Guus Hiddink has made it clear that the announcement of Antonio Conte as Chelsea’s next manager did not distract his players following Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium.
A first-half goal from Gylfi Sigurdsson made the difference as the Welsh club picked up their are first ever Premier League win over Chelsea to reach 40 points, 13 clear of the relegation zone.
Chelsea’s underwhelming display in their first game since confirmation of Conte becoming next manager on Monday raised so many questions of whether the announcement had affected the focus of the team.
Antonio Conte even visited Cobham on Tuesday to introduce himself to the Chelsea squad but, speaking at a post-match news conference, Hiddink said the first Premier League defeat of his second interim spell had nothing to do with off-field events.
The Dutchman has been an interim manager at Chelsea before. He took over from Luis Felipe Scolari back in 2009, when Lampard, Terry and the likes of Didier Drogba and Peter Cech still dominated the team.
“I don’t think so because in the second half we played with a little more pace and pressure after a substitution. I don’t think they had this [Conte’s appointment] in mind,” he said.
“We expected a difficult game. They needed three points while we were safe already. For them, it was important so we expected a lot of opposition.
“In the first 20 minutes, we created some half-chances but were sloppy in materialising them. It’s a law in football that if you don’t do that you can get into trouble. In the second half we played most of the game in [the attacking half] but we were not able to create a lot of chances, and then it’s a defeat.”
Guus Hiddink had earlier admitted his permanent successor Antonio Conte will face a tougher task of bringing back Chelsea to the Premier League elite without the old guard.
The highly-rated Italian, who will take charge after Italy’s involvement at Euro 2016, faces the prospect of inheriting a squad who have not qualified for European competition for the first time under Roman Abramovich’s ownership of Chelsea.
But current interim boss Hiddink thinks Conte will still be able to sell the club to prospective recruits, the lack of a spine of established, senior players could prove a hindrance for sure.
Hiddink had a discussion with Conte when the Italian was introduced to the squad on 4th April but did not divulge what the two had spoken about.
Meanwhile, Swansea City boss Francesco Guidolin hailed his team’s latest performance as the best since his arrival at the club and insisted he now believes the club to be safe from relegation this season.
“I’m very happy because this is my team,” Guidolin said. “We could have played in this way a long time ago but I’m a new manager and I needed to know my players. Today I saw my team play very well, with aggressivity, with quality. We miss only one thing: we didn’t score more.”