Having recovered from his recent injury just in time to wave goodbye to his departing strike partner, Nicolas Anelka sounds as if he’s more than ready to pick up his central role, stating “I wanted to show everyone I could play there and I wanted, even if I’m not scoring a lot of goals, to be creative in the middle of the pitch. I knew I could do it well. I’m not going on the pitch just to score goals, I am going on there first to win and to play well and then, if I have the chance to score as well, that’s even better. I like this position and I enjoy my football when I’m playing there. This role is maybe why I am more consistent, even if we have not always had good results during December. But we are playing against big teams every game and if they stay back against us, it is hard for us to score, which gives us a big challenge every time. Even so, we are still first in the league and we will try our best to stay there now.”
God knows, Anelka was played out of position often enough when he first came to Chelsea under the hapless Avram Grant – a manager he clearly had little time for (and rightly so) – whilst under Scolari, his pairing with Didier Drogba saw him pick up last season’s Golden Boot.
This season has really seen Anelka come into his own though, and now working under Ancelotti, Anelka says “I wanted to play this position when I first came to Chelsea, with Didier in front and me just behind, and I always said that. This season the manager gave me the opportunity to do it, to be free on the pitch and I feel good. The freedom I now have on the pitch puts me in a position where I can be up front sometimes, playing the striker, then I can be behind later in the same game or a left or right-winger. It gives me the chance to have some versatility and that is why I do what I do. Not a lot of people knew I could do this and I don’t think Carlo knew me like a midfielder before he came here. I think he knew me as a striker but game after game, and in training as well, he saw that I could do this position because when Didier is playing up front, I like to drop behind and he trusted me to stay in this position after he saw that.”
Fingers crossed he stays injury free then!