Eden Hazard at striker isn’t the way forward for Chelsea


Eden Hazard starting at striker is not going to change fortunes at Chelsea

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho made the strange tactical decision to play Eden Hazard as a striker in yesterday’s match at Tottenham. The move proved to be enough to help the Blues get one point against Spurs but won’t do much else for Chelsea if the positional switch continues.

The Hazard switch likely had more to do with Mourinho showing Diego Costa up than any philosophical shift, but either way it’s not going to accomplish anything at Chelsea. All it will ultimately do is frustrate two of the club’s biggest stars by either not playing them or deploying them in a foolish position.

First, if the tactic is designed to motivate Costa in some way it will likely end in complete disaster. He does not strike me as a man who will be bullied or intimidated by Mourinho or any other manager. If he were that concerned with public opinion or what anyone thought of him, he would have chosen to represent Brazil instead of Spain when playing on their home soil.

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All burying him on the bench will do is make him a complete locker room cancer. It’s not going to somehow motivate him to be the player that Mourinho wishes he will become.

If the idea is instead, to shift tactics then it’s even more misguided. Hazard is one of the world’s top wing players despite his stated desire to play as a number 10 for Chelsea. Playing him at striker is tactical negligence. Sure, he might score a goal or two by playing up top based on his pace and skill, but it’s not the ideal use for his talent.

The mediocre quality of his performance at Tottenham was clear evidence of this misuse. He failed to tally a goal or assist in the scoreless draw and only managed a Whoscored rating of 6.5. This isn’t the return that Chelsea needs or wants from its most talented attacker.

His misuse was even more apparent while watching the game. Chelsea continuously tried to play aerial balls to the relatively short Hazard with no success. The Blues failed to produce any real width on the day with the exception of an occasional foray by Pedro. They lacked the very thing Hazard can most easily provide in attack due to him being deployed as a striker.

Hazard’s effect on the game, other than drawing quite a few tough Tottenham challenges, was pretty minimal. He did trouble Lloris with one shot on target, but that was as a result of his exceptional skill as opposed to any real constructive buildup. Hazard was simply a fish out of water for most of the afternoon.

Jose Mourinho is justified to try to push any button he can to wake up his Chelsea side. The playing of Eden Hazard as a stand-alone striker just isn’t the right button to push.