When Chelsea handed the manager's role to Maurizio Sarri, they were bringing on board a coach and a new philosophy. The Italian prefers winning games by playing a polished, aesthetic style of football, which has come to be known as 'Sarriball'.
His brand of possession-based football is not much dissimilar to that of other coaches like Pep Guardiola and Marcelo Bielsa. The possession of the ball comes with purpose as the players look to create quick vertical progressions while distorting the shape of their opposition through their movements.
But the version of Sarriball at Chelsea has had to rely on individual brilliance in the final third. More often than not, that piece of individual brilliance has been delivered by none other than Eden Hazard. Parallels can be drawn to how Lionel Messi was the source of individual brilliance for Guardiola back at Barcelona.
However, it’s worth noting that Messi was a part of the system back then, but Hazard is slowly turning into the system itself. This is mainly due to the fact that there is a serious lack of quality up front for Chelsea.
Although they are good team players, Oliver Giroud and Pedro Rodriguez lack that fire which fuels individual brilliance. Gonzalo Higuain and Willian are merely filling the numbers and have looked lost on the field on numerous occasions this season.
Chelsea are having a decent season for a team that is undergoing transition. They are currently in the top four and have one foot in the semis of the Europa League. Is Sarriball bearing the fruits already or is it Hazard who is covering minor flaws in the system?
It’s clear that Hazard is setting the tone for Sarriball and this system could benefit a lot more from such a talented player. Unfortunately for Chelsea, there is a possibility that Eden Hazard could choose to leave for Madrid at the end of the season.
With the heart of the system ejected, Sarriball will be tested with new challenges. In that case, Sarri might have to turn to youngsters like Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi. The latter is already a fan-favourite at the Bridge but Hazard's boots could be too big to fill.