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Thursday, February 19, 2009

~ Guus Magic At The Bridge And Essien Return ~

Chelsea open up the Bridge to allow kids watch their heroes train

By Sportsmail Reporter
Last updated at 3:35 PM on 17th February 2009

There's no doubt new Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink means business. Not only did he go to a reserve team match along with owner Roman Abramovich last night but now he's showing Blues fans just how he's going to get his well-paid stars into Champions League-winning form and fitness.

He has blasted his squad for not being fit enough so when the Stamford Bridge doors were opened to allow kids to watch the first team train during half term there was no shortage of takers - around 6,000 turned up to watch Hiddink put them through their paces today.

Many players probably wished they were at the anonymous Cobham training base but for one day only they were centre stage while they were learning - and supporters lapped it up.

the bridge

Here come the players: Chelsea stars trot out for trainng


Maybe we should charge to watch training every day: Roman Abramovich contemplates his latest credit crunch solution

Guus, Wilkins

Can you leave the pitch please Mr Kenyon: But then Guus Hiddink realises it's actually his assistant Ray Wilkins in the big coat


For my next trick...Chelsea skipper John Terry practises his offside appeals


The exit's that way if you can't cope: Hiddink shows his players the path to fitness


Stretching a point: Chelsea players do their best to impress new boss Guus Hiddink


Watch those two, they're trouble: Ray Wilkins (left) helps Hiddink evaluate Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba

Guus Hiddink to make impact at Chelsea with double changes

Guus Hiddink gave a clear indication yesterday of his desire to partner Nicolas Anelka with Didier Drogba as he took charge of his second training session at Chelsea, although problems at the other end of the pitch will most concern the interim manager before his first match against Aston Villa on Saturday. Alex missed training with an ankle injury to leave Hiddink with the daunting task of patching up a threadbare defence because Ricardo Carvalho (hamstring) and Ashley Cole (suspension) are already unavailable for the visit to Villa Park.

Alex may come back into contention by the end of the week, but Hiddink will still have only two of his first-choice back four to call upon at a ground where Chelsea have not won for ten years. Paulo Ferreira will fill in for Cole at left back — a role he fulfilled regularly for Portugal under Luiz Felipe Scolari, the previous Chelsea manager — but replacing Carvalho will not be so straightforward.

Branislav Ivanovic and Michael Mancienne were given the opportunity to impress Hiddink yesterday in a ten-a-side practice match that pitted Chelsea’s first team against the reserves, but both contain an element of risk.

Ivanovic has made only six Barclays Premier League starts since signing from Lokomotiv Moscow 12 months ago and looked shaky in the FA Cup win over Watford last Saturday.

While Mancienne was more impressive at Vicarage Road, it was his first appearance for the club and he was deployed at right back. With Emile Heskey likely to return from injury up front for Villa on Saturday, supported by the pace of Gabriel Agbonlahor, Ashley Young and James Milner, Villa Park will be no place for a rookie.

Hiddink has plenty of experience elsewhere in his squad, however, with the earliest indications that he intends to use as much of it as possible. The Dutchman partnered Anelka with Drogba for the duration of the practice match, which was divided into four ten-minute periods, with the Ivory Coast striker scoring the opening goal as the first team won 2-1.

Such a team selection, even in a practice match, represents a considerable departure from the tactics employed by Scolari, who started the strikers together only once. Anelka said as much after scoring a 16-minute hat-trick when paired with Drogba for the final 20 minutes at Watford, complaining that Scolari never gave them the opportunity to prove themselves as a partnership.

The only other innovation made by Hiddink was the use of Deco as a holding player at the base of a three-man midfield. The Portugal player has struggled to produce his best form recently as matches have passed him by and Hiddink is determined to get him on the ball more often, encouraging him to dictate the pace of play and get Chelsea’s attacks going from a deeper role.

John Obi Mikel was also given an opportunity in his familiar role as a midfield anchor man, but Deco represents a more attacking option as Chelsea seek to close the seven-point gap between them and Manchester United at the top of the table.

The most intriguing sight at a training session that was open to the club’s supporters at Stamford Bridge was the presence of Roman Abramovich, the owner, who has watched more football in the past few days than in the first six months of the season. The Russian was also at the reserves’ 6-0 win over Portsmouth on Monday night after attending the victory over Watford, an indication of a resurgence of interest in the wake of his disenchantment with Scolari.

“I’m not here to entertain you all morning,” Hiddink said at the open training session, where 5,164 fans watched the action. “I’m here to lead the entertainment of the team. I hope we have a strong end to the season, but we need your support. I will give everything to make the team work.”

Essien: I'll be back in a month

by Tom Adams , 18 February 2009

New Chelsea coach Guus Hiddink will be delighted to hear the news that injury-stricken midfielder Michael Essien feels he is no more than a month away from returning to first team action.

The Ghana star has not played for The Blues since suffering a cruciate ligament injury in August but recently returned to first-team training and was included in Chelsea’s squad for the knockout stages of the Champions League.

And although he still has some work to do at the club’s Cobham training facility before he can be considered match fit, Essien is optimistic that he could make his long-awaited return at the end of March.

“According to [rehabilitation physio Thierry] Laurent, it should not take more than one month for me to play actively again,” Essien told 90minutes.

“He has assured me that once we go through a few other exercises for two or three weeks, I should be fit enough to return to the pitch.”

The former Lyon midfielder has also paid tribute to Hiddink after the Dutchman was appointed as Chelsea manager until the end of the season following Luiz Felipe Scolari’s departure.

Hiddink will combine his role at Chelsea with his responsibilities for leading the Russian national side and Essien believes the 1988 European Cup winner will reinvigorate a Chelsea side afflicted by mixed form and a reportedly divided dressing room.

“Hiddink has been around for quite a while and knows what it takes to get positive results out of nothing,” Essien added.

“He is a fantastic manager, so we hope he would bring the magic to give us strength we need to mount a challenge in all competitions.”

Chelsea sack Luiz Felipe Scolari: 10 reasons why he had to go

Luiz Felipe Scolari (pic:Getty)

Chelsea’s sacking of Luiz Felipe Scolari has stunned the Premier League – but to many Blues fans the decision came as a blessed relief. Here are 10 reasons they wanted the Brazilian out.

1) He’d lost the fans
At the end of Saturday’s dismal 0-0 home draw with Hull – a game which the Blues should have lost – an unusually quiet Stamford Bridge crowd got very vocal. They booed and chanted "You don't know what you're doing” as two fans unfurled a ‘Scolari Out’ banner which also called for the return of Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke from West Ham. With characteristic understatement, Scolari’s understudy Ray Wilkins called it “a tad out of order”.

2) He’d lost the dressing room too
Supporters were dismayed in December by claims that senior players had questioned Scolari’s substitutions in matches against West Ham and Arsenal. It was also alleged that John Terry and Frank Lampard had confronted the manager to ask for the intensity of training to be stepped up in a bid to return to the high-tempo football of the Jose Mourinho era. Some players privately grumbled about wanting a return to Jose Mourinho's rigid 4-4-2 system and moaned about the manager turning up late for training. The lack of respect ran both ways: Scolari simply didn’t seem bothered after a humiliating 3-0 reverse at Manchester United recently and his players echoed that with their resigned body language at Liverpool and against Hull in the games which sealed his fate.

3) He turned Fortress Stamford Bridge into a fun day out for visitors
Not only did the Blues’ 86-game unbeaten home record go against Liverpool in October, but the Scolari era saw 16 Premier League points dropped at home out of a possible 39.

4) He got his tactics wrong
Scolari’s firm belief in the lone striker – either in a 4-5-1 or a 4-3-3 formation – meant Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka never got an extended run together. Moves from man-to-man to zonal marking and the late addition of Ricardo Quaresma were too-little-too-late acknowledgments of Chelsea’s killer flaws at set pieces and out wide.

5) He struggled against the minnows
Home draws with Hull, Newcastle, Southend and Burnley – the latter made even worse by a 5-4 penalty defeat which knocked them out of the League Cup – would never have happened under Jose Mourinho. Neither would poor near-misses against Stoke and CFR Cluj.

6) He struggled against the big boys too
For once, Anelka wasn’t just sulking when he moaned last week: 'From the start of the season, we've lost our tests against the biggest teams. Whenever the biggest matches in the Premier League come along, we have just not shown we know how to perform at the 'real' Chelsea level.'” So far Chelsea have just one point in total to show from two games apiece against Liverpool and Manchester United and a home match against Arsenal.

7) He put his faith in the wrong players
Scolari bought Deco on the back of a terrible season at Barcelona and persisted with him until recently despite the Portuguese midfielder’s evident struggles to keep up with the pace of the Premier League. He also kept Drogba out of the side in favour of Anelka – who might be the Premier League’s leading scorer but has only netted once in eight weeks… and that against Southend.

8) He’d stopped communicating with the fans
It’s bad enough when a manager stops attending pre- and post-match press conferences – even worse when in his stead he sends out human Valium Wilkins in his stead. Scolari’s struggles with the English language didn’t help him in his struggles to win over an increasingly frustrated Chelsea crowd.

9) He’d turned into an unlucky manager
Major injuries to Michael Essien and Joe Cole and fitness problems for Didier Drogba, John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho – not to mention the farcical gazumping of Robinho by Manchester City after Chelsea had offered fans the chance to buy a shirt with his name on it - conspired to wreck Scolari’s hopes of continuing Chelsea’s flying start to the season. Roman Abramovich's reincarnation as a credit crunch Doug Ellis and subsequent reluctance to perform major surgery on an ageing team didn’t help either. If only Big Phil had endured this kind of misfortune against England in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and the 2004 European Championship.

10) He wasn’t even as good as Avram Grant
His haul of only 49 points from 25 games is 15 worse than the 64 Jose Mourinho managed in his first season, 17 worse than Mourinho hauled in the following year as the title was won again – and five worse than the seemingly hapless Avram Grant got last year. Grant’s team scored 48 goals in those games – Scolari’s could only manage 44.