Eden Hazard has been played as a striker several times under previous Chelsea managers, and new Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri has now deployed Hazard as a centre-forward in the last two league games for Chelsea.
Dries Mertens played this role to good effect under Sarri at Napoli, as the Napoli winger was turned to a high scoring forward when deployed through the middle.
Chelsea legend Pat Nevin believes that Hazard could also produce good results while playing as a false nine, and he has revealed that he’s happy with the Belgian’s performance so far in that role.
Pat Nevin wrote in his column for the official Chelsea website: “Clearly the Maurizio Sarri-inspired change to shift Eden Hazard into the false-nine position has been pretty successful in the short term. Those who were across the use of Dries Mertens at Napoli under Maurizio will see a very clear and obvious similarity in the tactical switch.
“Eden has played there before for Chelsea and for Belgium, but up until now this tactic has only been used in extremis. Even if the idea of the three ‘little’ guys up front in Hazard, Willian and Pedro is far from novel at Stamford Bridge, it may well be that under the Sarri system this idea is better suited than it has ever been. Sarri-ball has never been about anything as coarse as lumping the ball up to a big striker and feeding off the scraps. It has always been a bit more cerebral. So you can see why the HWP axis might just keep on working for a while.
“Maybe the perfect striker for this style would be someone like Sergio Aguero, though there aren’t many like him out there to be fair. This is not to write off our taller strikers by any means, there is no doubt that between now and the end of the season (maybe by the end of the month), one or both of our big strikers will be back leading the line. Actually it is quite likely to happen as early as today against Bournemouth in the quarter-final.”