COBHAM, January 22 – Guus Hiddink has revealed he had a face-to-face conversation with Petr Cech just days before their teams meet each other in the Premier League — as the Arsenal goalkeeper this week went back to Chelsea’s training ground to collect gloves erroneously delivered to his former club.
Cech’s glove manufacturers, Adidas, mistakenly sent a new pair to Cobham, south-west of London, rather than Arsenal’s base at London Colney, north of the capital, on Wednesday, and the goalkeeper — who only left Chelsea in pre-season — turned up in person to collect them.
Hiddink, who managed the 33-year-old Cech during his first spell as Stamford Bridge interim boss in 2009, jokingly said their latest encounter had given him a chance to tamper with the keeper’s gloves ahead of Sunday’s all-London clash between Premier League leaders Arsenal and struggling champions Chelsea.
“You found out,” Hiddink laughingly told reporters at Cobham on Friday. “I was here. It was late in the afternoon, the day before yesterday (Wednesday), when Petr showed up here.
“It was nice. We had a chat here. Everyone, almost everyone, had gone. It was already late afternoon. He knew the gloves were here and we tried to hide them, which we did. We also tried to make them a little bit slippery, but he discovered that also,” Hiddink kidded.
“They were wrongly sent here, but we gave them back,” the Dutchman added on a more serious note. “It was nice. That’s the story.”
– Costa focus –
Hiddink meanwhile said Eden Hazard and Diego Costa were “available” for Sunday after recent injury niggles, but implored the striker to focus on his football.
Costa was the focus of much attention in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Arsenal in September, after a series of controversial incidents ultimately saw Gabriel sent off.
“In that game, and in the experience of this season and the latest games especially, he (Costa) was of big worth for us,” said Hiddink.
“I like him to be focused on that. If the focus is on what he’s good at –- and he’s doing that –- then great. But I cannot guarantee it. We’re not dealing with machines, but human beings. But when he does have that big focus, he’s of big worth.
“This is a new game and the boys here have to take and give from either side, which is done in all the intensity games in England. That’s what we like. As long as it’s inside what is permitted.”
At the other end of the pitch, Hiddink was also heartened by the recent form of Serbia defender Branislav Ivanovic, who has signed a new one-year extension to his contract following some uncertain performances this season.
“I knew him from my spell in Russia where he played central defender at (Lokomotiv) Moscow, and went to Chelsea after that,” said Hiddink of Ivanovic.
“He’s become one of the key members of the side and squad. He is back to where he once was.”
As for Chelsea’s form, Hiddink said they need to turn their six-game unbeaten run under him into actual wins.
“We had some half results. We had a result in the FA Cup. But the others were ‘half results’. We want full results.
“We can’t be patient, saying we’ll get better in four weeks. No. We have to perform now.
“We’d like a result at the Emirates. Everyone in this club has to be realistic about where we are in points, compared to the relegation zone and Europe. We are not panicking, though, and looking too far forward.”
Arsenal lead Chelsea by a huge 19 points, with the Blues just four points above the relegation zone.