Eden Hazard has scored eight goals and been the lynchpin of Chelsea’s attack. When the ball is at his feet, good things tend to happen.
Meanwhile, Pedro, Willian, Olivier Giroud and Álvaro Morata have scored just nine goals between them in all competitions. And when the ball is at their feet, more often than not, the attack stalls — although, to be fair to Pedro, he did look dynamic and dangerous before missing three games with the shoulder injury.
Chelsea have scored 20 Premier League goals, which trails Manchester City by six. For all the promise of Maurizio Sarri’s fluid passing game, without Hazard on the ball, it too often results in inert possession that fails to deliver a goal.
This is not a recipe for long-term sustained success, relying too much on one man, even if he is one the best players in the world. Willian admitted as much this weekend, and is urging his teammates (and himself, too, hopefully) to do more.
“We know how important Hazard is for us, but we have a great team with a lot of quality players. Sometimes he can’t score or make an assist, that’s why we need the whole team. Sometimes he tries and it doesn’t work.”
Other teams know that Hazard is Chelsea’s most dangerous player and handle him accordingly — i.e. kick him a few times, and then a few times more, since that’s the preferred method for “pocketing” him, right, Ashley Young? Young was so successful at this strategy, much to Mourinho’s delight, that he even left Hazard to deal with a back injury the next day.
But this strategy would not be as effective if everyone else in a blue shirt stepped up.
“The other players have to work together to try and do something with each other. Against Manchester United was like that. He tried to score, he tried to dribble. They put two-three players around him every time he had the ball and maybe that was why it was difficult for him. Will teams look to target him? Yes of course — when a game is like that they look at him, but it means others can find more space.”
In the end it was a defender (Antonio Rudiger) and a midfielder (Ross Barkley) who scored Chelsea’s brace of goals on Saturday. Willian, Pedro, Morata and Giroud all got minutes but none came close.
That Chelsea could come back from a deficit was encouraging, but as Willian acknowledges, it’s not enough.
“Is it good to know we can bounce back from adversity? Yes of course. Even when we are losing, we know we can stay in the game. We did that against Manchester United, that’s why we scored in the last minute. It was important to show the character to come back.
”We know that our second half performance was not the best, we played better in the first. It was good to get a point, it was better than nothing. We have to carry on and look to improve.”
-Willian; source: Evening Standard
It may be that Chelsea ultimately dip into the transfer market to solve the problem at center-forward, a position Sarri relied on for goals at Napoli. But he surely also expects more from Willian, a player he fought to keep out of Manchester United’s hands over the summer.
In the end, we can only hope that this dearth of goals from the forwards is just one of those growing pains that Sarri warned would be coming.