Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink was asked about a number of issues ahead of his side’s game against Arsenal this weekend. Here’s a rundown of what the Dutchman had to say at his pre-match news conference.
On Eden Hazard’s fitness
“He was well prepared by the physios until two days ago when he started participating partly in the team. Today and yesterday he was in full commitment with the first-team training, so he’s available.
“We have to be careful because he has fallen into some injuries recently. I’m not sure whether he can play a full 90 minutes yet so we have to consider in the upcoming hours whether he starts or comes on.
“I don’t see either way a disadvantage. It also depends on the toughness and intensity of the game. We will decide on game day.”
On Diego Costa’s battles with Arsenal
“I haven’t seen the images [of his clash with Laurent Koscielny] where he was suspended by the FA later on. In the latest games, he was of big worth for us and I like him to be focused on that.
“I said before I cannot guarantee [Costa will behave] because we are not dealing with machines, we are dealing with human beings. But when he is focusing on what he’s good at, around the box, then he is of big worth.
“The boys have to take, they have to give, which is done in all the high intensity games in England, which is what we like.”
On the team’s form
“Everyone knows where we were in December. So far we are unbeaten but I’m not fully satisfied with all the results. We have to make the next step and not drop back in consistency.
When you start, you want to have results immediately. We had some, let’s say, ‘half results’ [but] we want full results, although it’s difficult in this very strong league this year to have continuously a winning mood. There is not much time – we have to perform now.
“But I see the players working with a lot of ambition and also with confidence, and I think we will see another very attractive game on Sunday.”
On Petr Cech’s new gloves – wrongly delivered to Chelsea’s training ground
“I was here, it was late in the afternoon, the day before yesterday I think, when Petr showed up. We had a chat. Almost everyone was gone.
“We knew the gloves were here, we tried to hide them, which he did not accept! We tried to make them a little bit slippery but he discovered that also! They were wrongly sent here, we gave them back, that’s the story.
“He is doing very well [at Arsenal]. We see weekly a very good professional, a very nice person but on top of that he is performing. I think, even in the last game, he has saved some points. How can he help us? By having slippery gloves!”
On his ‘relegation is realistic’ comments
“We don’t talk much about that but if you go and see the statistics, then you see we are closer to that line than the line where you are in a Champions League position. That’s the fact. I’m not a person who likes to deny the facts. That doesn’t mean that we are looking down – we have to look up.
“We are not super concerned but I like to have a realistic view. Everyone who is in this club knows where we came from, where we have improved a bit regarding the difference in points between the relegation zone and where we are now. But it doesn’t mean we are panicking and looking too far forwards.”
On dropping points against Everton
“Before the game I said that if you let Everton play, they can play. And if you analyse the goals, we let them have too much freedom of play. That is why we conceded the last goal, for instance.
“But I was very happy with the reaction of the team. It was a narrow escape but it was good to see that the team, even in the dying seconds, didn’t want to surrender too easily.”
On whether Arsenal are direct rivals
“Not at this moment. Arsenal are doing very well. They are making a good battle for the first position, and Chelsea is well down. That is reality.”
On Chelsea’s great record against the Gunners
“It might be a little bit different [on Sunday] than in the past. But I am convinced that the team will give it their utmost to get the results which have been achieved in the recent past.”
On Branislav Ivanovic’s new contract
“He’s one of the main characters now in this team. I knew him from my spell in Russia as well, where he played central defence at [Lokomotiv] Moscow and he went to Chelsea after that. He has become one of the key members of the first team. I think he is back to where he once was.”
On transfers and if he has recommended signings
“The more open the window is, the more my mouth will be shut. My first task is to get the team where we desperately like to be.
“Secondly, when I am asked for the further future I will of course give my ideas. But so far I’m focused on my first job. We [he and the board] have been in contact, not frequently, and if I can be of any value I will help out.”
On Chelsea’s leaky defence
“It’s not just a matter of the four defenders. Nowadays in football if you don’t defend well, whether in midfield or up front, then you are caught.
“You can easily be outplayed by the standard of the tactical and technical quality of the players nowadays. In the early days you can’t be so easily outplayed tactically but nowadays teams have the ability.
“If you don’t work with a lot of responsibility in your area, as a midfielder or a striker, then the defence will come into problems. If you analyse the third goal [against Everton] it was a corner-kick brought in another time and we were more or less paralysed on the far post. We talked about that, we practiced that. We must not repeat errors.”
On whether Papy Djilobodji, loaned to Werder Bremen, will play for Chelsea again
“I don’t know. He’s still under contract with Chelsea. [For] those players it’s important that they play.
“He’s gone to a league which I respect and like very much. It’s nice to see that he’s started to play now and we will follow him closely. You cannot predict what the near future will be but it’s good to get him experience.”
On Christian Atsu
“He is the same as Papy. Those players who don’t have much of an option to be playing regularly in the first team must have experience of playing weekly.
“I cannot say much more but I talked with him and gave him advice to see what can be done now in the upcoming time [before the window closes] to see if he can play somewhere.”
And finally, on Chelsea’s 4-1 win at the Emirates in his last spell in charge
“That’s a long time ago. I remember that because I think it was three or four days after we let in the equalising goal by Andres Iniesta in the 92nd minute of the Champions League semi-finals [against Barcelona].
“My only concern I had at that moment, when we were out of the Champions League, was the reaction – how this team can resurrect itself, three days later. Surprisingly, the team was very resilient.
“They showed enormous mental power in this game. And that’s why they got this result. If this team plays and reacts as they did after going 2-3 behind in the last game, against Everton, then the team can play up to its standard.”