Ahead of this Wednesday’s clash with West Brom, I spoke to AlbionTillWeDie.co.uk, outlining my predictions for the match and remainder of the season with Hiddink. Here are my thoughts:
We have to start with last month’s departure of Jose Mourinho. Was it the right decision? How did the majority of Chelsea fans react to the news?
Unfortunately I think this was a decision detrimental for the long-term Chelsea, even if in the short-term Hiddink might rejuvenate the side. Mourinho knows the club inside out and bleeds blue more and it is a travesty that the players therefore got to stay. It is of no doubt that he will go on and succeed at his next club so the concern is for Chelsea itself, and yet again we go back to the short-termism view of having another 8 managers in 6 years. Only this time Mourinho won’t come back.
As for the fans, I think the older generation fans appreciated Mourinho’s work and certainly this was made very local in the match directly after (though the chants have stopped now Hiddink is in place, but Steve Holland did not have a nice game to oversee). On social media tends to be the younger generation fans who maybe started supporting Chelsea once we won the Champions League in 2012 so did not feel as much connection to a man who has brought so much joy.
Guus Hiddink is now the man in charge although only as interim boss, how did the Stamford Bridge faithful feel about his return? Is there any likelihood of him remaining long-term?
I think most are pleased to see a likeable man come in, and certainly not another Avram Grant or Rafael Benitez. Having said that, however much fans appreciate his work previously here, there is a strange bewilderment among fans at to whether Hiddink really is a better bet to turn around the club’s fortunes than Mourinho, who is certainly better than Hiddink as a manager.
If it’s not Hiddink, who would you like to see named as Mourinho’s long-term successor?
There’s only one Special One! I only see one man fit for the Chelsea job but seeing as he won’t come back, then it is tricky. I would like someone who knows the club, but promoting from within is not within Abramovich’s strategy, and managers who do know Chelsea (Rodgers etc) probably aren’t of the ilk Abramovich wants. Again we will go onto the continent but Guardiola does not fit Chelsea’s style and it would be incredibly risky for Simeone’s reputation to try his hand here. You really want someone who has won the Champions League but Mourinho and Ancelotti have both been moved on, so we are stuck in a rut, hence I never believed we should have fired him.
Chelsea’s struggles have surprised everyone this season, why have the Blues’ form and results been so poor?
Mourinho described it as a mixture of things but refused to explain in more detail during one interview. You can imagine the row with Carneiro set the season off to a dreadful start, but maybe even before that the problems were there by allowing the players two weeks extra holiday so they came back in lethargic manner to a Community Shield loss against Arsenal. Mourinho’s man-management has also come under scrunity: he has always taken any flak away from his players and whilst he tried that, it was clear that was not working, so he put the blame on the players, then referees, then just about everyone. Players clearly became disillusioned but it is disappointing if world-class players behave this unprofessionally and do not have that innate drive to work hard and be the star in any match, with Willian the only one who can hold his head high.
Are the club likely to be active during this month’s transfer window? Do they need to be?
It would be ironic if Abramovich gives Hiddink funds to spend but couldn’t wait two more weeks before sacking Mourinho and giving him the January window instead. There is continued speculation over needing more competition for Costa, whilst Hazard has gone missing all season. However, Chelsea don’t tend to be too active this window (and when they are they waste £50 million) so I cannot expect any big names moving in. As for the opposite direction, we may see young players moved out on loan, as per.
Chelsea player of the season so far?
Willian. Chelsea’s best burst of energy and the only winger who looks like he can shoot. Hazard has some wonderful feet but you would not trust him with a long-range drive or with a free-kick, and neither with Pedro. Willian, and maybe Azpilicueta, has been the only one to hit that consistency and, on a personality sense, clearly has great professionalism and drive to succeed. It’s a shame some of his other colleagues took every match as a walk-about.
Anyone been particularly disappointing?
It would be unfair to bully Hazard alone because Chelsea’s spine has gone. Ivanovic, the rock that he was last season, has been beaten time and again and Chelsea have a gaping hole down their right. But in midfield, Fabregas and Matic have had too many off days and are not strong enough or tactically aware enough to help Ivanovic out. When you mix this with the fact Chelsea’s penetration has been shocking – Hazard has tried at least whilst Costa has not and every one of his goals seem to be an easy tap-in with no work done on his part – then you make for a shocking season, however good the manager at the helm. It is clear we are missing big player presences, like Drogba.
Premier League champs?
You can trust Arsenal to slip this up and maybe Pellegrini will be motivated to go out on a final hurrah as he knows this is likely his last season.
It’s really difficult to predict given how close Leicester were to being relegated even in April last season but now they are near the top of the table. Having said this, it would be hard not to bet that Aston Villa will go down given Garde still has not really found that magic touch. I am not sure Bournemouth will have the legs or experience to beat the drop, whilst out of Newcastle or Sunderland to go down, I would favour the Black Cats.
Thoughts on, and prediction for Wednesday’s game? How are Chelsea likely to line-up?
Chelsea need to get moving and quickly given we have passed the half-way mark of the season, and if we extrapolate current form so far to the end of the season, the Blues would not even get 46 points. The Blues need to make up 13 points, which is roughly 4 matches, with 18 to go, but the sheer scale of hoping everyone in and around the Top Four, e.g. Tottenham, Man Utd, Liverpool, to all lose 4 matches, and crucially for Chelsea to win them all, is a tough ask. The Blues should get Europa League though and next season will be interesting to see us manage the Thursday night treks and Sunday returns.