New Chelsea head coach Guus Hiddink is looking for contributions from all of his footballers as the defending champions seek to improve from their 14th position in the English Premier League (EPL) in the new year.
Chelsea witnessed the 2015 – the year that also gave them the title — end on a difficult note as the Blues registered only five wins from 19 matches. Head coach Jose Mourinho was sacked on December 16 for the poor title defence, making his way for Hiddink.
Under Hiddink, Chelsea have drawn twice, ushering in new hopes for the club. And now as they bid to start the new year, they face Crystal Palace on Sunday.
And Dutch tactician Hiddink has made it clear that all players must contribute in the campaign.
Beginning with the striker role, he is able to call upon the services of Diego Costa after suspension which is especially important as Loic Remy is an injury doubt and Ramadel Falcao is out. And should the Spain international be the only available centre-forward for a series of matches, the coach is confident Costa is ready to take on the challenge.
“Diego Costa is focusing himself very much on his job. It is a lot of responsibility but he is brave and he likes to do so, but I don’t want to focus just on Diego Costa and say he must, he must, he must,” Hiddink told chelseafc.com on Saturday.
“He has a big temperament, he likes to perform and is keen to score but the other attacking players must play a part in the assists and the goals. It is not just him,” he added.
“There is a lot of technical skill in the midfield in the attacking positions. We have to go now to the next step and see how they can become even more productive. We try now to get a good amount of occupation in the opposition box so there is more efficiency from their huge quality, so it’s not just Diego.”
One of the midfielders deployed this weekend may be Cesc Fabregas who has overcome the illness that ruled him out of the last game. Hiddink will consider him for more than one position as the season progresses.
“He (Fabregas) can play in the no.10 position and he has also played a lot of games just in front of the defence, but he is smart with his passes in the final third so he can play either position. There is no preferred role for him but it depends also on the strengths of the opponent in midfield whether we can play an attacking-oriented or a more defensive-oriented player in midfield. It is not just one fixed team,” the former Valencia, Real Madrid and PSV Eindhoven coach said.
“We try to get the players in the best shape like they were last year and with the multitude of games that are coming up, we need everyone and everyone needs to be in top shape. We help them by giving them rest or more intensity in training, but there are sometimes games that tactically we have a preference for a different balance defensively or offensively,” the 69-year-old added.
Hiddink, who has the experience national sides of the Netherlands, Australia, South Korea and Turkey, continued: “For me it is not a team of one goalie and 10 outfield players. We have to have other good players and when they are needed we will put them in the line-up. One time it is (John Obi) Mikel, one time it is Cesc or others. That depends on the tactics and especially on the midfield strengths of the opposition.
“I don’t want to focus on just one player who might need a bit more strength or whatever to get back in shape.”
Reflecting on the recent results, the coach stated: “It is a matter of the whole team not doing well to December. If you look at the goals conceded, it is not just the defence being not good enough, it is a matter of the whole team performance, defensively or offensively.”