Chelsea’s unbeaten league run under Guus Hiddink ended in a miserable afternoon at the Liberty Stadium. The Blues had been on a 14 game unbeaten streak, but Gylfi Sigurdsson’s goal gave Swansea a win which confirms their Premier League status. That leaves the champions still 10th, but with next to no chance of pushing for European football. On the bright side, the season is almost over.
Hiddink rang the changes for this clash, with Asmir Begovic stepping up to start in goal. Matt Miazga kept his place in central defence, while Abdul Baba Rahman came into the side at left back. Ruben Loftus-Cheek kept his place in attacking midfield, while Alexandre Pato came in up front in place of Loic Remy. Falcao returned to the bench, with Diego Costa still serving a suspension.
It doesn’t seem like the news has reached the Chelsea players yet, but Antonio Conte was appointed manager of the club this week. The former Juventus coach probably watched this one from behind the sofa, desperately searching for a way out of his contract. If he didn’t know how big his job was going to be, he surely does now.
The problem for the Blues was a lack of motivation from the off. While many will point to Hiddink’s position as a lame duck in the dugout, that can’t be to blame. While he is leaving, he’s always planned to leave since he took the job. The announcement of Conte shouldn’t have that much of an effect. In fact, the team should be pushing to impress the Italian, but they didn’t manage to impress anyone here.
Sigurdsson scored 25 minutes into the first half, beating Begovic with a volley. The defence hardly covered themselves in glory to say the least. From that point on there was little threat from the Blues, as none of the attacking stars produced anything of note. This display was a world away from the 5-0 victory here last season.
After the game, Guus warned his stars that they need to fight for their place. “It is a clean slate, everyone has to fight for his position with the new manager coming in of course,” said Hiddink. “When you play at Chelsea you must always be proud and play with internal motivation. If you play only with external motivation, worrying about material things or your position, you are slipping away.”
With five games to go, there’s still time for the players to take on that advice. Guus may not have a trophy to fight for, but these coming weeks could be huge as the club searches for direction. If he can restore some motivation and organisation ahead of next season, that would be a huge bonus to Conte.
Next up for the Blues is a game at home to Manchester City. After the heavy defeat they suffered at the Etihad, Chelsea need a response. Hopefully City’s midweek European action will hinder them ahead of the game at the Bridge. Would another 5-0 win against their reserve team be too much to ask for?
LCN Man of the Match: Ruben Lofteus-Cheek