MX23RW : Wednesday, January 16 00:25:08

Hazard playing as a false nine helps us defensively, insists Sarri

Hazard playing as a false nine helps us defensively, insists Sarri
© Reuters
The Belgian has been deployed in the role in recent weeks.

Maurizio Sarri likes to play Eden Hazard as Chelsea's 'false nine' for a better balance defensively.

Chelsea's reliance on Hazard was evident again in Saturday's 2-1 win over Newcastle.

The 28-year-old Belgian created the decisive goal, scored brilliantly by Willian, who netted for just the third time in the league this season.

The Blues have scored just 13 goals in their last 11 Premier League games and Sarri is increasingly favouring an attacking focal point of Hazard, rather than recognised strikers Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata.

Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard is being deployed in place of a recognised striker more regularly for Chelsea (Steven Paston/PA)

"At the moment in the defensive phase we are doing very well and one of the reasons, in my opinion, is that Eden is playing in that position," Sarri said.

Hazard last season expressed frustration about being deployed as Chelsea's 'false nine' under Antonio Conte.

But Sarri insisted the Belgian liked it after being asked to play there in December's win over Manchester City and frequently since.

The Italian admitted Hazard was unhappy in the first half, but grew into the game against Newcastle.

Hazard's happiness is key to Chelsea, given his contract expires in June 2020 and he has spoken of a daily quandary over whether to seek a "dream" move to Real Madrid.

"In the second half my feeling was that he enjoyed (it)," Sarri added.

"I played him there because I wanted to see the solution with the three small players.

"I think that at this moment it is a very good solution because we are not less dangerous in the offensive phase.

"And in the defensive phase we are more balanced. In the last six matches we have conceded only three goals and one was a penalty.

"Now we need to improve attacking in the box when the ball is out of the box. It is impossible for Eden to stay in the box."

Sarri has spoken of his wish to recruit an understudy for Jorginho, after Cesc Fabregas' move to Monaco.

Jorginho
Jorginho was "in trouble" against Newcastle, Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri says (Nigel French/PA)

Italy midfielder Jorginho struggled to assert himself against the Magpies, frequently relinquishing possession.

Sarri said: "After 20 minutes he lost a lot of balls. It's unusual and I think he was in trouble.

"Maybe he was tired, I don't know. But if Fabregas was on the bench I think that in the second half he would have been on the pitch instead of Jorginho."

Asked if Ethan Ampadu could be a future option in that position, Sarri said: "In the future, maybe. Playing as a central midfielder in our team is not easy.

"We need to try and try and try in training. But I think he is able to do it."

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez maintains belief Newcastle can stay in the Premier League (Adam Davy/PA)

Newcastle dropped into the relegation zone, but boss Rafa Benitez remains optimistic the Magpies can survive.

He said: "If we work like we did (against Chelsea) and play with the same passion and intensity then I believe we will stay up.

"We will have chances to get points against a lot of teams and we'll win against some teams, especially in the bottom half of the table."


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Willian celebrates after putting Chelsea back in front against Newcastle United on January 12, 2019
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Liverpool22183150104057
2Manchester CityMan City22172359174253
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs22160646222448
4Chelsea22145340172347
5Arsenal22125546321441
6Manchester UnitedMan Utd22125544321241
7Watford229583232032
8Leicester CityLeicester229492625131
9West Ham UnitedWest Ham229493032-231
10Everton228683331230
11Wolverhampton WanderersWolves228592328-529
12Bournemouth2283113142-1127
13Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2275102430-626
14Crystal Palace2264122028-822
15Burnley2263132343-2021
16Southampton2247112339-1619
17Cardiff CityCardiff2254131941-2219
18Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2246121631-1518
19Fulham2235142049-2914
20Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2225151337-2411

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