LONDON, May 11 – Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink delivered a damning verdict on the gap between Arsenal and the rest of the 'big-four' after his side handed the Gunners their heaviest home league defeat for 32 years.Hiddink believes Chelsea’s impressive response to the agony of their Champions League defeat against Barcelona was in stark contrast to Arsenal’s faltering effort following their European exit to Manchester United.
The Dutch coach is not the kind of man to gloat unnecessarily and his words carried no hint of glee but his message following Sunday’s 4-1 rout must be worrying for Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.
Just five days after Arsenal were brushed aside with contemptuous ease by United, it was Chelsea’s turn to emphasise just how far the north London team have fallen behind their rivals at the top of the Premier League.
Alex opened the scoring with a header from Didier Drogba’s free-kick, then former Arsenal striker Nicolas Anelka lashed home a stunning second.
Kolo Toure’s own goal put the result beyond doubt and, although Nicklas Bendtner got one back, Florent Malouda confirmed Chelsea’s biggest win at Arsenal since 1960 and the Gunners’ biggest home league defeat since Ipswich won 4-1 at Highbury in 1977.
Hiddink made it clear Chelsea’s battle-hardened players have much more character than the Arsenal’s fragile young talents, who are now 15 points behind leaders United.
"I think it (the score) is a good reflection on the gap between the teams. We are a team that likes to react. We have had some set-backs but we are real men who like a challenge," he said.
"When you have big players you must discover if they want to work for each other. Everyone has ego but it is important that they help each other with the dirty work no matter the name of the player."
Although Chelsea’s European challenge ended in disappointment, Hiddink can still take pride in his efforts when he returns to manage Russia on a permanent basis in June.
The Blues are now guaranteed a top-three finish in the Premier League and have sealed their place in the Champions League group stages next season – an achievement which was far from certain when Hiddink replaced Luiz Felipe Scolari in February.
"It gives me great satisfaction considering where we were in February," he said.
"We told the players they had so much experience in World Cups and Champions League that it shouldn’t take much time to change things. They reacted perfectly in the league and Champions League."
Hiddink was also pleased with Drogba’s performance after the Ivory Coast striker’s rant at referee Tom Henning Ovrebo in the aftermath of the Barca defeat.
Drogba was accused by Wenger of diving to win the free-kick that led to Chelsea’s first goal but Hiddink said: "If you win you must win with certain modesty. If you win you shouldn’t pick out incidents that didn’t have much effect on the whole game.
"We do not live with headlines, whether they are right or not, that is not the big issue. Drogba has always fought for the team."
While Chelsea are back on the up, Arsenal face an uncertain future. The potential of Wenger’s squad isn’t in doubt but time and again this season they have failed when faced with more ruthless opponents.
Wenger has defended his youngsters to the hilt but even he was forced to admit changes are likely.
"What is disappointing is in the games that matter in the last few weeks we couldn’t win. We have conceded four to Liverpool, three to Man Utd and now four to Chelsea," Wenger said.
"We have to analyse that. I believe we have quality defenders, it is more a matter of the balance of the team.
"You would not like to come out and say we will buy four defenders. At the moment, I don’t know what funds will be available.
"We have to continue to improve, but in the areas where it is right. It is not necessarily about quantity of money."