Dismissal for Carlo
Chelsea went into the 2010-2011 Premier League season as defending ‘Double’ winners. Carlo Ancelotti’s second season at Stamford Bridge started in pretty devastating fashion, as they won seven of their first eight games in the top-flight.
A calamitous run of form between November and January saw the Blues drop to as low as fifth place, virtually ending any realistic hopes of them defending their title. Although a Spring revival did leave them within three points of Manchester United in early May, a 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford ensured Sir Alex Ferguson’s side would regain their crown from Chelsea at the season’s end. Not even the British transfer record signing of Fernando Torres could bring any silverware to the club. Ultimately, this meant Ancelotti was sacked at the season’s end.
Squad: Petr Cech, Branislav Ivanovic, Ashley Cole, John Terry, Paulo Ferreira, Jose Bosingwa, Yuri Zhirkov, Alex, David Luiz, Jeffrey Bruma (Left on-loan in February 2011), Ryan Bertrand, Gael Kakuta (Left on-loan in January 2011), Josh McEachran, John Obi Mikel, Yossi Benayoun, Ramires, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, Florent Malouda, Salomon Kalou, Daniel Sturridge (Left on-loan in January 2011), Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, Fernando Torres
After winning the Premier League title in his first full season in English football and the FA Cup, Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti felt his squad didn’t need major investment added to it.
Their biggest outlay was a £22 million fee that was agreed for the defensive midfielder Ramires. Ramires had impressed at that summer’s World Cup with Brazil and had captured the eye of the Blues scouts with his performances for Benfica.
Also joining was the Israeli team captain Yossi Benayoun. He bolstered the midfield ranks in a £5.5 million switch from Premier League rivals Liverpool FC. The only other summer addition was 17-year-old defender Tomas Kalas from Sigma Olomouc in the Czech Republic. However, he was immediately loaned back to Sigma to continue to develop his first-team experience levels.
Experience did depart though as Michael Ballack, Joe Cole, Juliano Belletti, Deco and Ricardo Carvalho were all allowed to leave the club. Deco left the club on compassionate grounds to join Fluminense for an undisclosed fee. This meant he linked up again with Belletti, who’d gone there following his release from the west Londoners.
Ballack returned to Bayer 04 Leverkusen in Germany, Cole joined Liverpool FC and Carvalho reunited with former Blues manager Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid.
Chelsea began their Premier League title defence at home to newly-promoted West Bromwich Albion, who were being managed by former Chelsea player Roberto Di Matteo. Having beaten Wigan Athletic 8-0 on the final day of the previous season, the Londoners kept up their high scoring levels in the season’s early weeks.
The Baggies were dismantled 6-0, with Didier Drogba also picking up where he left off from the previous season. The Ivorian scored a hat-trick, with Florent Malouda backing him up with two goals. A week later, Chelsea made it back-to-back 6-0 victories as Wigan once again were on the receiving end of a goalscoring extravaganza. To ensure the goals were being shared out, it was Nicolas Anelka and Salomon Kalou who this time notched up braces at The DW Stadium.
Ancelotti’s men only conceded one goal in their first five matches and that was to a pretty special effort from West Ham United’s Scott Parker in a 3-1 defeat. Stoke City and Blackpool were also beaten fairly comfortably leaving Chelsea having won their first five games, scoring 22 goals and conceding just one. They looked in formidable form.
There was a minor setback in their sixth match. A tremendous solo effort from Carlos Tevez helped Manchester City to a 1-0 victory over the champions but it was the only blemish in a virtually perfect start to the season.
TABLE ON 1st November 2010
|6||West Bromwich Albion||10||4||3||3||14||17||-3||15|
Wilkins’ mysterious departure sets off horror run
Chelsea travelled to Anfield in early November confident of maintaining their five-point advantage at the top of the table. However, they were about to get a rude awakening from Liverpool FC and Fernando Torres. Torres scored twice in the first half, helping Liverpool to a deserved 2-0 victory.
Less than a week later, one of Ancelotti’s first-team coaches, Ray Wilkins had been mysteriously sacked. With his contract up for renewal at the end of the season, the decision was taken for him to leave abruptly – a decision which left many outside of the club baffled.
Days later, Chelsea looked a pale shadow of themselves at home to Sunderland. Steve Bruce’s side were terrific but much of the post-match talk was about how bad the home side were. The shock 3-0 loss was only the second home defeat Ancelotti had suffered in the Premier League as Chelsea manager.
The Sunderland defeat sparked a horror run of form which saw them knocked off the top spot by Manchester United. Chelsea won just one of their next nine league matches, slipping to as low as fifth position in the table.
Among the setbacks were a 1-0 loss away to relegation-threatened Birmingham City, a 3-1 humbling away at Arsenal and a frustrating 3-3 draw at home with inconsistent Aston Villa. Suddenly, the reigning champions looked distinctively like ex-champions.
Splashing out on Torres
The low point of Chelsea’s winter slide was a 1-0 defeat to bottom club Wolverhampton Wanderers. An early own goal from Jose Boswinga was the only goal of the game at Molineux. There was an improvement afterwards of three successive wins. Nevertheless, owner Roman Abramovich felt the title defence was slipping away.
So, he sanctioned a couple of key moves in the transfer market as part of a crazy deadline day. Abramovich parted with £75 million of his cash. First to arrive was the Brazilian defender David Luiz who joined from Benfica for £25 million + young midfielder Nemanja Matic. Luiz was seen as a long-term replacement for Carvalho.
Then, the British transfer record was shattered later in the day with the swoop to bring Torres to the club for £50 million. Torres was not quite the player he had been and certainly cut an unhappy figure during his final few months as a Liverpool FC player. Nevertheless, it was a gamble Abramovich felt was worth taking. How much Ancelotti was involved in these transactions is still unknown.
Torres’ debut came against his most recent employers but he struggled. It was a sign of things to come for the Spaniard during his time at Stamford Bridge. Jamie Carragher marked him out of the game brilliantly and Liverpool left with all three points thanks to Raul Meireles’ 69th minute matchwinner.
Late surge not enough
By mid-April, Chelsea’s only chance of silverware was the Premier League. Their League Cup challenge had ended at the first hurdle, losing 4-3 to Newcastle United in the third round. The FA Cup defence was brought to a halt in a fourth round replay, losing a penalty shootout at home to David Moyes’ well-drilled Everton outfit.
The UEFA Champions League dream ended in the quarter-final stage and bitterly, it was to an English side once again in this competition. Chelsea lost 3-1 on aggregate to Manchester United over two legs.
Chelsea’s late surge had begun in early March with a 2-1 victory over United in a game where Luiz scored his first goal for the club. Torres’ agonising wait went on until late April. It came in a 3-0 home win over West Ham United – part of a 10-game unbeaten run that managed to close down Manchester United’s lead over them from 12 points to just three.
Victory over United at Old Trafford in their 36th Premier League game would have drawn the reigning champions’ level on-points. However, in the game that truly mattered, it was the Red Devils who played like champions. Javier Hernandez scored inside 30 seconds and a header from Nemanja Vidic put United out of sight. 2-1 was the final scoreline and Sir Alex Ferguson’s side required just one more point from their last two fixtures.
Chelsea’s season ended with a whimper, losing 1-0 on the final day to Everton. This meant they finished runners-up and only above third-placed Manchester City on goal difference. This was deemed unacceptable for Abramovich and Ancelotti was sacked a few hours after the final whistle on Merseyside.
Chelsea would start the 2011-2012 campaign under new management with their sixth permanent boss of the Abramovich era. The 2010-2011 season which had started so promisingly ended in real disappointment.
FINAL 2010-2011 TABLE – 1st to 6th