Guus Hiddink achieving success at Chelsea difficult to measure

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Roman Abramovich is clearly a man who demands results.

His purchase of Chelsea football club has led to the most successful period in its history, a tenure synonymous with silverware. Another enduring feature, however, has been his impatient and regular dismissal of managers who fail to live up to his sky-high expectations.

Guus Hiddink will now take over from Jose Mourinho and reprise the interim manager role he performed successfully in 2009 - one which has become a recurring theme in recent years at Stamford Bridge.


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For most clubs, sacking a manager and installing another on an interim basis has brought with it a period of transition and a sense of limbo, not least among the players. At times, this has translated into half-hearted performances and a season that extinguished long before it should.

For all the volatility that goes hand in hand with the hottest seat in football, only once since 2004-05 has Chelsea finished without silverware in any season under the Russian’s ownership - a remarkable stat.

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Hiddink will be expected to continue in this fashion. After replacing Luiz Felipe Scolari, he led an underperforming Chelsea team to a FA Cup win. Strangely, this change in fortunes has been far from unique.

Roberto Di Matteo took over from Andre Villas-Boas in March 2012 with Chelsea again in disarray, and bettered this feat by adding an unexpected Champions League win to the Blues' fifth FA cup success.

His replacement, Rafa Benitez completed the grand slam of club competitions a year later by winning the Europa League.


Were each of these managers that much better than the man they succeeded or were there other factors at play?

When Avram Grant assumed the caretaker role after Mourinho’s first dismissal, Chelsea narrowly lost in the club’s first ever appearance in a Champions League final. There were whispers then that the personalities at the club; the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack were really calling the shots.

Suspicions this player power has continually undermined managers and contributed to their demise may have some foundation, but it’s true that the club has historically counted on a strong core and strength of character within the dressing room to carry it through. Time and again, the players have come to the fore to mute the criticism of Roman’s behaviour.

There are parallels in that the new manager will inherit champions, barely six months removed from lifting the Premier League, but if the performances this season are anything to go by, Hiddink, is inheriting a very different collective in a vastly different position.

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League

Chelsea are in the midst of the worst ever start to a title defence in Premier League history and never before has Abramovich had to dismiss a manager with the club in the bottom half of the table. The stalwarts that drove the club under the interim stewardships are largely gone.

He will no longer be able to count on Lampard, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba. In their stead, an ill-disciplined group whose mentality has been exposed badly this season. Whilst Terry is still around and highly influential, at 35, he may no longer be able to lead from the front on the pitch to the same extent. This time, they look like a disinterested team of individuals and Hiddink failed in his last job to mould a similar group of Dutch players to his will.

There are undoubtedly, talented players at the club and they may still salvage something from the season, but as a group, they have hardly shown the desire to lift the team out of their current predicament to date. They have unravelled at an alarming rate.

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League

Chelsea won’t retain their league title and even their chances of securing a top four place look remote. Having already relinquished their League Cup trophy this season and a tricky Champions League tie against PSG, it’s difficult to see how Hiddink will be defined a success, or even if this definition realistically even exists for Roman.

No permanent manager has been able to establish himself and leave Stamford Bridge with their reputation intact under Abramovich, but their appeal to the game’s biggest coaches and players has been sustained by their regular successes in lieu of this stability.

If Hiddink can’t find a winning formula this time around, a uniquely vulnerable position will be exacerbated. Can Abramovich then truly expect his peculiar cycle of success to continue? Maybe not.

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Jose Mourinho
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