Jose Mourinho may have gone but Chelsea's draw with Watford shows problems remain
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 27/12/15 1:37pm
Chelsea's 2-2 draw with Watford showed there will be no quick-fixes for the struggling champions, writes Nick Wright.
Guus Hiddink guided Chelsea to five consecutive victories when he replaced Luiz Felipe Scolari in 2009, but on his return to the Stamford Bridge dugout he learned that it won't be so straightforward this time around.
Diego Costa's first brace since January was a cause for optimism, and they might have been celebrating three points had Oscar not spooned his 80th-minute penalty high over the bar, but any suggestions that Chelsea's problems left with Jose Mourinho were extinguished in the Boxing Day drizzle.
Hiddink watched from the stands as Sunderland offered little resistance last week, but high-flying Watford were a different proposition, and they left west London with a well-deserved share of the points to keep the Blues in the relegation mire.
Costa opened the scoring with a predatory close-range finish after 32 minutes, but their vulnerability surfaced just 10 minutes later, when a needless Nemanja Matic handball allowed Troy Deeney to convert from the penalty spot.
It was the kind of complacency that has plagued the Blues all season, and there was more carelessness when they failed to close down Odion Ighalo for Watford's second goal 10 minutes after half-time. There was a slice of good fortune for the Hornets with the deflection to take the ball away from Thibaut Courtois, but Gary Cahill should have done more to prevent the shot.
Indeed, Cahill's centre-back partnership with John Terry looked decidedly ropey once again. The duo were the bedrock of Chelsea's title triumph last season, but Deeney and Ighalo gave them plenty of problems. This was the 11th time in 18 Premier League games that Chelsea have conceded two or more goals this season, something that only happened five times in the whole of the last campaign.
In central midfield, Hiddink started with Matic and Cesc Fabregas, but the Spaniard was hauled off at half-time after a poor display. He struggled with the physicality of Etienne Capoue and Ben Watson, with Hiddink opting for the extra solidity of John Obi Mikel in the second half.
Fabregas failed to create a single chance during his time on the pitch and didn't contribute defensively, either, with the stats showing he made no successful tackles, interceptions or clearances. Costa may have found a new lease of life after Mourinho's departure, but Hiddink clearly has his work cut out to coax the same kind of reaction from the likes of Fabregas, Matic, Terry and Cahill.
Oscar's botched penalty was symptomatic of Chelsea's lack of confidence, but Hiddink focused on the positives in his post-match interview with Sky Sports. "What I liked very much was the reaction of the team after two unfortunately conceded goals," he said. "The team reacted well."
Asked if the fightback might not have occurred under former boss Mourinho, Hiddink was diplomatic. "I don't know," he said. "I was not here earlier in the season so I cannot judge about that, but nevertheless I think we have to learn a lesson and show ambition now to go forward."
Hiddink relishes Chelsea reaction
Guus Hiddink was pleased with Chelsea's attitude after they came from behind to draw with Watford
Hiddink was also grateful to Chelsea supporters, who got behind the team after showing their disgust at Mourinho's sacking during the 3-1 win over Sunderland last week. "This crowd is a very loyal crowd but also we must not deny that they had the right to express themselves in a previous period," he said. "But now we have to go forward and the crowd was supporting the team very well."
As Hiddink says, Chelsea can't afford to dwell on the past if they are to salvage what remains of their season. But on the evidence of this draw, the Dutchman has plenty of work to rebuild their confidence and get them back on track. Shaking off the trauma of the worst title defence in Premier League history won't be easy.