Chelsea star Eden Hazard was once again used as a false nine in Chelsea’s 2-1 win against Newcastle, and it was a mixed appearance for the Belgian.
Hazard didn’t do much in the first half of that game, but improved much in the second-half and played the assist for Willian’s winning goal.
However, there are lots of concerns from Hazard’s position in that game as Chelsea prepare for an away trip to Arsenal this weekend.
In contrast to Hazard’s first start under Sarri, which came against Newcastle in August, Hazard was man of the match that day at St James’ Park, having 135 touches of the ball and completing 91 passes in a more familiar left wing role. However, at the Bridge on Saturday, Hazard touched the ball only 59 times and most of those came in the second half when he went searching for it.
Hazard who has often revealed that he doesn’t like playing through the middle played a meaningful role in Willian’s goal as he turned away from the Newcastle defence, drawing four opponents towards him before spreading the play out wide to his left for Willian to find space and score. It was a masterpiece from Hazard but one we barely saw against the Magpies where nothing seemed to work for him and the fans even groaned at times for some of his poor touches.
However, Sarri has pointed out that the 28-year-old will continue to feature in that role, and the Italian revealed some of the positives of Hazard playing through the middle.
Sarri said: “Not in the first half but in the second half my feeling was that he [Hazard] enjoyed it. I wanted to see the solution with the three small players and in this moment it is a very good solution, because we are not less dangerous in the offensive phase and in the defensive phase, we are more balanced.
“In the last six matches we have conceded only three goals, and one was a penalty, so in the moment in the defensive phase we are doing very well and one of the reasons in my opinion is that Eden is playing in that position.
“For his characteristics of course he goes to the direction of the ball. We need to learn to attack spaces or to attack the box with other players. It was better on Saturday with the wingers in attacking spaces more than the box. We scored inside 10 minutes by attacking the spaces behind the line with Pedro, and I remember very well one time at the beginning of the second half the same situation with Willian.
“So it is better now, we need to improve in attacking the box when the ball is out of the box on the lateral side. It is impossible for Eden to stay in the box.”