Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte has indicated Eden Hazard will have to get used to playing as a false nine.
The Belgium international was frustrated with a lack of service when selected as a lone forward in Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at Manchester City in the Premier League.
“We could have played on for three hours, and I [still] wouldn’t touch a ball,” Hazard told HLN after Chelsea’s Champions League qualification hopes were dealt a blow.
Chelsea failed to muster an attempt on target against the runaway leaders, while Conte has suggested he was unhappy with Hazard’s work-rate in a 2-1 defeat at Manchester United last month.
With Hazard linked with a move to Real Madrid at the end of the season, the winger’s comments have inevitably prompted further speculation about his long-term Chelsea future.
But Conte indicated Hazard will be used again as a false nine, with the Chelsea coach happy with how the system worked in a 1-1 draw in the first leg of a last-16 Champions League tie against Barcelona.
“If I think it’s right for the team to play in this way, it’s okay,” Conte said when asked about using Hazard in the role in future.
“Otherwise I can take another decision and play with a striker. Maybe. I can take different decisions. There are three players for two places. One has to go on the bench. Then I have to decide who has to go on the bench.
“As you know very well, I don’t like to reply to my players through the press. This is not my habit. I like to talk with the players face to face, or in meetings with all the players. The tactics were the same against Barcelona. Defensively, we were very good in both games.
“If you look at the stats, we conceded only two shots to Manchester City: one they scored, and another after a free-kick and [Cesar Azpilicueta] saved it on the line. I don’t see a lot of shots on goal from Manchester City, and this is very strange.
Usually when you play against Manchester City they shoot about 20 or 25 times every game.
“For sure, compare that with the Barcelona game, I think we were not so good in ball possession. We missed a lot of last passes. And, for sure, we have to improve. We have to improve in personality, especially when there is a lot of pressure from our opponent.
“But the tactics were the same against Barcelona and, against Barcelona, I didn’t listen to anyone complaining. But, I repeat, we have to improve. We have to improve, especially with the ball.”
0.13 – Chelsea’s xG (Expected Goals) total of 0.13 versus Manchester City yesterday is the lowest by a ‘big six’ club in a Premier League game since April 2010 (Man City; 0.13 v Arsenal). Walking. pic.twitter.com/vSRyPE5ttg
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 5, 2018
Hazard’s public criticism of Conte’s tactical plan against City raised eyebrows, but Conte revealed he had hit out at Marcello Lippi in a similar way during his time at Juventus.
“I did this when I was a player. I did this once. Do you want to know what happened?” Conte said.
“Juventus, with Lippi. We played a game, a massive game against Parma when they were first and we were second. We won 3-1. After the game, there was an international break. During the international break I did an interview.
“The journalists asked me if I was happy with the team and with this important win. My stupid answer was, ‘We are winning, but I’m not happy because I’m not enjoying the role the coach decided to give me’.
“When I came back to Turin, it was a meeting with Lippi and all the players, all the players, and he killed me. He killed me in a bad way, not in a soft way. In front of the players. Killed me in a bad way, not in a soft or kind way.
“After the training, the club called me. They killed me another time, put me a big, big fine. And then, in the next game, I didn’t play. I was on the bench against Piacenza. You can check. That’s in the past. This is a funny story.”
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