Nic narked at being pushed out again

Luiz Felipe Scolari and Nicolas Anelka had a training ground bust-up over where the French striker would play for Chelsea  against Manchester United, according to reports today.

Anelka – who was upset at being benched for the previous two games – is said to have refused Scolari’s instruction to play on the left, demanding to be played through the middle.

The Frenchman has been critical of managerial decisions to play him out wide. Last May, he attacked Scolari’s predecessor Avram Grant on the same subject.

"I didn't come here to play on the left or right,” said Anelka at the time. "When I came here, people told me I would play in a 4-4-2. In England, I no longer need to prove that I am better through the middle. Since I arrived, I haven't played in my position. Never as a No.9, always on the left or the right.

“Until now, I haven't said anything. I was a newcomer, I haven't wanted to make a story out of it because I still didn't know the club. But from next season, I insist I will no longer be the little boy who has come from Bolton."

"WE CAN PLAY TOGETHER"

That certainly seems to have been the case, and while Didier Drogba was out injured in the first half of the season Anelka proved his point, becoming the Blues’ focal point and top scorer.

By November Anelka was readying himself to welcome the Ivorian into the attack. “Didier and I can play together but we have not done that since I have been here," said the Frenchman.

"We have never started together up front. If we have started together then I was either on the right or left. So it's a shame, because I wanted to play with him when I first signed with Chelsea, but I hope it will happen. I think it could work with the two of us. But it's the choice of the manager."

A fortnight ago, fit-again Drogba joined the clamour for a frontline partnership with Anelka – and worried that he was being underestimated himself. "I still don’t understand why managers are afraid to partner Nicolas and me,” he said.

“I fear I am only being considered as a strong centre-forward able of playing alone up front with fast players on the wings. But I can also adapt. All we want is to play together. But really together. Not one in the middle and the other on the left."

FORMATION PROBLEMS

Scolari, however, has struggled to fit both strikers into his team. A switch to 4-4-2 would be problematic for the World Cup winner, who prefers his full-backs to maraud forward in a 4-3-3 while a deep-lying central midfielder covers the centre-backs.

The Brazilian already has to perm two from three of Michael Ballack, Deco and Frank Lampard in the middle with anchorman John Obi Mikel. A more rigid 4-4-2 would make that one from three, while Deco was unconvincing out wide at Old Trafford. And playing a narrow midfield diamond might leave full-backs Ashley Cole and Jose Bosingwa overwhelmed.

No wonder Scolari looks worried. Quoted in The Sun, an anonymous source claims that “Nothing is going right at the moment and there are suddenly a lot of questions being asked about Mr Scolari’s management style.”

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