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Hiddink: 'We weren’t hoping, we were expecting' improvement from the squad

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Confidence is high around Stamford Bridge these days.  Chelsea are dreaming of Europe.  After a dozen games unbeaten, the second longest streak in the Premier League this season, Chelsea are back in the top half of the table and just a few points off the pace set by the Top 6-7 teams.

Credit should go to Guus Hiddink (and the indispensable coaches Holland, Lollichon, Newton, and Chris Jones) for steadying the ship in a time of crisis, just as he had done in 2009, but the key improvement that was needed for success was on the pitch, with the players.

"The players responded well when I came in. I said to everyone ‘what was your contribution in the year of the championship and also the last half year?' Don't give me an answer by word but in training and in upcoming games."

"I think they responded. They took responsibility and they started to get some results with draws and later on with victories. We were not hoping they would respond we were expecting because they have shown it in the past."

-Guus Hiddink; source: Mirror

"At the beginning there was a lack of confidence but when the results came, and they got used to playing a little bit differently, defending with a higher block, they started playing well and enjoying it, which is important. It's about doing your job and enjoying your job."

-Guus Hiddink; source:  Chelsea FC

While the Champions League remains the ultimate prize that we could achieve with some luck through our final league position, we would need to win something like 9 out of our last 10 games.  As remarkable as that would be — Hiddink would even consider it a "bigger achievement" than his 2009 FA Cup — the Europa League is probably a more realistic proposition.  Hiddink wouldn't be around for that anymore (certainly not in a coaching capacity), but he would consider it an advantage rather than a hindrance.

"My personal opinion is that if you play in the Europa League you can bring in young players. I don't want to undervalue it but it's nice to have games for younger players. We've tried to bring young players in and it's good for them as well."

-Guus Hiddink; source:  Chelsea FC

Then again, Hiddink is also of the opinion that Chelsea will need reinforcements to truly compete on multiple fronts next season.

"Next season is up to the new management of course, but if I give my personal opinion, when you play Premier League, FA Cup, Capital One Cup and probably Europa League you need a broader squad. We have, let's say 13 or 14 outfield players, and we cannot afford a lot of damage but when you play in five competitions you need a broader squad."

-Guus Hiddink; source: Get West London

And then of course there's the whole managerial stability boondoggle.  For whatever all that's worth.

"The club has to go in a new way where it is not on short spells. I think now they have to go into a new era of Chelsea where managers have more than one or two years."

"I always said I would be here for the short term. I will be now and then at Stamford Bridge as a tourist."

-Guus Hiddink; source: Star

Regardless of what happens the rest of the season, there's no doubt Hiddink will always be welcomed back warmly.  Let's get another win today, just to be sure.