The Chelsea manager, Carlo Ancelotti, has warned John Terry that he should no longer expect to play in every match. Ancelotti will use Monday night’s Premier League derby at Fulham to hand a first start to the £21m January recruit David Luiz and confirmed that the Brazilian’s arrival signals a shift to an era in which all of the defenders at Stamford Bridge must get accustomed to stints on the sidelines.
Terry has been a mainstay of the Chelsea defence for the past nine seasons and has been implicitly guaranteed a starting place ever since José Mourinho made him club captain following Marcel Desailly’s departure in 2004. He had worn the captain’s armband before that, Claudio Ranieri entrusting it to him whenever Desailly was injured, but he marked his first campaign as permanent captain by leading Chelsea to the Premier League title and being voted PFA player of the year.
For most of the past decade, then, Terry has expected to play when fit. However, Ancelotti insisted that the 30-year-old must accept that with David Luiz, Branislav Ivanovic and Alex competing for his spot he will occasionally have to endure being a spectator.
“With David Luiz we can have more rotation with our players,” said Ancelotti. “In the back four now we have a lot of opportunity to choose a player to give someone a rest and to maintain every player fit for the rest of the season.” He did not confirm whether David Luiz would be used as a centre-back or full-back at Fulham.
Although Chelsea have conceded fewer goals than any team in the Premier League this season they have, paradoxically, looked more vulnerable than they have for years, their toll of defeats in the league already worse than in any season since Ranieri’s last campaign.
That is not simply down to defensive deficiencies – every sector of their team has malfunctioned at times, which is why Chelsea find themselves needing a victory at Fulham to clamber back into the last Champions League qualifying spot – but Ancelotti has indicated that he sought David Luiz both to bring additional solidity to the defence and to lend a new dimension to the team, his capacity to create from the back being superior to that of any of the club’s other centre-backs. The Italian said it was up to Terry and the others to rise to the new challenge.
“Everyone knows that in the top teams there is competition for places, that is normal,” said Ancelotti. “It is good motivation for everyone.”
Ancelotti declared himself happy with the make-up of his squad following the additions of David Luiz and Fernando Torres, who cost £50m. “We don’t need to add another player,” he said. “We don’t need to think about other players because the squad now is very competitive.”