Hiddink makes Drogba 'positioning' clear
Coventry City 0 Chelsea 2
Monday 09 March 2009
While the bulk of the focus would fall on the bulk of Didier Drogba and the rejuvenation of a match-winner that is proving so timely for Chelsea, one comment from his manager was left to drift away in the Midlands air. "There are still some things he needs to improve," said Guus Hiddink.
It was inevitable that the veiled criticism would go largely unnoticed, particularly when the Dutchman began to croon about the Ivorian "working very hard from the first day I saw him". During the Luiz Felipe Scolari reign, Drogba and hard graft on the training pitch supposedly went together like Ashley Cole and photographers outside nightclubs.
Now, the old Drog is apparently happy to learn new tricks and that is obviously a headline in itself. But the fact that Hiddink thinks Drogba is in need of "extra training" surely is an entire story in itself and hints at Scolari not being all wrong. After all, it is not conditioning work the 30-year-old is staying behind for, but rather that of technique. "It is a specific programme on his positioning," revealed Hiddink. "We do some specific work on when he gets deliveries, crosses, passes and his mobility. It is focused on his position and on what is demanded in the game."
Of course, Drogba (right) has never been the classical centre-forward in the mould of, say, a Nicolas Anelka but what he has lost in this regard he has always made up for with his outrageous physicality, something Coventry would acknowledge after he scored his third goal in four games. Yet Hiddink clearly wants more from his controversial striker and more to the point, Drogba wants to give it.
With Anelka likely to miss tomorrow night's examination with a toe injury in Turin, then, this new, improved Didier will clearly be all- important. Certainly, Petr Cech sees the front man as crucial in their mission to convert their 1-0 advantage from the first leg into a quarter-final place in the Champions League. "He's such a strong guy and we can rely on him," said the goalkeeper. "We can use the long ball and he'll hold it up. It is a big boost for the team to have someone like this."
As it is a big boost to have Michael Essien back, the holding midfielder who fits into the "Makelele" role far more comfortably than John Obi Mikel. Hiddink confessed that he has a decision to make whether to start him against Juventus, although he did stress concerns about the Ghanaian's "game rhythm" following a six-month absence with a knee injury. Alas, Essien did not manage to gain much from his 25 minutes on Saturday as this poor FA Cup sixth-round tie had a depressing paucity of rhythm.
The Coventry manager, Chris Coleman, turned up vowing to bang the drum for the Championship but in the event all Coventry managed to beat was their brains out as they laboured in vain to find a way through the Blue wall. It was Hiddink's fifth win in his fifth game, a record start for a Chelsea manager.
For his part, Coleman will probably receive a call from the disciplinarians following his comments about Steve Bennett. The Welshman accused the referee of being "too friendly with the Chelsea players", of "being too smug with my senior players" and of generally allowing the awe he felt for the star names to influence his decisions. "He only just stopped short of asking them for their autographs," said Coleman.
In truth, that is a charge he could have directed towards his own players, especially in a first quarter in which they stood off their opponents, so allowing them into a comfort zone out of which they were destined never to be prised. Despite Drogba's classy finish, the opener could be put down to a defensive howler and while they could be excused for the breakaway second goal, their collective effort in between and thereafter did not nearly emulate the passion of the capacity crowd.
It was a bad day for Coventry all round as Crystal Palace's victory saw them drop further below halfway in the Championship table. After the romance comes the reality.
Goals: Drogba (15) 0-1; Alex (72) 0-2.
Coventry City (4-4-2): Westwood; Wright, Dann, Turner, Hall; Eastwood, Gunnarsson, Doyle (Beuzelin, 59), Henderson; Best, Morrison. Substitutes not used: Marshall (gk), Ward, Osbourne, McPake, Simpson, Thornton.
Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cech; Bosingwa, Terry, Alex, A Cole; Mikel (Essien, 65); Kalou (Quaresma, h-t), Lampard, Ballack, Malouda; Drogba (Di Santo, 80). Substitutes not used: Hilario (gk), Carvalho, Belletti, Mancienne.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent).
Booked: Coventry Beuzelin.
Man of the match: Drogba.
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