NEW Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink believes Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba can play in the same team if they show defensive as well as attacking qualities.
Anelka marked Hiddink’s first game in charge by scoring the winner against Aston Villa ,
his 21st goal of the season. Victory in the lunchtime kick-off pushed the Blues ahead of Villa into third spot in the Barclays Premier League.
Previous Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari had been reluctant to play Drogba and Anelka in the same team. However, Hiddink said: “You can only play good attacking football when everyone knows their job defensively. We have quality players like Anelka and Drogba and, when they have the spirit to work defensively for the team, then you can also the play the way we like to play.
sss”They are the first defensive line and must join in with the midfield in having responsibilities. If they are willing to do that there is no problem with using their strong qualities offensively.”
Chelsea launched the Hiddink era in positive fashion as Anelka’s first-half strike kept alive their slim hopes of lifting the Barclays Premier League title as they leapfrogged Aston Villa into third spot. Anelka struck his 21st goal of the campaign after 19 minutes to earn the Blues their first league win at Villa Park for 10 years.
It was his first goal in nine league games and brought an end to Villa’s 13-game unbeaten sequence in the top flight stretching back to early November. Hiddink restricted himself to a little jig of delight after seeing Anelka lift some of the gloom which has been surrounding Stamford Bridge but his influence is already evident in galvanising the players who had underperformed during the closing stages of the Luiz Felipe Scolari reign.
Hiddink added: “I am satisfied with the performance and the result, especially against a team like Villa who have had a very good record recently. They have not been beaten in the league for a long time.
“In the first half we were very dominant and the only criticism is that we did not finish the game off. In the second half they came at us with their big strong guys in the air but we were also a bit too static when we had the ball in possession.
“We can improve a little bit, but I am very pleased and satisfied to get that game in our pocket.”
Villa manager Martin O’Neill felt a third game in six days after cup ties with Everton and CSKA Moscow had taken its toll on his side.
He said: “It sounds like an excuse but I do believe the three games in quick succession took their toll. At the beginning, we looked leggy and Chelsea got into their stride very quickly. We got a bit of momentum before half-time and had a lot of possession in the second half without creating too many chances.”
Hiddink opted to play Drogba and Anelka up front after their success when reunited against Watford in the FA Cup – and Chelsea responded to his appointment by producing a masterful display in the opening 45 minutes.
They knocked the ball around in confident style at leisure with Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and Mikel taking command in midfield, while Anelka and Drogba were a constant threat.
Lampard created the goal with a superb piece of skill which enabled him to race clear of Curtis Davies and Stiliyan Petrov before sliding a pass through to Anelka. The former Arsenal striker showed great composure in dinking the ball over Friedel into the corner of the net.
Villa lacked their usual cutting edge with their front players unable to make an impression apart from the occasional dangerous cross from Ashley Young.
The home side came more into the game in the second half and enjoyed a greater share of possession as Chelsea sat back with Ashley Young finding more space on the left flank.
But Petr Cech, who has been under the spotlight after some uncertain displays in recent weeks, produced a couple of crucial saves to protect his side’s lead.