In light of playing as a center forward once again on Tuesday against Barcelona, Chelsea’s talismanic non-center forward, Eden Hazard was asked what he thinks about Conte’s decision to limit his effectiveness.
“I like that role. But it is true that in matches like this, where you barely see a ball, it is not easy to play football. I do not know exactly, but I may have [received] 25 balls and 15 of them went towards my head. Then you do not play all the way to my qualities. But I’m trying. I even won aerial duels. (winks) Even against Piqué; that’s not bad, is it?
“If I could choose, I prefer the role I played in the last 10 minutes. On the flank, on the left, I feel more comfortable. That is my position.”
-Eden Hazard; source: HLN
HLN point out that Hazard had 54 touches, though it’s not counted how many of those were received passes. But we can let that slide; Hazard should not be expected to keep accurate track of all that and if he feels like the vast majority of passes in his direction went over his head, he’s probably not wrong. We can all see he’s not Giroud or Morata and Chelsea’s insistence on playing to him as if he were one was probably the most baffling thing from Tuesday’s game.
That said, it should also be noted that Hazard himself brought up his own ability to play as a center forward when talking about Batshuayi’s future a few weeks ago, so playing as one shouldn’t come as a surprise to him or to anyone watching.
Eden Hazard on his position: “To be honest, I DO like to play as a false ‘9’. But if I had to choose, I would prefer to play like I did in the last 10 minutes. On the wing I feel more comfortable. That’s my position.” #CFC pic.twitter.com/YQKptlOuI6— Kristof Terreur (@HLNinEngeland) February 21, 2018
That said, HLN’s report doesn't seem too happy about Eden playing in that central attacking role however, claiming that Conte is “chaining” him to the position to no great effect, mentioning his 1 goal and 2 assists in 7 appearances as false 9 this season (the actual phrasing HLN uses is “chained to the tactic”). They go even further, stating that poor old Eden Hazard “even dropped back to his sixteen” to get the ball against Barcelona, thus being forced to do things a normal player does (and doing something that he does regularly as a left winger). OUTRAGEOUS! The article additionally goes on to mention that Eden isn't the kind of player to address this publicly, but that he will certainly do so behind closed doors, an approach that would seem to be a pretty good idea in regard to all those Real Madrid questions and rumours, too (nudge, nudge, Eden).
Hazard’s quotes have since made their way across the Channel, with the Mail for example picking them up, though they deemed it proper practice to exclude the part about Eden explicitly stating that he also likes or at least doesn't mind (however you interpret it) playing in the center, too. Then again, it wouldn't be the DM if they didn't omit the one or the other significant piece of content in order to try and cause some good old palpable discord.
Dailymail Chelsea star Eden Hazard insists best position is out wide https://t.co/GmLhA5kXSS— CFC News Feed (@cfcnewsfeed) February 22, 2018
Will Hazard be once again used in the same position against Barcelona in the return leg in 3 weeks? It would seem to be a valid question at the very least due to the overall effectiveness of the three small musketeers on Tuesday — and, in Conte’s words, the “balance” they brought to the side. Time will tell.