Normality returning for Chelsea under Hiddink

Sports Sunday 03/January/2016 21:32 PM
By: Times News Service
Normality returning for Chelsea under Hiddink

London: In the middle of Chelsea's most chaotic season in decades, a semblance of normality has broken out.
The struggling champions' 3-0 win away to Crystal Palace on Sunday was their fourth consecutive game without defeat, a run which began in the wake of the shock departure of Jose Mourinho, the most successful manager in the club's history.
Chelsea had previously failed to win away in the league since August, and Sunday's clean sheet was their second in a row for a team which has already conceded almost as many goals as they did when cruising to last season's title.
Just as significant, the win owed a lot to the players who were most blamed by Chelsea supporters for under-performing and bringing about Mourinho's dismissal last month.
Under a winter downpour, striker Diego Costa scored once and created another goal, Brazil's Oscar got on the scoresheet too and Cesc Fabregas looked more like the creative force he was in the months after signing from Barcelona last year.
Critics might question the significance of a win against an injury-hit Crystal Palace.
Chelsea remain in the bottom half of the table. And a chant of "Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho" broke out from their fans, many of whom remain loyal to the man who won three titles in his two stints at Chelsea.
But there are clear signs that the slump -- one of the most dramatic losses of form ever seen by a top club in Europe -- has been halted and that Chelsea are finding their feet again.
Interim manager Guus Hiddink attributed the turnaround to hard work by the faltering squad he inherited, starting with a simple focus on not conceding goals.
"If a team is not doing well over a long period, then let's work to look for security," the Dutchman, whose first two games in charge ended in draws, told reporters.
"The very talented players, they started working also. They invested in the dirty work and not just the beautiful game."
He praised defensive midfielder John Obi Mikel, who was a forgotten figure under Mourinho but whose name was chanted for long periods of the game by Chelsea's fans on Sunday.
"A player who can defend so smoothly is beautiful to see," Hiddink said.
Mikel repaid the compliment, saying the return of Hiddink to the club he helped on an interim basis in 2009 after a previous managerial crisis had lifted the tension at Chelsea.
"Since (Hiddink) came the players seem more relaxed and we are showing that in games," he told Sky Sports.
Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew singled out Fabregas for a performance that he said brought back memories of how Chelsea won the title with ease last season.
But he said the champions, who began the day three points above the relegation zone, still had a fight on their hands to finish in the top four and claim a Champions League spot.
"I'm not saying it will be impossible but I think it will be tough for them," he told reporters.