Guus Hiddink, Chelsea’s new interim manager, has suggested that his players need to look themselves in the mirror and be ultra critical if they hope to get their season back on track.
The defending Premier League champions have lost nine of their first seventeen games and sit in 15th place in the league, just three points above the relegation zone. Hiddink was brought in last weekend as a short-term replacement for Jose Mourinho, who the Chelsea board sacked after a dreadful start to the season.
Hiddink acknowledged that a fourth placed finish was still a ‘mathematical possibility’, but confessed that it would be extremely difficult to achieve. He said, “This league is very strong. All the teams can kill each other”.
The Dutchman came in in similar circumstances in 2009 when Roman Abramovich, Chelsea’s owner, decided to relieve then boss Luis Felipe Scolari, of his position in the Blues’ dugout. He won the FA Cup with them that year and also helped them to reach the semi-finals of the Champion’s League and to finish third in the Premier League.
Speaking in his first pre-match press conference ahead of Chelsea’s Boxing Day game against Watford the 69 year old said, “I shouldn’t be here halfway through the season. It means things are not going well. But, anyhow, I am glad to be back. It is a few years ago I was here in a similar situation. It is not easy after a championship. You relax as a team and get a wake-up call. It is not easy to say that I am here and the problem is solved”.
The Dutchman was keen to sing the praises of his predecessor, Mourinho. Talking of the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ he said, “If you look at his record over the years it is amazing. There were many, many titles. Nevertheless things happen in football. People take decisions that they have taken and I come on when I am asked”.
Hiddink refused to be drawn on whether or not he would be tempted to dip into the transfer market in January, saying, “Let’s go into the next few games and we will see. First, I would like to get through the first few games. I talked to the squad yesterday and we talked about the past a little… why I am here, the reason why we are down. But I also told them things happen in football and I want everyone to look themselves in the mirror, for not just a second but for a long time”.
There was a strange atmosphere at Stamford Bridge in the club’s game against Sunderland last weekend, their first since the sacking of Mourinho. Some members of the team were booed and there were banners in the stands expressing the fans’ support for Mourinho. Hiddink acknowledged that and said, “I hope the fans will support the team, as they did briefly during the last game. The team has to take the initiative. What I know of Chelsea is that the fans back up the team, but the team has to show it first”.