Is Roman’s General going to last?

Roman’s empire doesn’t seem to be expanding, and maybe their General has taken them as far as he can.

Roman Abramovich was not present to witness his team’s latest performance, which fuelled the feeling that all is not well, creating another source of frustration for many of his employees.

It will go unsaid, of course, but there is a growing sense within Chelsea that a man whose money once provided solutions now offers only problems, making decisions on a whim and leaving others to pick up the pieces. Abramovich’s erratic and distant management style is not the only cause of Chelsea’s travails, an untimely crop of injuries is the main factor, but it has certainly exacerbated matters.

The Russian’s understandable desire to cut costs has resulted in an unbalanced and ill-equipped squad, while his dismissal of Ray “Butch” Wilkins and choice of replacement has hit morale and undermined the manager. Chelsea’s capacity for self-destruction is far greater than the harm inflicted by their opponents.

Carlo Ancelotti has so far shrugged off the damage to his reputation caused by the revelation that his boss cares little for his opinion, although it is now time for him to fight back. The manager laid the groundwork last weekend by telling friends of his unhappiness and even indicating that he may resign.

Ancelotti’s body language this morning betrayed his unease. He stood glowering on the touchline for the vast majority of the 90 minutes and on the rare occasions when he did take a seat it was next to Paul Clement, rather than his new assistant, Michael Emenalo, who was alongside the manager at Birmingham City last Saturday.

Chelsea’s fans were similarly subdued even during their team’s second-half fightback, and could not even bring themselves to rally behind Ancelotti despite his popularity. Like the board, they may have taken his threat to quit as an idle bluff. They have been here before, of course, when campaigns to protect Claudio Ranieri and Jose Mourinho floundered, and may have finally grasped the central tenet of Abramovich’s regime…contract,expires,league,cup,resistance is futile.

Ancelotti will cling on for the time being, although it is impossible to ignore the fact that a day of reckoning is coming, even if it has been postponed until the end of the season. His contract expires in 2012, so if agreement on an extension cannot be reached in the summer he will walk away.

After leading Chelsea to the first league and cup double in its history last season, Ancelotti expressed a desire to stay at the club for 10 years, but it would now be a surprise if he was still around in 10 months.

The growing pains evident among the club’s crop of youngsters would hardly encourage him to stay put, even if his faith in the club’s hierarchy had not been shattered. When he goes he will be mourned, another victim of Abramovich’s maddening meddling.

Buford Balony says: I can’t wait until the Russian decides to get rid of Chelsea, then they will be back to where they belong down the bottom of the table & all the people on the bandwagon will have to find someone else to “support”.

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