Chelsea's squad of highly paid international stars is reportedly being split by jealousies and unhappiness over manager Avram Grant's preparations for the League Cup final defeat to Tottenham.
|Avram Grant has been criticised for benching |
Michael Ballack for the Carling Cup Final
Defending champion Chelsea was beaten 2-1 in extra time Sunday by its less favoured London rival, and British papers have reported that players are blaming Grant and his assistant Henk Ten Cate.
Captain John Terry fought with Ten Cate in training on Saturday, according to The Sun and The Mirror, riled by not knowing whether he would be in the team, even though Grant has not announced his lineup until the same day of every match since he succeeded Jose Mourinho in September.
Billionaire club owner Roman Abramovich watched the fight, which ended when other players intervened, and his attendance at the session led to rumors that he may be interfering in team matters.
That was supposedly one of the reasons that Mourinho left.
The final was marked by several strange team selections, with Frank Lampard picked ahead of in-form Germany midfielder Michael Ballack even though he had just recovered from injury, and striker Nicolas Anelka stationed on the left wing in place of the dropped Joe Cole.
Neither Lampard or Anelka played well.
"You start to think why you don't win, and it's like that now with us,'' Ballack said on Chelsea's website.
"We have to think about our performance.''
Chelsea struggled at Wembley, despite being eight places above its rival in the Premier League.
Although Didier Drogba scored from a first-half free kick, Dimitar Berbatov equalized and Jonathan Woodgate scored a 94th-minute winning goal to give Spurs their first trophy for nine years.
During the break in extra time, when Juande Ramos was instructing his Tottenham players on their roles for the remaining moments, Grant scratched his head and looked distracted while Terry pumped his fist at his teammates and assistant coach Steve Clarke appeared to give out tactical advice.
Mourinho, who managed to control his squad of high-profile stars by maintaining discipline and publicly admonishing those who displeased him, won all three of his finals.
His record with his previous clubs, authoritarian approach and instant success in winning the Blues the League Cup and Premier League forced the players to trust him.
But Grant had never managed a Champions League club before replacing Mourinho and, although he has lost just two league games since taking over, Chelsea's poorest displays have come in its biggest matches.
It lost to Manchester United and Arsenal, and drew at Liverpool before losing to Spurs.
Grant further encouraged disharmony within the squad by refusing to let those players not involved in the match to stay at the team hotel on Saturday night, according to The Independent, which said Ashley Cole, Andriy Shevchenko and Florent Malouda were among those told on Friday they could travel to Wembley independently.