Maurizio Sarri: Eden Hazard 'Very Much' Enjoys Playing as Striker for Chelsea

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistDecember 21, 2018

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 19:  Eden Hazard of Chelsea celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the Carabao Cup Quarter Final match between Chelsea and AFC Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge on December 19, 2018 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Chelsea's Eden Hazard could be poised for an extended stay playing as a false nine after manager Maurizio Sarri said the Belgian "very much" likes featuring in that position.

Hazard was tried in the role under Antonio Conte last season but said at the time he didn't enjoy it. That's not the case under Sarri, it seems, as the Italian told reporters his winger has reacted well to the transition:

"He told me that he likes very much to play there. I wasn't here last season, so I don't know why Eden told people this. At the moment, he likes very much to play there.

"There isn't a best position for Hazard. Hazard is a wonderful player with a very high level of imagination. He needs to be let free on the pitch. But we need a very high level of organisation."

Hazard was fielded as a false nine for the first time this season when Chelsea beat defending Premier League champions Manchester City 2-0, and he stayed in that spot for the following 2-1 victory at Brighton & Hove Albion.

Chelsea beat writer Dan Levene wasn't a supporter of the switch and suggested that because Hazard lacks height at 5'8", he's not a match to be the leading man in Sarri's system:

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Regular strikers Alvaro Morata—the club's record £60 million signing—and Olivier Giroud have jostled for the starting strike spot until now, but Sarri suggested there will be more experimentation for Hazard up front:

"We started in the last two matches with Eden as a striker. In the first match it was only a tactical choice. Then I wanted to see that the solution can work in other situations or not.

"At the moment, the solution is good, I think, because we played a very good match against Manchester City and against Brighton we were very dangerous for 60 minutes.

"Now I want to see the same situation in a normal match against a team very, very compact in density."

Giroud had his chance to start in Wednesday's Carabao Cup quarter-final against Bournemouth but couldn't score in 90 minutes. To make matters worse for him, Hazard came on with a little less than 30 minutes remaining and netted the 1-0 winner.

That brought the winger up to 10 goals in 20 appearances this season, not long after Goal's Nizaar Kinsella lauded his efforts against Brighton on Sunday, when he scored and assisted in a 2-1 victory:

It was a slow start to the season under Sarri for Hazard, but Liam Twomey of ESPN FC pointed to evidence that he's in fine fettle and could well now challenge for his best scoring season (16 league goals in 2016-17):

Sarri previously found success by utilising Hazard's compatriot Dries Mertens more centrally from his winger roots. The Belgian scored 34 goals across his first three seasons at Napoli, but matched that number in the 2016-17 campaign alone after settling in as a centre-forward under Sarri.

Chelsea fans can only hope Hazard's attacking contribution will rise in kind as Sarri confirms the attacking maestro is adapting well to his new habitat.