Friday 23 March 2018

Hiddink calls on Chelsea to ease burden on Costa

Guus Hiddink is relying heavily on Diego Costa. Photo: Stefan Wermuth / Reuters Livepic
Guus Hiddink is relying heavily on Diego Costa. Photo: Stefan Wermuth / Reuters Livepic

Matt Law

Guus Hiddink wants Chelsea's flair players to help take the burden off Diego Costa and start chipping in with more goals and assists.

Costa returns to Chelsea's starting line-up against Crystal Palace tomorrow after missing the game against Manchester United on Monday through suspension. Without him, Chelsea failed to score at Old Trafford having two days earlier relied on him for their two goals in the draw against Watford.

Costa has been heavily criticised for his performances and attitude this season, having suffered a crisis of confidence in front of goal under former manager Jose Mourinho.

Injuries to Radamel Falcao and Loic Remy mean interim manager Hiddink is relying heavily on Costa until any new signings come in, but the Dutchman believes the 27-year-old is entitled to expect more help from his team-mates.

Last season's player of the year Eden Hazard, who started as a makeshift striker against United, is yet to score this season, while Willian, Oscar and Pedro have claimed only two each in the Premier League.

This time last year, Hazard already had eight goals and four assists, while Oscar had scored three times and created six goals. The Brazilian is yet to chalk up a single assist in the league this term.


The form of Chelsea's attacking players is in stark contrast to the creative talent they have let go in recent seasons. Kevin De Bruyne already has five goals and eight assists for Manchester City, while Juan Cuadrado, Andre Schurrle and Mohamed Salah are contributing more to their new teams.

Asked whether Costa can handle the pressure of being Chelsea's main goal threat, Hiddink said: "Yes, he is focusing very much on his job and that's a lot of responsibility. He's brave and he likes to do so. It's a lot of responsibility, but not just on Diego.

"He has a big temperament and wants to perform and is keen to score, but the other attacking players must play a part in assists and goals. It's not just him.

"There's a lot of technical skill in the midfield and attacking positions. We have to see how they become even more productive, take the next step.

"We're trying to get them a good occupation in the box, so they have more efficiency from their high quality. They have the quality. Now they have to be productive with assists or goals. Not just Diego."

Cesc Fabregas is yet to score in the league this season and has provided only two assists, having made 18 Premier League goals for his team-mates last term. By January 2015, he had notched 14 assists.

The Spanish midfielder was substituted at half-time against Watford and did not travel to Manchester because he was suffering with a fever, but Hiddink still believes the 28-year-old can play an important role under him.

"What we're looking for in the games coming up is everyone in top shape," said Hiddink. "There are games where, tactically, we want a different balance offensively or defensively. It's not about a goalie and 10 outfield players.

"We want 14 or 15 potentially good players who, when needed, can go into the line-up. One time it might be [John Obi] Mikel. The next it might be Cesc or others."

Mourinho switched Fabregas between a deeper position next to Nemanja Matic and the number 10 role behind Costa and Hiddink can see the former Barcelona man fulfilling both jobs for him.

"He can play as a number 10 and he played also a lot of games just in front of the defence," said Hiddink.

"But he is smart in the final third with his passes. He can play either position. It depends also on the strength of the opponent in midfield, whether we choose a more attacking or defensive player.

"But we are now focusing too much on Cesc. The whole team weren't doing well until December. It's not just one player.

"When you look at the goals conceded, it's not just our defence that is not good enough. It's not just the defensive players.

"It's the whole team's performance, defensively and offensively." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Crystal Palace v Chelsea,

Live, Sky Sports 1, 1.30 tomorrow

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