Carlo Ancelotti has insisted Chelsea's record-breaking signing of Fernando Torres was not to blame for the end of the mini-revival that has seen them once again marooned outside the Barclays Premier League top four.
The champions appeared to have put their worst run in the league for almost 15 years behind them at the start of 2011, winning three games in a row to climb back into the Champions League spots and spark suggestions they could make a late comeback in the title race.
But the capture of £50million man Torres has coincided with a winless — and scoreless — two matches that has all but killed off the Blues' hopes of retaining their crown and has seen them slip back to fifth in the table.
Torres flopped on his debut against former club Liverpool and was arguably even worse at Fulham on Monday night.
But Ancelotti was adamant that the Spain striker's arrival had not been disruptive, saying: “It is not the fault of Fernando, obviously. I think he needs to have time.
“He played well for 60 minutes against Fulham.”
With only 12 league games remaining for Chelsea to overhaul Tottenham or Manchester City it is questionable how much time Torres can be afforded.
“He needs to have time, but playing, to improve his combination with the other players,” Ancelotti said.
Torres will miss out on that time today when Chelsea host Everton in their FA Cup fourth-round replay as the Spaniard is cup-tied. Drogba will instead return to lead the line and will have a point to prove after being axed at Craven Cottage.
Ancelotti claimed he would not rest players today with Tuesday's Champions League game away to Copenhagen in mind and he may be boosted by the return of Yury Zhirkov, back after missing three months with a calf problem.