Carlo Ancelotti insists Chelsea are back on track even though the champions squandered a golden opportunity to end their dismal run in a dramatic 1-1 draw against Tottenham.
After a series of abject displays during a sequence of just two wins from eight games, perhaps it wasn’t surprising that Ancelotti tried to accentuate the positives after Chelsea battled back to secure a point at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
But it could have been so much better if Didier Drogba had converted a stoppage time penalty.
Drogba came off the bench to cancel out Roman Pavlyuchenko’s opener, but the Ivory Coast striker saw his spot-kick saved by Heurelho Gomes and Chelsea have now gone five league games without a win.
The Blues finished the weekend down in fourth place and they could be four points off the top if Arsenal win at Manchester United on Monday.
It is an uncomfortable situation for Ancelotti, who has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks. But the former AC Milan coach took heart from the way his players kept their composure and eventually hit back after Pavlyuchenko’s early goal.
“We deserved to win. We were close to winning but missed a penalty. It doesn’t matter. We played well. I think our bad moment is behind us,” Ancelotti said.
“We didn’t lose confidence after the first half. It was a good reaction.
“This was a tough game and it was a good opportunity to show our qualities. For this reason I am happy.”
Ancelotti’s decision to drop Drogba to the bench after one goal in eight league games was a brave move in the circumstances, but the striker gave a more imposing display when he came on at half-time before missing the crucial penalty.
The Blues boss played down any talk of a rift with Drogba and also claimed Frank Lampard, Chelsea’s regular penalty taker, wasn’t in the right frame of mind to take the spot-kick as he had only just come on for his first appearance in three months.
“Drogba worked very hard. He was dangerous in the box. He was not happy (to be left out) obviously but he showed a good reaction in the second half. He was ready to play,” Ancelotti said.
“The first player to take the penalties is Lampard. After that it is Drogba. Lampard was not able to take it because he did not have a lot of confidence. He had been out a long time.”
Ancelotti’s faith in his players will be sternly tested over the next two weeks as they host United and then travel to Arsenal, but the Blues boss is confident his team will remain in the title race.
“It is an important week,” he said. “We have to recover our condition, train well and prepare for the Manchester United game. It will be a very good test.
“It is not good to be fourth but it is a long race. This year will be a Premier League with a lot of balance because a lot of teams are involved in the title race.
“I think Chelsea will be involved until the end of the season. It doesn’t matter that we are fourth. It will only be a problem if we are fourth at the end of the season.”
Spurs boss Harry Redknapp was happy enough to escape with a point after Drogba’s penalty miss.
He believe Spurs must be considered as title contenders, especially because the standard of the top teams is not so high this season.
Redknapp, who could be without midfielder Wilson Palacios for several weeks after a second half injury, said: “I think it is wide open. I saw Manchester City at West Ham and they are strong. They have the players to be right there.
“Obviously Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea will all be there and Tottenham as well.
“It has tightened up a lot this year. There are a lot of games that are tougher to win.
“Maybe in all honesty the top teams aren’t as good as they were a year or two ago.”