Finally. After this weekend, the 2015-16 season will finally, officially be over for Chelsea.
Entering the season with high hopes of defending the Premier League title, Chelsea almost fell into relegation zone by mid-season before the hammer fell on Mourinho. But while the club have recorded just three losses in the league with Guus Hiddink in charge, truly good performance have been few and far between. The second half of the season has been nearly as underwhelming as the first.
"I will be emotional on Sunday because in the two spells here the passion towards football was already there, but the affection for the club has grown."
"Of course after the escape from near the relegation zone I would have loved to reach the FA Cup final and go one or two games further in the Champions League but we couldn't fulfil that. But I'm happy with the last half-year, I did it with a lot of joy."
"We must face facts; by Chelsea's standards it's been a season with exception. It's not enough for Chelsea. It's now relatively quiet at the club but we have to go on and be competitive next season."
-Guus Hiddink; source: Chelsea FC
That's not to say there weren't good moments. Or even good games. But every good moment was followed by a bad moment (or two), exemplified most recently by the 92nd minute of the game at Anfield on Wednesday.
"My recent memory of playing at Anfield was a pleasant memory - we played as I love them to play, except the 92nd minute. That's how Chelsea should play. We managed to play as we like to play."
"What I like very much, I spoke to the players in December, was not to look back - look forward. Look back, maybe to what you have not brought to the team - I said I didn't want the answers right away, I wanted them on the pitch. I can be satisfied with how the team reacted."
Chelsea's defence breaking down, mostly thanks to individual errors from full backs and center backs alike, isn't anything new. Neither are ill-timed passes, poor clearances, and other individual errors. A buttery soft midfield and poor marking were the hallmarks of this season from our once staunch rearguard. The whole system fell apart.
Hiddink didn't really change anything on the pitch — his impact was perhaps more psychological than anything — but he did remove the shadow of the colossus once known as Nemanja Matic from the regular starting lineups and replaced him with John Obi Mikel. The Hiddink-Mikel bromance has certainly been fascinating to watch, as the manager has even found ways to include the long-time Chelsea servant. We now have two shining examples of how Mikel's not a center back, but as part of his final pre-match press conference, Hiddink lauded Mikel's efforts for the whole half-season.
"I don't want to look for many excuses but one of the reasons we couldn't continue our performances once we were out of the relegation zone is we had to deal with injuries in central defence. We had to re-shuffle a bit and John Obi Mikel has had a good half-season in my opinion."
"He is capable of playing in central defence. He offered himself. He was not playing on his favoured position but he showed he can play there."
I guess we'll agree to disagree. (Sorry, Captain Matt Miazgamerica!)
On a more positive note, Eden Hazard seems to have finally put his physical and psychological issues behind him, and after setting the bar so high last year and falling so low at the start of this year, he looks to be back on the right track for both club and country.
"I'm pleased for this moment [for Hazard], I would've been more pleased if it happened in February. He has had a difficult season - falling into injuries, close to good performances, then falling back again."
"It was a physical and mental problem, being Player of the Year, then next year being out. The last period, starting with full game against Bournemouth, and then against Spurs, he responded really well. We can be very happy with him. Not just him, but he can be the difference in a game."
Another positive from Wednesday night was the debut of 18-year-old Tammy Abraham. The kid, who's scored more goals in a Chelsea shirt in the last two years than anybody else at youth or senior level, gave a good first impression at the highest level of the game.
"It's a rather huge step to make - from the academy to the first team. Some need a little bit of practice with the first team. They still need to make the step, like Traoré has done - he has grown towards men football."
"Abraham has done it, he is very open in his mentality, works hard, not afraid to come in. Made already a small step towards a bigger achievement."
In a somewhat ironic twist, given his reluctance towards giving young players more minutes over the jaded first-teamers, Hiddink has revealed that he will stay involved on some level with the young players at Chelsea even after he retires from management after Sunday's game. So it's more of a "farewell" than an ever-lasting "goodbye".
"It sounds dramatic, but I know every now and then I will come back and see what I can do - help out the young players. It's not a definite role. It's not an official role. But I will be back, so it's less dramatic than it seems."
"When they asked me to be honest, I did not think much to say yes or no, I was very pleased that I could do it, was asked. I had the energy still to perform, deliver and do what we have done."
"Of course, I would have loved once we escaped from danger to go into an FA Cup final, another one or two more Champions League rounds, but we could not fulfil that. In general, I am happy with the last half year."
-Guus Hiddink; Source: Get West London
See you soon, Guus.