Maurizio Sarri is often accused of not only sticking stubbornly to the same exact strategy in each and every game, regardless of opposition, form, or circumstance, but even making the same substitutions over and over again (Kovacic switching with Barkley; Willian switching with Pedro; etc.).
But yesterday, he not only tweaked his approach (with feedback from the players, even!) but made a very surprising substitution at the hour mark, replacing the team’s biggest star and, usually, only attacking fulcrum, Eden Hazard. Willian isn’t chopped liver to be sure, but in terms of production and goal-threat, he pales in comparison with Eden (who himself could do more in that department).
While it’s true that Hazard wasn’t having his best game, he’s been kept on in similar situations before — after all, he can literally win a game at any given time with just one spectacular moment. So it was a bold call from Sarri, who’s been making a few bold calls recently. And this one paid off, too, with Willian and Pedro marshaling the wings and helping to keep Spurs at bay, then doubling Chelsea’s lead, even (it was Willian who was pressuring Trippier into the backpass and own goal).
Meanwhile, Hazard got a bit of rest, which he very much needed. As he revealed after the match, not only was he still feeling pain from the 120 minutes against Manchester City just 72 hours prior, he was also dealing with a thigh knock that almost prevented him from playing in the first place! Fortunately, he says the 60 minutes against Spurs did not aggravate that injury.
Eden Hazard yesterday after the game: “I was not good. I still felt the 120 minutes against City in my legs. And I had some pain in my thigh. I almost didn’t play, but the pain hasn’t aggravated. I’m fine.” #cfc pic.twitter.com/bbFdPzAUQs— Kristof Terreur (@HLNinEngeland) February 28, 2019
Chelsea play again on Sunday, away to terrible Fulham, then on Thursday, at home to Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League Round of 16. Rest up, Eden!