Sky Sports pundit Danny Higginbotham thinks Eden Hazard will eventually end up playing through the middle under Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea, having watched how he got the best out of Dries Mertens at Napoli.
Hazard was tried as a number 9 last season under Antonio Conte, although the Belgian publicly announced that he didn’t like playing the position, preferring to play in a deeper role on the wing or behind a striker.
However, Maurizio Sarri’s ‘Sarri-ball’ style of play is a polar opposite to that of his predecessor, moving the ball quickly up the field and attacking with pace. The current Chelsea boss played Dries Mertens – a traditional winger – through the middle at Napoli, coaxing 56 goals out of the Belgian in the last two seasons, and Danny Higginbotham can see a similar role for his Belgian compatriot Eden Hazard at Stamford Bridge:
“I personally think that he [Hazard] will end up playing as the No 9, I really do,” Higginbotham told Sky Sports.
“When I look at Sarri and his time at Napoli and what he did with Mertens, I think he will end up playing near enough as a false No 9. That’s my own honest opinion, possibly with Pedro and Willian, so all three of them can get in.
“He loves to move the ball quickly Sarri. We talk about Sarri-ball, they say it’s tiki-taka but going forward and quickly.
“With Hazard, if you’ve got him as a so-called false No 9, that could work really well. But they are a team that are adjusting from a three to a four at the back.
“But there are some great players and the midfield is a key area as well.”