - a frankly paltry haul for someone as success-hungry as Abramovich.

So to Ancelotti, who worked wonders in his first season in charge, not only leading his side to the title but in a swashbuckling style to which Chelsea fans had unfortunately become unaccustomed.

That electric form continued into the early parts of this season as Chelsea regularly notched up scores that those beleaguered Australian cricketers would be proud of, making them the team to beat once again.

Even Abramovich would have been hard pushed not to harbour at least a faint feeling of contentment in the pit of his stomach.

But a disastrous run of form that has seen Chelsea pick up just six points from their last eight games has changed all that, and now Ancelotti is sweating on his job.

Not that the suave Italian will admit it, although he is nothing if not a pragmatist.

"I don't know (how long Abramovich will remain patient). Obviously he won't be happy at this moment," he said after last night's defeat to Arsenal.

"I will take my responsibility, but this is a question you have to ask him, not me.

"I'm not afraid about my job. Everyone said I did a fantastic job last year. Now people are asking me about my job.

"We have to do better, obviously. It's not usual that Chelsea can't win for six games."

No it isn't. Nor is it normal for Abramovich to sit back and watch his expensively-assembled ship sink.

The Russian currently finds his team in the unfamiliar surroundings of fourth place in the Premier League. Another defeat to Bolton on Wednesday could see them slip to sixth.

Abramovich has spent more than £600 million since arriving at the club in 2003. He has done so generously and for the large part without question, but on the assumption that his cash will buy success.

Failure to win the Premier League would normally be enough for that trigger finger to fire again; getting into a dogfight for a Champions League place... well, they can start filling out Ancelotti's P45 right away.

With Arsenal, who took full advantage of Chelsea's latest dithering performance last night, and Manchester United just beginning to hit their stride, not to mention Manchester City's refusal to go away, Ancelotti is going to have to pull off quite a remarkable turnaround in the New Year if his side are to make a decent fist of defending their title - or if he is to save his own bacon.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "We didn't play well. We're in a difficult moment. We need to try and win the game against Bolton. We have to continue to work. We worked well these last two weeks. We didn't have a good performance today but we'll try in the next game. The table is not good but this is the reality. We have to wake up. Now we are sleeping." By the time Ancelotti wakes up, there may already be a horse's head lying next to him.

FOREIGN VIEW: Antonio Cassano is without doubt one of ED's favourite all-time players: wonderfully talented on the pitch and equally spectacular off it. It's a couple of days too late, but his autobiography I Dico Tutto (I'll tell you everything) would have made the perfect present. The striker tells of the time he told Fabio Capello the now England boss was "a piece of shit, more fake than Monopoly money" and that he has slept with "between 600 and 700 women". There is also a priceless yarn involving food, girls and a hotel porter. In short, Cassano is interesting. Bland he is not and you never know what he's going to do next. Apart from this time: he will join Milan in January and has already teamed up with the Rossoneri at their Dubai training base. After that, who knows?

COMING UP: Yet more Premier League action in what seems to be an unusually relentless festive period. Five games kick off at 3pm, with West Ham v Everton at 5:30pm and Birmingham v Manchester United at 8pm. We've got live coverage of it all. There's also full Championship, League One and League Two programmes (weather permitting) but before all that, we'll bring you the best of the recent action in our Team of the Week. And, of course, you can follow England's imminent retention of the Ashes with our all-singing, all-dancing cricket coverage from Melbourne.

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