Glenn Hoddle does not understand why Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri continues to use Eden Hazard as a focal point.
The 28-year-old Belgian forward has led the line for the Blues on many occasions this season to varying degrees of success.
Hazard and Sarri: Five things you need to know…
- Hazard has made 45 appearances in all competitions under Sarri since the Italian took charge at Stamford Bridge last summer.
- He’s been used in two positions: left wing (36 matches) and centre-forward (nine).
- Hazard has subsequently registered 19 goals and created a further 12 for his teammates.
- His best performance was registering a hat-trick in the Premier League against Cardiff City last September.
- Hazard is currently been associated with a move to Real Madrid in the summer.
Although he’s been prominently deployed in his favoured left-wing position, from where he can cut inside and cause problems for the opposition, Sarri hasn’t completely abandoned the idea of using Hazard through the middle.
Of his 45 appearances under the Italian tactician, Hazard has started nine of those games as a centre-forward (or deep-lying forward) this season in all competitions, reminiscent of Sarri converting another Belgian winger (Dries Mertens) into a striker at his former club Napoli.
However, the strategy hasn’t been a universal success, leading to frustration among Chelsea supporters. Hoddle, who managed the club in the mid-90s, feels Sarri is best utilising Olivier Giroud there rather than Higuain.
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“Higuain looks as if he’s thinking about things before he’s even going to get a shot off,” he told BT Sport.
“He’s a little bit slower than he was in yesteryear, he was a fantastic striker, don’t get me wrong. He looks like he should be in better shape than when he arrived, but for me he looks actually a little bit in less good shape, he looks as if he’s put a bit of weight on since he’s been here.
“Perhaps he’s been in the gym too much, I don’t know. But Giroud is class, and he gives Chelsea a focal point and allows Hazard to play off a focal point, which is important. Hazard shouldn’t be the one up there, I think everyone in this stadium knows that bar Sarri.”
More success in Europe?
Chelsea, who became the first English club to win each of UEFA’s three major club competitions (subsequently followed by Manchester United), have another European semi-final to look forward to.
Sarri’s men survived a near scare against Czech outfit Slavia Prague – winning 5-3 on aggregate – to book a Europa League final four date with impressive Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt.
It means the possibility of facing Arsenal in the Baku final on May 29 remains on the cards although the Gunners will need to get past manager Unai Emery’s former club Valencia.
Back to domestic matters, both are locked in battle with Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United for two of the Premier League’s top four places.