On first glance, the only thing Guus Hiddink has essentially changed since replacing Jose Mourinho has been to give John Obi Mikel a starring role, mostly at the expense of the mostly injured (and mostly crap when not injured) Eden Hazard. Although, according to Mikel himself, there have been a few more important changes behind the scenes, in the approach taken and the attitudes displayed towards tactics and matches. Whether that's a result of anything Hiddink has done, or simply a by-product of releasing some of the tension and pressure that had built up trying to save the season and Mourinho's job along with it, is anyone's guess.
"I've seen them all. Guus has come in again and settled things. Players feel free to play and free to have responsibility and thrive on responsibility but do it in a very relaxed way, which is sometimes what players need. Guus has come in and done that. We're picking up results in the league and we're very much in this tie."
"We've been through a difficult period, no doubt about it, but Guus has come in and settled the ship and now we're picking up results, and doing really well back home in the league. This was the first game under Guus in the Champions League and we're still very much alive."
-John Obi Mikel; source: ESPN
So that's all well and good, and while the Newcastle win was certainly impressive, results before then were hardly indicative of "doing really well" in the Premier League. But Mikel clearly likes Hiddink, and vice-versa, so perhaps we can understand why he'd talk up the interim manager.
"It feels great to be back in the team. Sometimes it is disappointing not to be part of the team, not to play, but I've always been professional. I never speak out, I never get upset. I carry on doing my job, coming to training every day to train with the guys who are playing."
"This is football. In one second it changes. I've always believed in myself and kept doing what I was doing and Guus came in and has given me the opportunity, and, hopefully, that will continue."
-John Obi Mikel; source: ESPN
So, happy happy joy joy is back at Stamford Bridge. At least according to Mikel. Hiddink has a more measured take on it.
"Players, even if they are high-profile, well-paid professionals as they are at this club, deep down they must play with joy. If you play with joy the best comes out of a player. Joy is not always laughing. Joy is enjoying being a professional, enjoying training and enjoying doing your job. When you feel that naturally, the performance is unconditional."
"When I see that in training I tell them to try to create the same circumstances in the game and hopefully they will feel good. Then we get a lot of resistance from the opponents and it's about how you survive in that. When you see young players or kids playing, they don't think about what's happening in one hour, they play in the moment and then they play as they should: the execution they have learned or have been given by nature is coming out in the best way."
-Guus Hiddink; source: Chelsea FC
I'm not sure that's really saying much; in my view and experience, winning (and good results) will bring out the "joy" and losing (and bad results) will make it go away, regardless of whatever players may have learned or were given by nature. The end times under Mourinho were certainly very much devoid of joy, and everyone talked about working hard and trying and trying and trying again. Now that we've managed a few wins, now we can talk about enjoying the hard work and the trying and trying again. Point is, there is no magic wand and while Hiddink has managed decent results, he knows that the real hard work is just starting.
"It's not a small job, [that will be facing the new manager]. I don't want to open up too much but everyone has to make good analysis about the strength of the squad, about the weakness of the squad, and accordingly they have to react in building up, or making the squad stronger for next season. That's not a small job."
"I don't want to go into details. I am here in the interim period and the people who are not responsible for the every day, every week stuff and games, they have the longer vision of what is the need of this club, they are in charge to do that."
-Guus Hiddink; source: Guardian
We trust the players, said Chelsea after sacking Mourinho. But do we? Should we? Hiddink may have brought the joy back to them, but he certainly seems to be suggesting that what they really need is an upgrade.