Outgoing Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink concedes that the Blues have missed the injured John Terry – and he cannot be replaced this summer.
The Blues skipper, who has played only twice since February, is set to return against Tottenham on Monday night.
In his absence from 11 of the last 13 matches, Chelsea have been knocked out of the FA Cup and Champions League and lost 3-0 at home to Manchester City.
Terry has accepted he will not be offered a new contract by the club and will leave after 21 years at Stamford Bridge.
But caretaker boss Hiddink said: “Of course we have missed him. What a club likes is to have competition for that position. It will make the team stronger. He will react if there’s competition – ‘Don’t touch my spot’.
“Would we have done better with him in the team? Yes, that is the problem. I don’t like to complain, but at the time we didn’t get through in the FA Cup and Champions League, we had a lack of players in central defence.
“Kurt Zouma and John, so we had to reshuffle, which makes the team a bit insecure. John was almost unapproachable when he got this setback, which shows a big desire to play.”
Chelsea have failed to bring a player through their youth system to become a first-team regular since Terry.
But Hiddink insisted you cannot “make” such a leader. “No, you must have the fire deep down in your body, in your soul.”
Hiddink said Terry was a rare player who was entitled to kiss the club’s badge – and should be employed by Chelsea to bring through the next generation.
“It is always good to have experience with people with a good attitude,” he said.