Thibaut Courtois admits Chelsea stars are playing for their futures at Stamford Bridge and insists they must accept responsibility for their poor Premier League title defence.
Jose Mourinho was sacked as manager last month after a run of five defeats in seven league games left the champions just one point above the relegation zone 16 matches into the campaign.
Guus Hiddink appears to have steadied the ship since succeeding the Portuguese, having secured a 0-0 draw away to Manchester United before a convincing 3-0 win against Crystal Palace at the weekend.
Yet despite their recent improvement, Courtois maintains his team-mates must consider their places in the squad under threat after their dismal early-season form.
When asked if he thought the players were playing for their futures, he told the Evening Standard: “Yes of course. We know we are responsible as well.
“We had team meetings where we said the same – that ‘okay, the manager has gone, but we are responsible as well – that we need to pick up our level because we are not playing good enough for a Chelsea player’. Now we are stepping up our game.
“In the last weeks we have played some good football, but sometimes we didn’t get the result. Against Crystal Palace there was the result and a very good performance, so we can look ahead to the next week with a lot of confidence.”
Courtois believes a change in manager has triggered a psychological shift for Chelsea players, but admits his spell out with a knee injury makes it difficult to assess any shift in mentality within the squad.
“Of course with a new manager some things change. Maybe with some players, the mentality changed, things change. We picked up some good results, some good football and then it goes again,” he continued.
“It’s difficult to explain why [the mentality changes]. It’s something psychological. Sometimes it changes with little changes. Maybe we needed a change [of coach] to pick up our level again, I don’t know because I was injured for three months and out of everything.
“Of course Hiddink has said some things that he wants us to do, some different aspects of the game. The training is different as well. Sometimes it’s his approach in how he wants us to train, maybe sometimes it’s a bit more tactical or a bit less.”
The Belgium international remains confident Chelsea can salvage some pride from their season, especially in the Champions League or FA Cup.
“Maybe ‘success’ is a big word after not playing well until the last three or four games,” he said. “But with the FA Cup or the Champions League it could still be a positive season and if we end up in the top four or top six.
“We have to go step by step. Some teams are close to each other and if we win our next games against West Brom or Everton we could be eighth or ninth in a few weeks. Everything can go very fast, we just need to have the results.”
Courtois has also backed Hiddink’s attempts to bring Didier Drogba back to the club in an assistant coaching role.
“I had a good relationship with him. Last year, he was a great addition to the dressing room and our team,” the 23-year-old added.
“If he comes back as a coach it would be a great addition to the squad and all the team.”
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