At the age of 31, Pedro Rodríguez is turning back the clock. He’s being asked to make lots of short passes, to press high, to recover the ball quickly, to run a lot, and most importantly, to score timely goals. These are the sorts of things that made him tiki-taka Barcelona’s “lucky charm” at the start of this decade. Now he’s doing them in Chelsea blue as well, and it feels like home.
“It’s probably the best form I’ve been in. Maurizio is very clear with his ideas and that’s good for me because I run, press high and recover the ball. I stay close to the target to score goals and help my team — that’s good. I speak with him a lot about my role on the pitch and I’m comfortable playing high, and I like it.”
With 8 goals in just 23 Premier League appearances (16 starts) — only Hazard has more for Chelsea with 12 — Pedro’s already exceeded last season’s career-low 7-goal output and is on course for his best domestic campaign since 2013-14, when he hit 15 for Barca in La Liga (19 in all competitions). He has not reached double digits in league play in the five years since, though he did score 13 in all competitions (9 in the league), some of them quite crucial, even, in Conte’s title-winning season.
Chelsea are in no danger of winning the Premier League this season, but the team appears to have righted the ship and are back on course to qualify for next season’s Champions League. And while Sarri does get some credit for finally tweaking his tactics a bit, Pedro gives the bulk of the credit to the team’s improved mentality (which Sarri would probably agree with as well, given his previous harping on those aspects).
“We said ‘this is enough’. I spoke during the week about the situation [with my team-mates], but now we’re all focusing on reaching the top four. It’s the most important thing for us until the end, to try to win every game. They’re all finals because it’s so important to get points, try to win every game and if not, it’s going to be so difficult to qualify.”
If Chelsea win every game from here on out, we will have qualified twice, even! But let’s just take it that ever-cliched one game at a time, shall we?
But will Pedro get to see the fruits of his labor next season? He signed a new extension last summer, which means he’s under contract for next season, but just like Eden Hazard, Willian, and Callum Hudson-Odoi, he’s currently not signed beyond 2020. With a transfer ban looming, we could be getting close to Pedro’s final days as a Chelsea player. He had talked previously about wanting to head back to Spain eventually, though for now he’s more than happy to stay in London.
“I’ve always said I’m happy here with my team-mates. I am happy with them, the supporters, the city, it’s good — but you never know.”
-Pedro; source: Sky
Despite being limited by a couple non-minor injuries this season, Pedro’s actually the team’s third-leading goalscorer behind Eden Hazard (in all competitions) — and the player (still) in second is no longer here, to underline our issues in that department a bit more. If the veteran winger can keep contributing like he was at the start of the season or like he was during Conte’s first season, we just might achieve our goals for the rest of the season.