Eden Hazard is Chelsea’s lead striker, says Maurizio Sarri, casting fresh doubt over Alvaro Morata’s future

Hazard has been used as a false nine for the past few matches and found the net four times in four games

Ian Baker
Saturday 29 December 2018 15:08
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Chelsea: A look back at 2018

Maurizio Sarri has revealed that Eden Hazard is now his first-choice central striker, casting fresh doubt over the future of Alvaro Morata.

Hazard has been used as a false nine for the past few matches and found the net four times in four games.

Despite his return from a knee injury, Morata was not even included on the bench against Watford on Boxing Day and is also sweating on a return to the squad at Crystal Palace on Sunday.

The Spaniard could now be on his way in January with Sarri suggesting Hazard’s inclusion centrally provides Chelsea with a better shape and he also feels that the Belgian is starting to replicate Morata’s attributes.

“We need to be balanced on the pitch and be more solid. In the last matches I prefer this solution [Eden in a central role],” he said. “For the future everything is open.

“I think that Alvaro is better in the box and better to attack spaces but I have to say Eden is improving as you saw in the last match with the second goal, he attacked very well the space.

“It’s different as Eden is better when he comes to play with the midfielders and opens spaces. He’s another way of playing.

“I want to see the physical condition of the players. We will decide after training. Alvaro’s potential is to be a very good player. He’s fit, yes.”

Eden Hazard scored twice against Watford

Morata has managed just seven goals this season and also appears to have fallen behind Olivier Giroud in the pecking order despite being signed from Real Madrid for £58m only 18 months ago.

Chelsea have been linked with Callum Wilson of Bournemouth and Gonzalo Higuain of Juventus and could now part with Morata in January in a bid to finance the move.

Hazard has openly suggested a central position is not his favoured role and Sarri has suggested he could return to a more familiar withdrawn spot at some stage but refused to name-check Morata when discussing that option. “Maybe in the future we can play a striker and Hazard together,” he said.

Chelsea are now more than 10 points behind leaders Liverpool but Sarri has repeatedly suggested that the title race is a two horse race between the Merseysiders and Manchester City.

Despite this, he still has some regret over the last couple of months and a disrupted pre-season following the World Cup as he reflected on his first half a season in charge.

“We made mistakes in two matches, Wolves and Leicester. Leicester only in the second half I think, we played very well in the first half,” he said.

Alvaro Morata is out on the fringes at Chelsea (Reuters)

“One of the most important performances of our season was the first half. We were not able to react to the difficulty and so we could have gained three or four points more.

“I don’t want to talk about the match in Tottenham as we lost without problems. On the other hand it was really very difficult as we had a very unusual pre-season.

“I have no experience in this kind of pre-season, then we had three weeks for working and then we started to play every three days so it is not easy to work here and improving the single players and team is quite difficult.”

Sarri believes that the speed in English football is far quicker than that of Serie A. “If you see the quantity of running in matches, in Italy we run more in quantity,” he said. “The difference is quality. Here there are more accelerations, acceleration here is really very important.

“There is one every minute, over 23/24 kilometres per hour, the quality is really very good here. I think it is difficult because for these accelerations you need very big energy. It is more difficult than in Italy but in Italy the quantity of running is higher than here.”

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