EPL 2016/17: Eden Hazard liberated under Antonio Conte
In-form Belgian playmaker, Eden Hazard has spoken about the feeling of being liberated under new Chelsea manager, Antonio Conte. After a nightmarish campaign last season, on an individual and team level, the Belgian’s impressive form this time around has seen him named Player of the Month and has shot the London club to the top four of the league.
In an interview with Dominic Fifield of The Guardian, the Belgian laid bare his feelings and talked glowingly about his current manager Conte, stating, “We have bought into it [Conte’s philosophy]. This is what he wants from us and believes we need to do to achieve something special. He kicks every ball, heads every ball. If he could, he’d be out there with us, our 12th man on the pitch.”
In fact, the Italian’s overpowering personality has been one of the reasons for the stupendous form of the team and his influence on Hazard has seen the Belgian light up the Premier League.
Hazard complimented the demanding nature of Conte stating, “He’s demanding, and he never stops wanting more from his players. But when you’re in his side winning matches every week, it’s obvious his methods work.”
Revival of Sorts
The international break couldn’t have come at a more inopportune moment for Chelsea and Hazard. The red-hot form of the Blues saw them win 5 games on the bounce without conceding a goal. Conte reverted to his tried and trusted system of 3-5-2 after the 3-0 defeat at the Emirates.
And the Italian is reaping the benefits of that system as the Blues have transformed from the stuttering team to a ruthlessly clinical team. Attacking players such as Hazard have benefitted the most from the change in tactics and their defensive record has been exemplary,to say the least.
The Belgian’s performance against Everton left Conte purring. Hazard played a role in each of the goals and scored two on the way and Conte was at a loss of words to describe the performance in the post–match press conference.
The Belgian spoke to the incoming manager in March and cleared the air of any possible transfers, “Back in March I’d spoken [to Conte] about the difficult season I’d had up to then, and what he expected of me in the year to come. I made clear I had no intention of leaving after such a poor year. I didn’t want to go out like that. If I ever leave, it’ll be after winning a championship. You need to go out on a high so that people remember you for the right reasons.”
The upturn in form of the Blues can be attributed to the way they lost at the Emirates. And the reaction from the Chelsea squad has made other teams stand up and take notice. In fact, Hazard described the moment aptly, “Everything changed at Arsenal. A turning point. We were losing 3-0, we were beaten, but we got together – coaching staff and players – and determined then things would improve.”
Hazard’s belief in Conte can all be credited to the methods the Italian has implemented at Stamford Bridge. The Italian has instilled a work ethic in the team and the results are there for all the players to see.
Hazard went on to explain the nuances of the current formation as well stating the benefits on a personal level, “The change in system has made an impact. It’s such a difficult formation to play against. Personally, it allows me to concentrate more on the attacking parts of the game, the offensive side. That allows me to concentrate more on hurting teams going forward. And it’s worked. I’ve managed to make a positive impact in games, and my form is there.”
There are concerns about Hazard’s availability after he picked up a knock on international duty. However, he hasn’t shied away from challenges, stating the need to be fearless whenever he is on the pitch. Combining fearlessness with his skills makes him a joy to watch and Hazard insists on the necessity to express himself on the pitch.
The Belgian is in a good place at the moment, personally and professionally and the arrival of Benteke in his neighbourhood has also helped lighten the Belgian’s mood. In fact, Hazard encouraged the forward to move to Crystal Palace, “Come to London. Come, come, because I’ll see you all the time”.
Personal benefits aside, both players have excelled in their new surroundings and one hopes that the Belgian can continue their current run of form. Hazard summed up the interview stating, “Yes, I’ve scored the goals that have decided the title in the last two years, but hopefully this season I’ll be scoring one to bring the trophy back to Chelsea.”
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