By Berend Scholten
All eyes will be on PSV Eindhoven when they kick off the defence of their Eredivisie title away to Heracles Almelo on Saturday. Guus Hiddink’s side swept all before them in the Netherlands on the way to clinching a league and cup double last season and also came tantalizingly close to a place in the UEFA Champions League final.
It is a tough act for Hiddink to follow, especially given the summer departures of key midfielders Johann Vogel, Mark Van Bommel and Park Ji-Sung, but the PSV coach tells uefa.com that he is looking forward to the challenge.
uefa.com: Before the 2004/05 season your strikers were sold, this summer your midfield went. Which was harder to replace?
Guus Hiddink: Last year no one gave us a chance to win the championship because our entire attack had left us, but it went very well with the new players that came in. Now the situation is different because I feel the midfield is more difficult to adjust. That makes the challenge even bigger, but it also means we aren’t where we should be yet. But last year at this point we were also not there yet.
uefa.com: What is the side missing?
Hiddink: Like last year we can already control a match, but we’re still missing the aggressive and direct play to find the opponent’s goal. And I mean aggressive in the good sense of the word. The dynamic we had between the midfield and the attack last season with Park and Van Bommel, that's what we’re still looking for.
uefa.com: Is the challenge of building a new team something you need as a coach and manager to keep you sharp?
Hiddink: It's the reality for Dutch teams, and also for PSV. We cannot compete on a level with teams from the big footballing nations, but we must also not forget that most of the team is still here, and that's what you have to build on. It's just something you have to live with and there's no use complaining about it. It's just a fact and you have to work on it. And just like last season, we have to work very hard on it. A season like that is not something that just happens, you have to work extremely hard to reach that level, especially regarding the adjustment of the new players.
uefa.com: Will last season's success change the way other teams approach games against PSV?
Hiddink: The situation is obviously different, then we were the hunters, now we're the hunted. PSV’s performance made a big impression in the world, and certainly in Europe, so whereas last year we had to hunt for success, now we’re the team to beat. That’s something we have to learn to live with. But no one can take away from us the experience of last season. The majority of the current side gained that experience, so I have faith we will handle that well.
uefa.com: Last season PSV looked far afield to sign the likes of Alex, Jefferson Farfán and DaMarcus Beasley. This summer PSV have found players closer to home such as Timmy Simons and Mika Vayrynen. Was that a deliberate choice?
Hiddink: We intended to look closer to home, certainly regarding specific positions and the needs of the team. If we can find that quality closer to home, we will always do that first.
uefa.com: You also have Australia to keep you busy after accepting their offer to become coach. What arrangements have you made about the division of your time?
Hiddink: We have made very clear agreements about that with the club. Experiencing another [FIFA] World Cup tournament is something I am really looking forward to and the club has no problem with that. And it will not really take time from PSV, because the club stays the number one priority … And I have two fantastic assistants in Fred Rutten and René Eijkelkamp, who have already proven they can take over from me as field coaches without a problem.
uefa.com: How do you see the new season progressing?
Hiddink: I expect this season to be much more competitive than last season. I think Danny Blind's [AFC] Ajax is on the right path and that Feyenoord with Erwin Koeman as coach will also report back to the top.
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.