Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has insisted that he doesn't fear the sack even though his spluttering champions could slip out of the top four when they face Bolton Wanderers on Wednesday.
Ancelotti's side are on their worst run for over a decade and have gone six league matches without a win following Monday's woeful 3-1 defeat at title rivals Arsenal. Once again, the Blues were a pale shadow of the team that powered their way to the double last season and made such a formidable start to this campaign.
By the time Chelsea kick off at Stamford Bridge they will be nine points behind Manchester United if the leaders win at Birmingham on Tuesday. Chelsea's title hopes are in severe danger of being extinguished before the New Year and even a top four place can't be taken for granted as sixth-placed Bolton and fifth-placed Tottenham could climb above them this week.
It is a miserable time for Ancelotti as Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has sacked the likes of Jose Mourinho and Avram Grant for less, yet - publicly at least - the Italian remains confident of keeping his job.
"The table is not good. This is the reality. We have to do better but I am not worried (about being sacked). We have to stay in focus and continue to work," Ancelotti said. "I am more worried because it is six games we have not won. I didn't see the team play how we want. This is my worry.
"I don't know what Abramovich thinks. Obviously he will not be happy for this moment. I have to take my responsbility for that. You cannot ask me how long he will be patient but we have to do better because Chelsea are not used to not winning for five or six games. Last year everyone would say I did a fantastic job, now they might say something difficult."
Ancelotti admitted he was shocked by the lacklustre nature of Chelsea's display at the Emirates Stadium as goals from Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott gave Arsenal their first win over the Blues or United in 12 attempts.
"I was surprised by this performance because I saw very good training sessions this week," said Ancelotti, who saw Branislav Ivanovic get one back for his side. "We didn't focus 100 per cent. We missed a lot of passes. The moment continues to be very difficult but now we have a game in two days and we have to win that one.
"Obviously if you watch the game we don't have confidence. We have lost confidence and now to come back and play like we did last season and the start of this season is not so easy. Now we are sleeping, that is the reality of this team. When you play against a good team like Arsenal you can lose if you are not awake."
Ancelotti conceded he has few options to freshen up a team that has completely lost its usual ruthless efficiency and he offered little response when asked if the title has already gone. "I can't answer questions about the title because we have lost many points. We don't have a possibility to change a lot of players. Maybe we can change the shape," he said.
"For us it is important to win and recover our situation. We have to wake up. Maybe I have to be the first to wake up. I have confidence that the players, with fantastic confidence and character, can change everything."
The last thing Ancelotti needs at present is to face an in-form team like Bolton, who will travel to west London with nothing to lose. Owen Coyle's men are the Premier League's surpise package this season and the Wanderers boss said: "We've played every team in the league and we are where we are on merit. I would even suggest we should have more points than we have. We'll be positive and look to try to win a game against the champions."