Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has said that he will continue to play Eden Hazard in a ‘false nine’ role if it benefits the team going forward.
Conte was heavily criticized for his tactics in last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to Manchester City, in which Hazard failed to have an impact on the game from that position. The Italian has acknowledged that he has other options up front including Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud, but insisted that he would stick with his current setup should he feel it necessary.
“If I think it’s right for the team to play this way, it’s OK,” Conte told reporters. “Otherwise I can take another decision and play with a striker. Maybe I can take different decisions. There are three players for two places. One has to go on the bench. Then I have to decide who has to go on the bench. For sure, [Giroud] is ready. He has specific characteristics, Olivier. He’s a strong player and has a lot of physicality. I think that, in some games, it’s right to start with him. In other games, it’s right to start with Morata.
“In others, it’s right to continue with Hazard as a number nine. Olivier, he played against West Bromwich Albion from the start, and played against Hull City, and then came on in every game, I think. But he’s ready to play. But I repeat, I don’t like to speak to the press what happens with one player, with two players, with the team.”
Chelsea face Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon looking to regain ground on the Premier League’s top four.