Eden Hazard wants to play wide left but is it really his best position?

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The Belgian attacker is versatile enough to play in three positions but he feels he is best deployed on the wing — and the stats support that claim

All great players can play in many positions and Eden Hazard is certainly proving his versatility at Chelsea this season. 

The brilliant Belgium international has already been deployed in three roles, with Blues boss Antonio Conte having utilised the 27-year-old as a wide forward, a second striker and, as against Barcelona on Tuesday night, a ‘false nine’.

The Italian’s decision to switch to a three-man defence during the triumphant 2016-17 Premier League campaign not only brought the best out of David Luiz at the back, it also allowed Hazard to play in his preferred position. 

He started on the left-hand side of the attack on 31 occasions, contributing 11 goals to an impressive 27 victories.

This season, he has featured on the flank in just eight games yet still managed to score five times and racked up four assists.

In addition, Chelsea’s win record with Conte’s preferred 3-4-3 stands at 82 per cent, so why is Hazard more likely to reprise the false nine role he performed against Barca in Sunday’s crucial Premier League clash with Manchester United

Quite simply, because of his issues with his fellow forwards’ form and fitness. 

With Conte having rarely put his trust in Michy Batshuayi before sending the striker out on loan to Borussia Dortmund in January, and summer signing Alvaro Morata having struggled to justify his £58 million transfer fee, Hazard has had to play more centrally.

Indeed, Conte has deployed his best player alongside Morata on 13 occasions this season in a 3-5-2 formation in the hope of bringing the best out of the Spain striker. 

However, while that move has worked out well for Hazard — seven of his 15 goals in all competitions have come while playing up top — Chelsea have not fared quite as well, winning just 38.5% of the games in which they’ve used 3-5-2 this term.

As a result, Conte has experimented with using his best player on his own up top. While Hazard creates more chances per game (3.26) than in any other position, he has scored and created just two goals apiece in his eight outings as a ‘false nine’.

Furthermore, Chelsea had lost their three previous games before claiming a creditable draw with Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at Stamford Bridge. 

Eden Hazard quote GFX

As for the player himself, he stated on Tuesday night, “To be honest, I like the role as a false nine.” However, he immediately clarified that it is only an enjoyable role when Chelsea have possession of the ball.

"In game against quality opposition like Barcelona, it’s difficult,” he confessed. “You don’t get a lot of passes. 

“I might have touched the ball 25 times and 15 of those were flying toward my head! That is not really playing to my qualities. I won some aerial duels against Gerard Pique, and that’s not bad.

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“But if I had to choose, I prefer to play like I did in the last 10 minutes, which was out wide. 

“It’s the manager who has the final word. On the wing, I feel more comfortable. That’s my place.”

That stats support that claim too.

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