With the assumption that Antonio Conte would be bringing drastic changes to Chelsea's preferred tactical setup -- either in the form of an old-school 4-4-2/4-2-4 or the Italian style 3-5-2 -- we had been wondering where Eden Hazard, a man who'd built his considerable reputation for amazingness as either an inverted winger or a traditional no.10 playing behind the striker, would slot in.
Would he be "reduced" to the role of a more traditional winger, tasked with keeping width and providing service into the box? Or would he be tried somewhere new, perhaps at center forward? It was the latter where Hazard excelled against Real Madrid on the weekend, grabbing two goals as he played second striker to Michy Batshuayi. A good start in his new capacity then?
Perhaps not so fast. Yesterday brought further experimentation, including a couple formation shifts to a look that was more 4-1-4-1 or 4-3-3 (depending on personnel) than anything else tried so far this preseason. The introduction of N'Golo Kante brought about the three-man midfield, and that switch, alongside Hazard's introduction early in the second half in his customary left wing spot, completely changed the game. What was, to that point, a fairly even affair became firmly tilted in Chelsea's favor.
Kante may have been the most impressive, and, it being his debut, all eyes were on him anyway already, but Hazard once again put in a great shift, continuing his good form this summer. Not even the bloody nose he gave himself with an unfortunate rebound could dampen his spirits. His (clean) shirt may not have had a number, but there was no mistaking where Chelsea's #10 was knifing through the defense like butter.
All good signs for the season ahead, with the added possibility of a 4-3-3 setup, for which many of us have been clamoring for some time.