Carlo Ancelotti began his role as Chelsea manager in July 2009, arriving from Italy with an impressive CV and replacing the outgoing Guus Hiddink, who had been in temporary charge the previous season.
During his eight years in charge at AC Milan, a club for whom he had played, the avuncular Ancelotti was a popular figure among both the players and supporters, leading the Serie A club to Champions League success on two occasions and securing the Italian title in 2004.
His first game in charge for the Blues was a win against Hull City on the opening day of the 2009/10 season, but while a squad largely unchanged from the previous year started the campaign reasonably well, results began to take a turn for the worse in the New Year.
Ancelotti responded with formation changes and having played at the beginning with a ‘Christmas tree’ shape, once opponents worked out ways to counter that he used two strikers and one attacking midfielder. Then after a first half against Fulham at Christmas when Chelsea were losing, he changed to use two wingers to open space for attack.
Having already been knocked out of the Carling Cup, the Blues were eliminated from the Champions League in the first knockout round, losing home and away to Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan. A resurgence in league form, however, enabled the gap to close on leaders Manchester United, and having beaten Aston Villa 7-1 the previous week, we went to Old Trafford in April in good spirits.
A defeat at Tottenham two weeks later appeared to have handed Man United the initiative once more, but when they were held to a draw against Blackburn, the title was within Chelsea’s reach.
Stoke were beaten 7-0 at Stamford Bridge, before goals from Drogba and Frank Lampard ensured a win away at Liverpool.
With Wigan the visitors to west London on the final day of the campaign, Ancelotti’s side simply needed a win to be crowned champions, and duly obliged, clinching the title with an emphatic 8-0 victory.
Better was to follow a week later, when a solitary Drogba strike secured victory against Portsmouth in the FA Cup final at Wembley, ensuring Ancelotti had won the Double in his first season in England.
Not for many years had a Chelsea team attacked so freely and found goals so easy to come by. Drogba had thrived under the Italian’s management, recording the second-best season goal totals in the club’s history. Ancelotti had a reputation for making the most of established stars.
Optimism was high ahead of the following season, but with experienced players Joe Cole, Michael Ballack, Deco and Juliano Belletti leaving, the depth of the squad was under test as young players were asked to step up.
Yossi Benayoun and Ramires were also brought in, followed by the arrivals of Fernando Torres and David Luiz in January 2011, but following a rampant start to the campaign, form took a dramatic turn for the worse, resulting in a three-month spell in which we lost five games and drew three.
It was famously referred to as a ‘bad moment’ by the manager, although the word moment seemed less appropriate the longer it went on. There were coaching changes too. Ancelotti had mostly taken on the existing staff when he arrived from Italy, including assistant Ray Wilkins, who was dismissed in November 2011.
We were knocked out of the FA Cup at home to Everton in the fourth round, while in the Champions League Manchester United beat us home and away in the quarter-finals to end our elusive European dream for another year.
A fantastic run of form in the league, however, set up a virtual domestic title decider at Old Trafford in May. Sadly, the Blues were unable to reproduce the form we had shown in the preceding matches and in a similar game the previous season, and after going behind inside the first minute, lost 2-1.
Finishing second was a commendable achievement but the inability to progress to the later stages of the Champions League had continued. Ancelotti was dismissed soon after the final game of the season.