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Hiddink's grounds for optimism

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Phil McNulty | 16:03 UK time, Saturday, 21 February 2009

Chelsea's group hug at the final whistle was a symbolic gesture to silence talk of a divided camp - of more interest to new coach Guus Hiddink will be a display that showed real substance still exists at Stamford Bridge.

It is fanciful to claim Hiddink's new charges produced compelling evidence to suggest Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United face a renewed threat to their supremacy, or that his brief reign will bring a guarantee of silverware.

The air of invincibilty Chelsea carried for so long has been stripped away and they are still clearly a team in need of renovation.

But a victory at Villa Park is an outstanding start and there was enough on offer, particularly during a flowing first half, to give Hiddink genuine optimism for his temporary tenure.

Chelsea were assisted, in no small measure, by Villa's failure to rouse themselves into serious action until the start of the second half, by which time Nicolas Anelka's trademark finish had already put Hiddink on the path to his first three points.

Martin O'Neill's side, normally so powerful and pacy, looked heavy-legged and allowed Hiddink's revamped Chelsea side to establish the supremacy that provided the platform for a win that keeps them on the margins of the title race.

The credits in Hiddink's ledger will come mainly from that first 45 minutes, when Chelsea played with a fluidity and freedom that was missing in the dying days of Luiz Felipe Scolari's regime.

Frank Lampard again showed what store Hiddink must place in him, creating Anelka's goal with a moment of individual brilliance that some of his more misplaced critics claim is beyond him.

Michael Ballack looked enlivened in central midfield, a contrast to the peripheral figure of recent times, while Hiddink will have been encouraged by his decision to pair Anelka and Didier Drogba in attack.

Anelka and Drogba do not look a natural fit as a partnership, but there is no shortage of ability - if Hiddink can be the alchemist that makes the formula work he will have a formidable force to call on.

Drogba at least put himself about and muscled his way around Villa's defence in a manner he appeared to have forgotten. This was hardly classic Drogba, but at least he showed the interest that was markedly absent at Liverpool and that is a base for Hiddink to work from.


Hiddink was pleased with the pair afterwards, although his comments about their need to work as a defensive force as well as an attacking threat suggested the link is a work in progress.

But there were flashes of the dominant Chelsea of old in the opening period, when they passed with authority and barely allowed a lacklustre Villa any sort of foothold in the game.

Hiddink will also have been pleased with the defensive resilience Chelsea showed in the second half, when they came under a siege of sorts from Villa and goalkeeper Petr Cech was able to make some confidence-building saves.

The concern remains that this Chelsea side is easier to lay a glove on than teams of previous vintage.

This was a result achieved in the manner of a Mourinho side, early goal followed by victory, but there was a still an element of discomfort in the closing stages that hinted at the problems they have suffered recently.

Villa took territorial advantage for long periods after the break as Chelsea themselves appeared to tire, something Hiddink has already started to address with a more vigorous training regime.

Hiddink will soon be able to call on Ricardo Carvalho and Ashley Cole once more, while the return of Michael Essien to midfield in March will give Chelsea an extra dimension in various parts of the pitch.

Villa, for their part, can draw consolation from the fact that they were bitterly disappointed at not getting at least a point from Chelsea. As O'Neill said, this in itself is a sign of their progress this season.

Hiddink will now turn his attention to making progress in the Champions League against Juventus and building on this fine victory.

It was not a performance that erases Chelsea's troubles or elevates them back to being Manchester United's main title threat, but there can be genuine cause for pleasure in the opening game of the Hiddink era.


  • Comment number 1.

    This a good result for chelsea atleast their confidence is now back and am so happy for them that they break down the villans defence and claim the whole three point but it is just a pity that Arsenal my team couldn't capitalise on these and close the gap btw them and villa a little bit but all the same they drop three point.the focus now should be on the CL during the midweek while chelsea take on juve and arsenal take on roma it will be a very tough game for both team but i want arsenal to come out victorious.Congrat to chelsea once again...

  • Comment number 2.

    nice start for chelsea
    but couldnot we forget this team needs more, just for taking some silverware this year.
    i think the premiere league had gone
    we should focus on the champions league.and of course a 2nd or 3rd place on the pl.
    our defensive forces still too weak,our main power cames from the midfield.
    and our attacking line miss alot also

    we have to deal with that if we want any silverware this year.
    alot of job more to come."Hiddink"

  • Comment number 3.

    Lampard was phenomenal.
    Cech is becoming worringly dodgy...

  • Comment number 4.

    Chelsea always had the players, what needs protecting is their fragile belief. That's what Guus should be judged on.

    Well done Chelsea, keep the great performances going...

  • Comment number 5.

    Very good first half performance by Chelsea today and they had opportunities to go in at half time 2-0 up. However, the defensive frailties remain, and these are even more apparent when they play Anelka and Drogba together. So it is a tough call for Hiddink whether to continue playing them together or to tighten up defensively. I would probably risk playing them together in the Premiership (we have nothing to lose), but not in the CL at home when away goals count double.

    We still need a Ronaldo/Robinho type player if we are going to really challenge for honours though.

    And I am still perplexed as to who will decide which players stay and which go this summer, will it be Hidink or the new manager that decides........

    The exit list I hope will at least include Kalou, Malouda, Drogba, Ballack and Mineiro.

  • Comment number 6.

    Lets see if Gus will do well. Judge him after 5-6 games latter then judge him I think.

  • Comment number 7.

    Good to see that John Terrys' timing is still perfect, back from a suspension just in time for a big game, how convenient ?

  • Comment number 8.

    Good start, exactly what chelsea needed. The result will bring confidence into wednesdays CL clash with Juve, a compettion that 'Gus' will be itching to get his teeth into. The man is a past master in knockout competitions.

  • Comment number 9.

    Chelsea were brilliant in very brief patches in their attacks only. Their defence was leaky and blunderful. Villa were unlucky to miss at least two clear chances.

    Good that Guus showed the footballing nous to play Drogs and Anelka together the whole match. This is the only way Drogs could come to the party. His old form that has been missing may soon return.

    Today one could feel the old Chelsea spirit and confidence perceptibly returning to its ranks. Even Cech was moving around with some conviction and elan. Mancienne didn't get a look in?

  • Comment number 10.

    Chelsea deserved to win today, on balance. I had a feeling that they would get a bounce from Hiddink's arrival. We look tired .... I do sometimes think that Martin could rotate the squad a little more than he does.

    Losing at home to Chelski is no disgrace, but we do have to get back on track by beating Stoke next week. If we do, today will just be an aberration.

  • Comment number 11.

    Lampard was on a level above everyone else today, much like he has been for most of the season. He gets my vote for player of the year, without a doubt.

    His skill before setting up the goal was just outstanding.

  • Comment number 12.

    Apart from the encouraging signs within the team, it was good to see RA at the game. He was seemingly enjoying the match, proving, I would like to think, that he still has a keen interest in this Chelsea side, perhaps gavanised by the fact that he has a man he can fully trust, in Guus Hiddink.

  • Comment number 13.

    Good Blog Phil, and I usually hate it.

    Chelsea fans; let's not get carried away, this reminds me of Scolari's beginning. Still lacking width and pace - I am frustrated that we didn't see Miroslav Stoch come on; he is our gem, fast, skillful, brilliant against Watford, can change a game; also frustrated we didn't see Quaresma, again, like Stoch would give us width as he is a natural winger. Also we have him on loan until the end of the season, if we don't see him play, how can we decide to keep him or not?

    On the game itself,it is quite obvious we'd be screwed with Frank Lampard. I was very pleased with Terry's and Cech's performance, those 2 in particular have been lacking confidence and guile this season.

    Alex looked very poor against Agbonlohor, I actually think it's time to properly bleed in Mancienne, because although Alex is a class defender, he is only good enough for 3rd choice, which is what he is, but with Carvalho getting older and alarmingly more injury prone every day, Alex will probably end up taking his place; that which he is not good enough for.

  • Comment number 14.

    I think chelski looked like Mourinho's team. They were outstanding in the first half, and tacticly there were a little more stable than when they had Scolari, let see when they face Juventous i think Guus is maestro when it comes to knock-out competition....wish him all da best at CFC wish he stays after the end of the season or bring back our master in Mourinhooooooo

  • Comment number 15.

    Re: 7.

    I don't see what you're getting at...

  • Comment number 16.

    Comment 11

    Lampard is Chelsea's player of the season without a doubt, but Premiership player of the season has to go to Vidic, if it wasn't for him then we would still have a chance of catching Man U.

  • Comment number 17.

    "I cover the biggest, best, most interesting and most hotly-debated sport in the world".

    Chelsea won their first game with a new world class manager, who has a team at his disposal at least 3 times as expensive as Villas squad.

    Why does this merit an article again?

  • Comment number 18.

    this is a typical reaction from a team with new manager! nearly every team that has had one this season has improved in the first few games........chelsea are no different and I would think Hiddink knows that and can't take credit for it. See where they are in 5 games time maybe I will change my assessment.

  • Comment number 19.

    This was our first win at Villa Park in how long? A great result which was set up by a strong forceful and creative first half display.
    Chelsea played the first 45 mins. with genuine belief and a will to compete as a unit. In the second half we began to tire and Villa tried to out muscle us but we defended very well. I feel Hiddinks' main worries are team fitness and certain players consistently passing the ball to the opposition or playing hospital balls to their own team mates. The problem of fitness can be remedied fairly quickly but Ballack, Mikel and Drogba are losing the ball too often and this often ends up in quick counter attacks against us. I believe these Chelsea players need to release the ball earlier or be more decisive in their pass or shot. Deco started badly today but redeemed himself as the match wore on and he may yet have something to offer if Hiddink brings back his sharpness. Lampard was excellent and Terry showed signs he is returning to his natural self. As for the troublesome twins Drogba and Anelka, well they were a handful today and the jury is still out until further evidence is forthcoming. I was impressed by our full backs as they limited Villas wide players. Ferrera or Farrara as Andy Gray called him was efficient and worthy of his place. Hiddink countered O Neil's tactics very well and showed us that he can vary his play to suit the day. I'm not doing somersaults but Chelsea have a lot of critics to prove wrong and despite the mistakes we have been judged to have made we can still realistically win two competitions and will continue to challenge for another until it is beyond us. Ferguson felt we made a mistake sacking Scolari...of course he did he was quite happy to watch us implode and drop of the radar as was Wenger. I believe they may have to eat their wordsat some point or at least I hope so.

  • Comment number 20.

    better late than nevar.eny thing is posible in as much as the premir league is about i hope this is just the beging of a good era.will don keep it up UP BLUE.........

  • Comment number 21.

    This is the result I suspect most neutrals wanted. It's all very well enjoying the demise of an expensively assembled team, but Chelsea have done enough to establish themselves into the fabric of the premier league.

    And of course we have a new nouveau riche team in City, one which will play the role with much more drama - and whose inevitable demise will be both tragic and hillarious in equal measure.

    Guus is class - and while it is only one result it will surely wipe out the memories of those 2 painful north west losses.

    Villa are in danger of wobbling. Their mazy run of wins always looked a little lucky, and if luck turns against them, a slide could be on. They have their work cut out in the next few games. That said, they seem to have 4th in the bag given Arsenal cannot even deal with the likes of Sunderland at home.

    As for Chelsea, I can see them giving Liverpool a run for second place, and making a good showing in the CL. For a number of their players this season represents the closing of an era - and this plus the arrival of Guus surely has to count for something.

  • Comment number 22.

    It was finally good to see chelsea play with a more confidence and more balance, around the pitch. Drogba willing to harry and chase was a major plus. As lacklustre was beginning to show.....Fierra unfortunately is not an able substitute for ashley cole, Top 4 premiership standard he is not.An unwise decision to sell wayne bridge, was not great ! The performance however was great, endeavour, will to win, you could see it coming back into the players. (the same players i might add, from 2 years ago...) We defended doggedly and with passion, you could tell they gave everything. Cech, looked confident instead of shakey, back to what he always was....a world class goalkeeper!! Even deco gave us a few glimses of what he can do, when up for it. Lampard seems to improve in his own high standards, hats off to him. When it came to tactics, the manager spot on !!
    If we play with that togetherness and desire to win of old, cole, carvalho, even essien due to return soon. Our place in the top four will again be dominant and Europe should once again be affraid of us !!

  • Comment number 23.

    Ricardo Carvalho and Michael Essien were really good at initiating counter attacks from deep within their own half. That surprise weapon is what this current Chelsea side has been denied for too long due to injuries to those two tireless performers.

    JT, Ballack, Lampard, Anelka and Didier had a good match against Villa.

    Guus Hiddink has made a confident start on the front foot.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 24.

    comment 4 "ninety6" I kind of agree with you. "chelsea did have the players but needed belief "was what you wrote, more or less.
    i do agree....but think it should read "chelsea had the players....except essien". not saying chelsea are a 1 man team, but I think Essien is the same way Gerrard is for Liverpool and Vidic for Utd, in Chelseas tactics. If essien wasnt injured I have no doubt scolari would still be employed.

    That said I think Hiddink will install more belief in Chelsea than big phil, especially afer the result today.

    All I hope is people dont get carried away with todays result. Beating Villa was a good result, No a fantastic result, but I think it was against a tired and under performing Villa team. And even then I felt Villa were the better team, jus poor at finishing. I think guus can install belief in to the chelsea lot...but they wont win anythin, its just far too late in my opinion

  • Comment number 25.

    It was always on the cards that Villa would wobble about now. Several big games (FA Cup, UEFA Cup and Chelsea) are a bit too much for a team with such a small qualtity and relatively inexperienced squad.

    With the new manager bounce and the tightening of budgets it was always on the cards that Chelsea would bounce back a little.

    Villa's home record is poor for a side with Champions' league aspirations. So all in all the result was hardly unexpected. Let's see how they are playing in a few weeks time. Villa will, by then, have just 4th place in the Premier League to think about. Chelsea will still be chasing glory which, like last saeson, is just beyond them.

  • Comment number 26.

    I honestly think its a fake that all huged at the end of the game.
    Just to show the world that we are one...
    But i think faking it doesnt mean you truly are United.
    If you look at United players,even if they dont hug each other you can still feel that they are happy and united,it is the same with Liverpool and Arsenal as well..I even feel Villa have the unity but chelsea to be honest i just faking it.
    It is not a great club yet but it has great players,and one they they will be the respected but for now Chelsea is a comedy show.
    And all the puppets are having a fake huggies..

  • Comment number 27.

    Isn't it just lovely that the millionaire kids have actually played together and hugged each other after the game! What bonding: it tugs at your heartstrings.

  • Comment number 28.

    A good start for Chelsea, however the result didnt give the full picture of the match. I believe the best they can hope for is 2nd with glory elsewhere. They will also need to improve on the performance, which as the blog said, had flashes of brilliance in the 1st half, but little else thereafter.

  • Comment number 29.

    I am happy to see that Paulo Ferreira has started after long time and also that Deco ahs contributed in the second half.But hats off to Frank Lampard who is the best Chelsea man.A very good start for Hiddink and I hope he stays even after this season.

  • Comment number 30.

    This is the result I suspect most neutrals wanted.....



    Most neutrals see Chelsea for what they are - a bought team of primadonnas.

    I think you'll find most neutrals (in England) would far rather see MON's 'English Villa' team beat Abramovich's World XI!

  • Comment number 31.

    Hmm, I get a feelling i've read this before, about Scolari's first few games perhaps? Players doing better for a new manager is nothing new, not even this season (eg Sunderland) wanting to impress the new guy is normal, however most of these players have done this several times in the last few seasons, then after a couple of games the get lazy again, yesterday the laziness started after 1/2 time! Noting will change at Chelsea till they can win away in cold driving rain! That will show they have sorted their commitment issues!

  • Comment number 32.

    All's well with Chelsea again, ahhhh - back to group hugging at the end of the games. Yeh, only now that they've managed to WIN one. Jeez, no group hugs in previous games when they dropped points. So was that down to no unity within the team or down to certain sections of the team sulking? Knowing Drogba and some others, I'd go with the latter. Amazing what effect a sulking player/s can have over a team (to the extent that they drop points.) Wonder how long the public displays of solidarity will last - any "man-hugs" next time they drop points do you think?

  • Comment number 33.

    The English press is known as the most immoral and disrespectful in the world - and rightly so.

    Imagine -just imagine- if Capello was attracted by another club whilst coaching England, and agreed to manage them for a short period as a favour and taking advantage of a gap in the national fixtures.

    And after his apointment the journos asked him every other day if he'll stay, combining or giving up his nation's world cup preparations, with many pundits and back pages ignoring his denials and claiming that there's a good chance for this to happen.


  • Comment number 34.

    The win against Villa can be a platform for Chelsea to make a good come back. The best improvement against villa was the ability of the team to hold on, they were able to soak villa pressure. They needs to play as a unit, there are still lapses Guss need to work on, chelsea does not look ready to face a world class team unless they improve mentally.
    Frank Lampard will remain consitent, if all other can just give their 100% chelsea would be unstopable.
    Nice formation from Guss allowing DROG and ANELKA to pair in attack, kalou just behind them created good attacking options.

  • Comment number 35.

    31.........laughin devil

    They have won 9 games away from home this season, 2 more than United, so I don't think winning away in driving rain is the problem. However, I agree it is far to soon to celebrate that all is well at Chelsea.

  • Comment number 36.

    We are just crying out for some width in the team , without it i think we are still going to struggle against teams with less ambition than villa , surely we know we can't march straight through the centre of 2 rows of 4 and need the width to pull them out of shape.

  • Comment number 37.

    Only one game Phil. I think you're getting ahead of yourself here.

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 39.

    Why don't Chelsea play Queresma after he has amde his debut?

  • Comment number 40.

    I'm waiting for this to go spectacularly wrong.

  • Comment number 41.

    Chelsea have bought too many centrally operating players, Ballack, Mikel, Essien, Deco and tried to play them all in the same lineup. If they want more width they need to sacrifice one or two of these players for some wingers - Quaresma, Malouda etc. I always thought they were at their best when they had Duff and Robben. Big mistake letting them go.

  • Comment number 42.

    who gives a monkeies about chelsea,they not even a big club,why is it that you are allways doing blogs on them,pick a different club

  • Comment number 43.

    42.........that's right, we are a small club with second biggest turnover in the premier league!

  • Comment number 44.

    Forget the nonces who say Chelsea aren't a big club. After Man United Chelsea are the most sucessful british club of the last ten years and currently Europe's number one seeds. Chelsea are also the fastest growing earners in world football and this would increase dramatically when crowd capacity is increased. Hiddink was brought in to sort out certain imbalances and point out a few harsh truths, but at least Roman had the savvy to do it before it was too late. I'm sure Ferguson, Wenger, O Neill, and Benitez weren't as happy because they were certain Chelsea were imploding and the press were sounding the death march. Bang! wake up you mugs!!!! Chelsea are far from dead..What doesn't kill you often makes you stronger! Hiddink has noticed the obvious, Chelsea are still relatively unfit and some players are a little out of kilter and often run into cul de sacs or play hospital passes, but this is perhaps due to a breakdown in communication. Hiddink can sort out the fitness and communication problems, players ambitions and dedication is something he can only influence to a point. His advice to Abramovich will be to lose certain players and bring in good workers who can play in at least two or three positions, players such as Khirkov, Diego and Ribery are capable of playing in a variety of positions, they tackle hard, cover ground in attack and defence and are technicaly sound. Hiddink may not stay after the Summer but I'm sure his advice will be taken on board and his sucessor should be cut from the same cloth...Mourinho anyone?

  • Comment number 45.

    I have to say it was good to see hiddink take down the win show that there is some life left in the premiership title race. However he did point out a lack of defensive effort from his front pairing which coulda been something scolari saw but noone cared because the results were not coming. I think that in a way and i am purely musing the downfall of chelsea started with mourinho.. I mean i know he didnt get to choose everyone he bought but he left them with a squad i think he knew was declining. He went on to inter the only useful team in serie a while juve and milan recovered. I just think that the biggest thing about hiddink coming in is he may not be there in august but roman will respect his recommendations to rebuild that team due to the russian connection. From what i understand due to my lack of access to games it seems there is an impression it wasnt much different but the same with players wanting to impress.

  • Comment number 46.

    44. LondonsFinest

    Chelsea are the second most successful club of the past ten years?

    Forgive me, but the 2 leagues and 2 FA cups of Chelsea is surely beaten by the 2 league titles and 3 FA cups of Arsenal in the same period? Not to mention if you make it eleven years, Arsenal get another one of each

    Not an Arsenal fan, just seemed a very 'convenient' stat

  • Comment number 47.

    Petr Cech won the game for us. The defense was no where near what one would expect from Chelsea. 3 Points is better than 1 though. Hope we can continue to build from here. The league title seems to be a bit out of our reach but if Hiddink can bring the Champions league trophy to Stamford Bridge, this would be a phenomenal season!

  • Comment number 48.


    Thanks we will take an extra year too and therefore include for Chelsea another FA Cup, European Cup Winners Cup, Super Cup, oh and you rather conveniently forgot 3 League Cups in your comment.

    And the above acts as a timely reminder to everyone that Chelsea actually started their ascendency from Hoddle,via Gullit, Vialli and Ranieri well before AB came along. Yes AB took us across the finishing line in terms of wining league titles, but we had been well in the race for the last ten years before that.

  • Comment number 49.

    I fully endorse McNulty's view of the Chelsea situation but for a hotshot blogger Phil has not picked on the hottest cake for a change.

    In the context of the current form of the two sides, Chelsea's win at Villa Park cannot be belittled. Its a worthy bench mark for Hiddink.

    Any credible hopes in the PL are certainly farfetched. Like in golf you can only unhealthily hope your opponent slips. And a slip of the century alone will help. The guiding theme is to drop no more easy points. There are 39 points still to be won. If you are aspiring to be the best you should get most of them.

    The worrying aspect is Chelsea are not seen to be making any moves for a contemporary acquisition for the squad. If nothing else they should be offloading some of their flotsam. It would be a tell tale sign. Better than this stonewall silence!

  • Comment number 50.

    The end-of-the-game gathering was so theatrical; all it shows is that the team was divided and now they're being hypocritical about it!!!

  • Comment number 51.

    Ok, lets stop arguing at whether Chelsea are a changed side. Being an ardent Chelsea fan, i would love to see them turn the corner in terms of consistency, however, one result doesn't make a season and come the end it will be interesting to see where we are.

    I want to be able to say that Chelsea are a force tro be reckoned with once again, but at the moment there are still massive question marks hanging over Stamford Bridge. Without question Hiddink is one of the best managers in the world, and i want to see him get the best out of our players but only time will tell.

    I still believe that whilst Drogba is a quality player, his attitude and overall demeanor needs to alter and Chelsea as a club need to start playing with passion rather than just think that they need to turn up. As much as it pains me to say it, look at Man Utd, the team and work ethic behind their current run is exemplary, that is the mentality that Chelsea need to find.

    Good article Phil.

  • Comment number 52.

    Is it just me or is Guss Hiddink actually the long lost twin brother of Francis Bacon?

  • Comment number 53.

    I am a lifelong Chelsea fan and have been wildly disappointed with this season. Confidence is low and at times while watching the overpaid, and at times, overweight blues, they seemed to be going through the motions. With Joe Cole out, Essien, Carvalho, and a Frank Lampard looking as bored as he does for England I thought about going down the road to watch Fulham instead.

    A spark is needed and a change of personnel. I believe we need width and new blood.

    I agree with a call for wingers. Duff, Robben and Jesper Gronkjaer gave us something we only see when Joe Cole stays on his feet and Malouda has never done it for me.

    Bring in 2 wingers and an exciting attacking central midfielder, get rid of Malouda, and Alex, Deco.

    This season is already a write off. I am hoping next won't be.

  • Comment number 54.

    Phil McNulty's opinions seem a little overly-optimistic; Chelsea looked pretty much as one-dimensional as they have for the last eighteen months.

    There was still no attacking play anywhere but down the middle, and the return of Essien and Carvalho will strengthen them, but again, straight down the middle.

    This was fine a couple of years, when Drogba and Carvalho were at their peak, but Drogba's certainly waining, and Carvalho looked like he was depreciating last I saw of him.

    Lampard again was the driving force who won the game for Chelsea; anyone who says that he is not one of the five best players in English club football is deluded; just look at what he's done for Chelsea over the last seven years.

  • Comment number 55.

    What you're all forgetting is that we have lost Carvllho, Essien, and occasionally Ashley Cole & John Terry. When everyone is match fit our defense is better than anyone's and we can get back to being hard to score against.
    You can't lose great players like this without it affecting the side and Obe Mikel just isn't up to the role that Essien will fill when he's back.

    Yes we need a Robinho type player up front and Malouda hasn't worked out but don't blame the defense it will be great again.

  • Comment number 56.

    Post 17 - quite obviously because Chelsea have just disposed of a highly respected, World Cup winning coach after a matter of months; because since Mourinho left, they have been unable to find a man who has the impact and influence over the dressing room; because now, Chelsea have appointed arguably one of the best and easily most respected coaches in the world; and thus, because Hiddink's first match in charge, and against a very good Villa side, is a good place to see how much impact this man has had so far. Journalists and fans alike are keeping a keen eye on Chelsea and Hiddink now, therefore almost any journalist with an interest in the Premier League would want to write about it.

    More to the point, why does this article merit your comment?

  • Comment number 57.

    Saturday was one of those sad days for smaller clubs - the day when Villa fans realised how far they still have to go to challenge the big boys (financially big - historically Villa are a bigger club than Chelsea).

    I fancy Chelsea to claim second spot and get to at least one cup final. In the end, it will turn out to be an okay season for them.

  • Comment number 58.

    I am a life long Chelsea fan, and even though the performance was encouraging against Villa, not getting too carried away.

    The fact Hiddink is willing and to play Anelka and Drogba together is encouraging, though an obvious choice (which Scolari seemed relucatant to see).

    Drogba is far off his best, though if he is willing to re capture his form of two seasons ago, then it may ignite our season.

    Though the Winger issue is still our biggest problem. If teams sit back and defend we dont have the creative players to break down teams.

    I didnt think Ballack was that great at the weekend as some pundits have made out.

    Lamps had his best game for a long time, though be interesting to see what he does against a big team, as he hasnt influenced a big game for a while.

    Terry i thought looked shaky again, and doesnt look anywhere near as comfortbale without Carvalho. Would like to see Stoch and Quaresma get some more minutes, as those two offer something different.

    Think we have a chance of getting 2nd as Liverpool will probably concentrate on the CL as they always do as they are always out of the league at this stage.

    Still hope there is an injection of youth in the summer.

  • Comment number 59.

    A slightly tangential comment...

    Isn't Mourinho doing a fantastic job ahead of Tuesday. He certainly has the mind games thing off pat. Nothing at all in return from SAF or any of the ManU fraternity. Of course "all that matters is the result" but as a red's fan it sends a jangle down my spine every time he talks about how Inter are going to dispose of United on Tuesday. (It certainly puts Benitez's buffoon-like attacks on SAF into perspective.) It would be great for overall entertainment value to see him back in the premier league!

    Chelsea should surely be looking to persuade him to make a return for 09/10. (From a self interested view, ANYTHING to stop him turning up at City!)

  • Comment number 60.

    Classic blog.

    On one paragraph you state Villa were lacklustre, and the next you state Chelsea came under seige from Villa.

    Classic BBC.

    I love how in the post match article from our last UEFA game you stated Villa scored through a Carew header.... It looked like a shot from 10 yards to me.

    Poor as always.

  • Comment number 61.

    Is there any way we can get Ranieri back? That's who we need, Abramovich should have never sacked him...


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