The Jose Mourinho era at Chelsea has come to an end. After winning the Premier League title last season, Mourinho’s Chelsea side got off to a disastrous start in the league, and found themselves just three points off the relegation zone a few weeks prior to Christmas, which led to his sacking.
In Mourinho’s place steps Guus Hiddink as interim manager. The Dutchman has coached Chelsea before, taking over for the disappointing Luiz Felipe Scolari in the 2008-09 season, and won a remarkable 73 percent of his points during his time in charge of the Blues, the highest percentage of any Chelsea manager who has managed more than 10 games.
During his short tenure with the club, Scolari won roughly 58 percent of possible points with Chelsea. At the time of his sacking, Mourinho won 59 percent with the Blues during his second stint in west London. Who’s to say that Hiddink can’t bring that kind of magic back to Stamford Bridge?
Already, the departure of Mourinho is starting to change the dynamics at Chelsea, and nowhere was it on display more than in the Blues’ 3-1 victory over Sunderland last weekend. The players appeared more motivated, calm and composed than they have in weeks, as it appeared the weight of their Portuguese manager’s pressure was lifted off them.
This was especially evident in the play of Oscar, who has struggled this season, but looked much better in his only game without Mourinho at the helm. Oscar attempted a rabona and a back heel, two tricky moves that likely would have incensed Jose, but that the young Brazilian pulled off to perfection. Undoubtedly, Chelsea fans would love to see some more of that attacking flair from the young midfielder.
While having the weight of Mourinho’s pressure lifted off them will likely benefit the Chelsea squad, the biggest long-term impact Hiddink could have as an interim manager is in the transfer market — owner Roman Abramovich will likely look to splash the cash this January.
In fact, rumors have already started swirling that Chelsea plan a January spending spree on Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Alex Texeira and Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy. Vardy would be obvious motivation for Diego Costa and Falcao to regain their goal scoring form or lose their jobs, and Texeira would bolster a midfield that has struggled, as it’s been anchored by Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas, who have both been in poor form.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that in the Abramovich era, no Chelsea interim manager has left the club without winning a trophy. In Hiddink’s first run with the club, he secured the FA Cup. Rafa Benitez won the Europa League during a brief stint at Stamford Bridge. Roberto di Mateo had the miracle run to beat Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions’ League final in Munich. With Chelsea still very much alive in the Champions’ League and FA Cup, who’s to say that Hiddink can’t salvage the season and bring home a trophy to Stamford Bridge?
Over the Christmas period, Chelsea will face Watford, Manchester United and Crystal Palace in one week’s time. While those three teams have performed much better than the Blues this season, Watford are a newly promoted side, Manchester United have managerial turmoil of their own and Crystal Palace have actually fared better away from Selhurst Park this season, giving the Blues at least a chance at nine points from the zaniest period of English soccer.
If Hiddink can manage that, along with a few good transfers in January, he could truly steal Christmas away from much of the Premier League, and give Chelsea fans the gift they’ve been waiting for all season.