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Hazard learning to love center forward, but Sarri wants more

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Eden Hazard reflects on playing center forward in Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion

If Eden Hazard doesn’t want to play center forward again, he sure did a terrible job of convincing Maurizio Sarri to never pick him there again.

While not quite as involved as in his usual wide-left position, Hazard still managed to score one (his 98th for Chelsea!) and create another on Sunday against Brighton and Hove Albion as the Blues consigned the Seagulls to just their second home defeat all season.

In fact, with his involvement in both Chelsea goals, Hazard has now bettered his hockey-points total from last season (17 goals+assists vs. 16), in half the time (16 app’s vs. 34)! The 8 goals puts him into joint-fifth in the league (despite a two-month drought), while the 9 assists gives him more than any other player in any of Europe’s top five leagues.

By any measure, Hazard had an excellent match.

Well, except one. The Sarri-measure. Sarri wants more, just like he always does.

“I think that, for us, he could be very important in this position. He’s very able to come out and play with his team-mates, very able to create spaces. Now I think that, in that position, he has to improve in attacking the box.”

-Maurizio Sarri; source: Football.London

Just like last weekend, Hazard played as the center forward. Unlike last weekend, he was somewhat pleased with the proceedings. Eden’s always happy, but he’s more happy when he actually gets to touch the ball, get involved, and not have to play as some sort of target man trying to win aerial duels against defenders twice his size.

“You know me, I always enjoy my football. We have top players on the team, so we understand each other, more now than at the beginning of the season, so yeah, we just want to be on the pitch and create something.”

The only drawback of Hazard’s increased involvement was the increased amount of kicks aimed in his general direction. Hazard may be used to them and may be able to laugh most of them off, but some of them looking quite painful, including the ankle reducer from Dale Stephens, who somehow avoided a yellow card despite being whistled for five fouls (with probably just as many more not called).

“I think not too bad. We’ll check with the doctor tonight or tomorrow, but I think it’s not too bad. I just twist a bit. But is like every game, you know. I am strong!”

-Eden Hazard; source: Chelsea FC

Eden was withdrawn early and was limping after the match with an ice bag on his ankle, but neither he nor Sarri seemed to think it was serious.

“Eden is okay. It’s only a knock, only a knock. I spoke with the doctor five minutes ago and it’s not a big problem. Maybe one day to rest, two days at most.”

-Maurizio Sarri; source: Football.London

Next up for Chelsea will be a League Cup quarterfinal against AFC Bournemouth on Wednesday, which is probably miss-able for Hazard. But we’ll need him back healthy and in full flow as we had towards the new year, either at left wing or at center forward.