Eden Hazard Frustrated with False-9 Role at Chelsea, Wants to Return to the Wing

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2018

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 20:  Eden Hazard of Chelsea is challenged by Gerard Pique of FC Barcelona during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 First Leg match between Chelsea FC and FC Barcelona at Stamford Bridge on February 20, 2018 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images

Eden Hazard has said he would prefer to play in his usual role on the wing rather than be deployed as a false nine again by Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. 

Hazard was used up front in the Blues' 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League round-of-16 first leg on Tuesday, but the Belgium international does not feel as happy in that position.

Per the Daily Star's Paul Brown, he said:

"In games like this against a quality opposition, it's difficult. You don't get a lot of balls. I think I might have touched 25 balls—and 15 of them were flying toward my head!

"That's not really playing with my qualities. I've won some aerial duels—hey against Gerard Pique! I think it's not bad, my man.

"If I had to chose, I prefer to play like I did in the last 10 minutes, but it's the manager who has the final word.

"On the wing I feel more comfortable. That's my place. We're going to see how we will play in Barcelona. We have to give the maximum. We have to win."

The 27-year-old lacks the height and physicality to deal with aerial balls, and he is perhaps at his best when working alongside a recognised striker.

As noted by ESPN FC's Liam Twomey, Hazard has worked well with both Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud this season:

The former Lille OSC man has been used by Conte as a false nine on several occasions, though the Blues had lost all three of the most recent occurrences against Arsenal, Watford and Bournemouth.

However, against Barcelona, the decision afforded Chelsea the pace of Hazard, Willian and Pedro going forward, and the work rate of the latter two in defensive situations.

Per Brown, Conte said to sacrifice one of Willian or Pedro would have been "suicidal," because of the balance issues their absence would have caused.

Goal's Nizaar Kinsella thought the plan worked well:

Given its success, it's likely Hazard will be used in a similar role in the second leg on March 14.

The winger may be more comfortable out wide, but if his change of position helps the Blues succeed against opponents who otherwise might outclass them, he'll need to play as a false nine for the good of the team.

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