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‘Future of Chelsea at risk if players don’t up their game’ – Cech confident Arsenal can deal with injury crisis

Chelsea’s Brazilian midfielder Willian (left), vies with Sunderland’s English midfielder Jack Rodwell during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge in London, on Dec 19. (AFP)
Chelsea’s Brazilian midfielder Willian (left), vies with Sunderland’s English midfielder Jack Rodwell during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge in London, on Dec 19. (AFP)

LONDON, Dec 23, (Agencies): New Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink has asked his underperforming players to “look in the mirror” and claims their future at the club is at risk if they don’t up their game. The Dutchman has replaced Jose Mourinho but confirmed at a press conference on Wednesday it is only likely to be a short-term role. He arrives with Chelsea struggling in 15th spot in the Premier League with supporters unhappy with players for their perceived failure to work for their predecessor.

Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard bore the brunt of supporter criticism but Hiddink’s message to them was a clear one. “I spoke fully to the squad and, of course, we talked a bit about the past, why I’m here, the reasons why we are down,” he said. “But on the other hand I told them things happen in football and I want everyone to look in the mirror, not just for two seconds, but longer. “And see what anyone can contribute from now on to raise us up. That was what I was emphasising.

Not to look back to much. “We cannot ignore what has happened in the recent past, but I asked them and told them to look in the mirror and be hypercritical and give the best for the team. They have to look forward.” He added: “There must be a great desire to play. If you don’t have that desire, please knock on my door and we’ll talk. We’ll talk briefly.” Hiddink is reprising the role he took in 2009, a season where he helped Chelsea win the FA Cup. “I shouldn’t be here, halfway into the season,” the 69-year-old said as he gets ready for his first game in charge at home to Watford on Boxing Day.

“That means things are not going as well as foreseen at the beginning of the season. But anyhow I’m glad to be back. It’s a few years ago that I was here in a similar situation and I tried to help out when I was asked to do so. “I worked at that time with a lot of love for the club and to work with the players is great. “First we said let’s go to mid-May. But then we’ll see. I will see what will happen. We have only spoken about until the end of the season. “No manager can guarantee three points every week, but we have to show to ourselves, the club, the players, the fans inside Chelsea and abroad, that the team have big desire to wash away the last half year and go up to the next coming games.”

Hiddink has refused to rule out a return to the club for former player Didier Drogba who was in the stands alongside him for the 3-1 win over Sunderland last week. “I worked with him five or six years ago, and I was delighted to have such a professional in the squad,” he said. “He is a legend already in this club, but also outside this club in the world. So it’s nice for guys with these big hearts to connect them somehow with the club. But he is playing for Montreal, under contract. “All the big clubs, and the smaller ones, have these specific guys, figures, who can go into whatever they like — coach, ambassador, manager — but they must be given the opportunity to do so. They give the Chelsea brand a big image, worldwide. “The official process I don’t know, but I spoke openly from the bottom of the heart that such impact players can be huge for the club. How it goes on now, it’s others who have to deal with that. Not me.”

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Arsenal are in the middle of an injury crisis with seven players currently on the sidelines but goalkeeper Petr Cech has said he was confident the club can pull through this period. Even without Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Danny Welbeck, the Gunners have won four games on the trot in all competitions. Arsenal are second in the Premier League table and just two points behind leaders Leicester City, and Cech hopes the injured players can recover quickly to help the Gunners end their 11-year wait for the title. “We’ve been through the season with plenty of problems. Everything isn’t going as smoothly as we would like it to,” Cech told the BBC. “We can’t avoid injuries — sometimes you have more, sometimes you have less — but we showed that even with the unlucky injuries at the moment that we manage to win games. “I believe we will benefit from players coming back into the team, once they are fit. “The season is long and anything can happen. But if we stay where we are until March or April, then we have the chance to win the league.” Arsenal travel to take on 12th-placed Southampton in the league on Saturday.

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Manchester City striker Wilfried Bony has said he was disappointed to lose his starting place to a returning Sergio Aguero after manager Manuel Pellegrini opted to start the Argentine in Monday’s 2-1 Premier League defeat by Arsenal. Aguero was playing his first match in about three weeks following a heel injury and was replaced by the Ivory Coast international in the second half of the game. “He (Aguero) is coming back from injury. He hasn’t played for a few weeks,” Bony told British media. “I’m disappointed that I didn’t start but I’m not the coach. The coach does what he thinks is best for the team.” The former Swansea City forward had scored three goals in four games leading to the clash at the Emirates Stadium, although Aguero is the club’s topscorer this season with nine goals, two more than Bony in five fewer matches. Pellegrini backed his decision to start Aguero. “He worked with the squad the whole week. He needs minutes,” the former Real Madrid manager said. “Normally when he comes back from an injury he needs minutes. I think that these minutes will be very important for him.”

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West Bromwich Albion need to be “lucky” with injuries and suspensions to maintain a fully fit squad, manager Tony Pulis has said ahead of the Premier League’s hectic festive fixture schedule. The Baggies start a set of tricky matches with a trip to relegation-threatened Swansea City on Saturday and then host Newcastle United, who are on a threegame unbeaten run, before they come up against 11th-placed Stoke City. “We’ve got to be lucky, that’s the one thing we’re hoping, that we get some luck. We don’t get bookings and we don’t get injuries,” Pulis told reporters on.

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