The eyebrow's raised.. but Roy is falling

Crisis averted - until the weekend at least - for Carlo Ancelotti and Chelsea.

Crisis back on, big-time, for Roy Hodgson and Liverpool, with the manager having, perhaps, made a fatal error.

And while not a crisis for Arsene Wenger by any means, dropping stupid points is the worst way to push on from your best performance of the season.

Of the three men, there is no doubting who was the happiest and most relieved after the final fixtures of 2010.

Ancelotti carried the air of a man who did not know where his next win was coming from and Chelsea's first half performance against Bolton suggested the wait was set to go on, with even defeat - and surely that would have started to make his position untenable - more than possible.

Cue, at long, long last,  a response from the rest of the players to the club's plight and John Terry's undying desire and determination.

Frank Lampard began to impose himself, Michael Essien was looking more like "The Train" and less like a go-cart, Didier Drogba started to take up the right attacking position and even Florent Malouda joined the party, in the right place at the right time to prod home and end the slump.

It was still twitchy whenever Bolton went at them. Jose Bosingwa proved, once more, that he is not a natural full-back, and Petr Cech had to be far busier than he or Ancelotti would have liked.

But after six matches without a victory, how you win is important. That you win is everything.

And despite their nightmare of the past two months, that first league win since Ray Wilkins was jettisoned put the Blues back to within four points of the summit may prove that longed-for turning point.

Ancelotti, sensibly, was not proclaiming it as such, although he evidently believes it could be.

"The win was a big step," said the Italian. "It will take a weight from our shoulders, but I am not sure if everything will be okay, it will depend on our next performance."

That being Aston Villa at home on Sunday, a game they should win, and which would surely see momentum start to build.

Ancelotti's mood was, unsurprisingly, in complete contrast to that of Hodgson, who sounded like a man cutting his own throat in public as he lambasted the Anfield fans.

If you lose at home to the bottom club, you can't expect gratitude yet the manager's response to the chants of "Dalglish" and the ironic ones of "Hodgson for England" represented even worse defending than Sotiris Kyrgiakos and Martin Skrtel in the build-up to Steohen Ward's shock winner.

"Ever since I came here the famous Anfield support has not really been there," said Hodgson, in one of those moments that becomes legendary.

"There were the problems with the owners, then Kenny being so popular and not getting the job and it being given to me.

"It is sad and I don't like hearing those things because I am trying to do the best job I can do.

"You have seen these players before. They are just not playing like they have done in the past so I think it is time for the fans to really help as well.

"It is not for lack of trying that we are not winning matches. Maybe we are lacking quality and lacking confidence - the negativity doesn't help. The players are not getting on the ball for fear of making mistakes."   

Good night. And thanks for all the fish.

You might get away with that at Craven Cottage. You don't at Anfield and the Liverpool fans will neither forgive nor forget. It looks, now, like a matter of time.

Yet as Ancelotti breathed again, and Hodgson came closer to breathing his managerial last, Wenger was in the firing line too.

His decision to change eight of the team that started against Chelsea for the trip to Wigan could only have been justified with three points.

But conspiring to only draw against 10 men, giving up another late goal from another set-piece - oh for the dominant days of Tony Adams and Martin Keown - made the selection a grievous error.

It prevented Arsenal from drawing level on points United and City at the top - and squeezing between the two on goal difference - but maybe more importantly represented a blow to morale just as confidence had been raised by the win over Chelsea.

Wenger was unrepentant in the aftermath but the Arsenal fans were less charitable, frustrated, once again, by the defensive deficiencies of their side.

Still two more games for everybody by next Wednesday night. Chrsitmas, as ever, is sorting out the men from the boys. It's been good for Manchester and N17. Less good for other parts of the capital.

As for Liverpool? Well, simply shocking. And that, surely, is where the attention goes now.

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williamhill.com

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