Chelsea glossed over any suggestion of their season being in trouble with an impressive 2-0 win over Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Coming off the back of two defeats in their last three Premier League outings, few expected the Blues to be a match for Pep Guardiola’s rampant side.
That being said, the visitors dominated in west London for much of the 90 minutes, ending with 61 per cent of possession and 14 shots to eight at the final whistle.
But courtesy of a clean sheet and goals from N’Golo Kante and David Luiz, Chelsea are now back in the top four and a more achievable eight points adrift of the new leaders Liverpool.
Maurizio Sarri - who set up his team in a more conservative system than he perhaps would against any other opponent - can only be pleased with the result.
However, had Chelsea not managed to secure such a brilliant victory, the Italian definitely would’ve faced criticism for playing Eden Hazard as a lone striker.
Despite the result, Sarri’s reflection on his decision was somewhat at odds with that of his supporters.
“He had some problems at the beginning of the match, but I think he played really a very great second half. Maybe he deserved to score,” he said, per Goal.
“I think it's a very good option. We will play like today in the future for some matches of course.”
Touching on why Olivier Giroud was benched and Alvaro Morata left out of the squad altogether, Sarri added:
“The reason was clear. We played with Hazard as a striker, so if we have to change something there was Giroud.
“I think it was useless to have two strikers on the bench and I prefer to have more midfielders.
“I was in trouble with the wingers. The only option was [Ruben Loftus-Cheek]. I prefer this.”
Irrespective of the tactical rationale behind Hazard’s role, plenty of the Stamford Bridge faithful didn’t appreciate watching him struggle to influence proceedings.
Likewise, when asked for his view on being tasked with battling John Stones and Aymeric Laporte virtually on his own, the Belgian didn’t seem particularly thrilled.
“I like because I play last year under Conte, so I know what to do," he said after the match.
"But the feeling is a bit strange because you don’t touch the ball a lot.
“But you just need to focus on what you need to do and I try to do my best today. We won and that’s what is important.”
Hazard faced the same challenge with a pragmatic attitude under Antonio Conte, even while recognising the limitations it had on his effectiveness.
But with eight goals and as many assists to his name already this season, how long can Sarri afford to deploy the Blues’ best player away from his favoured left side?News Now - Sport News