Guus Hiddink: ‘Possession football is hyped-up’

Interim Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink has claimed that the English game is not conducive to possession football ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Manchester United.

The Red Devils have enjoyed the highest average possession rate of any side in the Premier League this season, but have often been criticised for lacking a cutting edge in the final third and have scored the fewest goals in the top nine.


Louis van Gaal in particular has come under scrutiny for a lack of penetration to go with his side’s possession, and Hiddink believes that some people can put too much importance on just keeping the ball.

“You must not overrate the percentage of possession. Say we had 65, 67 and 70% possession, but there were opponents who said ‘we don’t care how much possession you have, we have the score on our side’. It’s what you do with possession. Most teams want to have the ball, but what do you do with the ball? Do you secure your way of playing? Or do you go as soon as possible into the attack? The latter option I prefer,” Hiddink told reporters.

“I think the first thought must be vertical. Diagonal or vertical. (Supporters) like to see – also what we like to see – more goals. They like to see also more play in the box. But we had the same problem weeks ago. There are not many exceptions. We like to see very attractive teams, when you are passionate about football. When possession is there, (to) just play possession in your back four with a goalie and you play wide without having any intention to go vertical, this is a country which doesn’t allow that.

“It’s nice. It also showed the influence of a manager is there, but the culture of English football is there. If managers want to break that down, the public and everyone doesn’t accept that. Of course, the manager determines and does a lot and shows the way. But in the end players probably decide what to do.

“The managers are important, but if we like, in England, the pace of the games and the fight, box to box, that’s a style which is for England. That’s why this league is very important. There’s no moment you have to wake up your neighbour while he is sleeping. Influence of coaches is limited to that extent.”

Hiddink remains unbeaten since taking over Chelsea for a second time in December.

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