What Has Guus Hiddink Left Behind at Chelsea?

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistMay 16, 2016

Chelsea's English defender John Terry (L) talks with Chelsea's Dutch interim manager Guus Hiddink after the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge in London on May 15, 2016. / AFP / GLYN KIRK / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  /         (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

STAMFORD BRIDGE, London — Chelsea's Premier League season finale ended against Leicester City in the way their campaign should have started: With Guus Hiddink playing the kids.

Come the final whistle, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori were all on the pitch for Chelsea, making a contribution as they take another step on the road to establishing themselves.

Loftus-Cheek has become a more familiar face this season, while Abraham and Tomori were each making their home debuts for the senior side.

With nothing on the line against Leicester, it raises the question of why Hiddink didn't start the game with them? What could Chelsea have lost that they haven't already this season? What was there to gain by playing an unfit Branislav Ivanovic at the heart of defence?

The questions are plenty, although the answers to them all will be equally unsatisfactory.

For all the positives Hiddink has brought to Chelsea since December, his use of the club's younger talents has frustrated. From starting to slowly introduce them, recent weeks have seen the interim manager seemingly slam on the brakes.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 15:  Sesc Fabregas (L) of Chelsea celebrates scoring his team's first goal with his team mates Gary Cahill (C) and Tammy Abraham (R) during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on Ma
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

That hasn't been a positive move. If anything, it makes the 11 draws picked up during his tenure all the more frustrating for Chelsea fans.

When Hiddink first came to the club in 2009, the outlook was much different. The squad he was inheriting from Luiz Felipe Scolari was experienced and contained many players in their prime. The likes of Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack, Didier Drogba and John Terry gave Chelsea a formidable look.

It's been different with this generation. Chelsea don't have that same swagger and are lacking the mettle to dominate opponents like they did.

In 2009, Hiddink's target was very much about sustaining the club's success. His mission was still a rescue, but with the players he had, there was still an expectation he should be achieving something.

The Dutchman delivered on that mandate by winning the FA Cup and nearly taking Chelsea to their second UEFA Champions League final in a row. Had it not been for some questionable refereeing decisions from Tom Henning Ovrebo, he would have. Instead, it was Barcelona who got to face—and beat—Manchester United in Rome.

In 2016, Hiddink needed to restore Chelsea's confidence. It hasn't been about winning trophies or even qualifying for Europe next season. Such was the state of the club when he stepped in after Jose Mourinho's sacking, Hiddink's task was far different.

Leicester City's French midfielder N'Golo Kante (L) vies with Chelsea's English midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge in London on May 15, 2016. / AFP / GLYN KI
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Chelsea needed a cuddle, with the egos in the dressing room given a good rub down to restore them. The feel-good factor was utmost in the mind, and his laid-back attitude has helped bring that about. He leaves Stamford Bridge with the club feeling happier than it was six months ago. The mood has changed, people are smiling again.

But that isn't enough. Hiddink could have done so much more, especially if results were going to be as sobering as they have been. Drawing 1-1 with Leicester on Sunday means he has won just one league game at Stamford Bridge out of 10. From 30 points, Chelsea took just 11.

Compare that with the eight home games under Mourinho, where Chelsea took seven points. Calculate the average points collected at Stamford Bridge and the 0.36 per game under Hiddink is only marginally better than Mourinho's 0.29.

The point is, we didn't see enough on the pitch from Hiddink's Chelsea. It was the same system and the same players. Not much changed, so we shouldn't be surprised performances didn't suddenly spike with it.

If Chelsea were to remain so abject and scrape into the top 10 like they did, surely the club would have gained more by testing their up-and-coming players more regularly?

That's not to suggest casting aside experienced internationals en masse in the name of experimentation. It's a view that points to more faith being shown in players who are trying to establish themselves.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 15: Guus Hiddink interim manager of Chelsea applauds after the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on May 15, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Other than not qualifying for Europe next season—which gives Antonio Conte a less frantic schedule to drill his players—what have Chelsea gained by allowing Mourinho to leave? We really can't point to much.

Hiddink could have left Stamford Bridge with the squad looking more revitalised than it is. He could have nurtured Loftus-Cheek more and shown the sort of courage every youngster needs from his manager in order to succeed.

We still haven't seen the 20-year-old deployed in his natural position deeper in midfield. He's being played out of position as a No. 10 and has never played there in the 12 years he's spent at Chelsea.

In an exclusive interview to be published later this week, Loftus-Cheek told Bleacher Report: "Ever since I’ve been in the academy, I’ve never played as a No. 10. I’ve always been just in front of the back four in the two, but when I came over to the first team, Jose played me as a 10.

"He said he liked me in the 10 and that’s sort of stuck. Whatever happens in the future, I don’t know, but I’m just happy to play anywhere at the moment."

When Conte arrives this summer, he's going to be asking a lot of questions about these young players he is inheriting—top of that list is where they actually play and if they're talented enough. It's regrettable that for someone like Loftus-Cheek, we can't answer that confidently enough.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 15: Guus Hiddink interim manager of Chelsea and Willian of Chelsea after the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on May 15, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Gett
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

So where does it leave him? Indeed, where does it leave the rest who are coming through?

Speaking to Hiddink at many press conferences throughout 2016, you get a flavour for the man. He comes across as very intelligent, but his endearing quality is his personality. He's infectious, inviting journalists on and never turning his back on a question.

Hiddink is the antithesis to Mourinho. He's laid back and doesn't carry the weight of the world on his shoulders as some sort of burden that only he can lift. He's friendly, and as a personality, he was ideal for what Chelsea needed when the storm got ever more tumultuous in December.

But the Dutchman leaves the Blues not achieving what he could have. Results improved gradually, but not to the point Chelsea's season ever threatened it may end in some form of celebration. He could have achieved so much more to lay a foundation for the next generation.

Instead, Conte's job remains just as difficult as it would have been had he stepped into the fray at the time Hiddink did.

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes


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