Haz­ard reaches for the stars

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

LON­DON — Eden Haz­ard wants to re­claim his po­si­tion as one of the top five foot­ballers on the planet af­ter the woes of last sea­son.

The Bel­gian is re­ju­ve­nated un­der An­to­nio Conte. In­deed, Haz­ard’s form is one of the key rea­sons be­hind Chelsea’s up­turn in for­tunes, his brace in the de­mo­li­tion of Ever­ton tak­ing his sea­son’s tally to seven. He scored just six goals last sea­son.

Now Haz­ard is back on track, the at­tacker has set his sights high. For­mer Chelsea man­ager Jose Mour­inho once said Haz­ard had the po­ten­tial to com­pete with Lionel Messi and Cris­tiano Ron­aldo for the po­si­tion as the world’s best player.

Haz­ard said: “I was not on the Bal­lon d’or list, last sea­son I was not good, so for me it was nor­mal that I was not on the list. But I want to come back on it and give ev­ery­thing, not to be in the top 23 but to be in the top five. I want to reach that level.

“I want to be the best. I try to reach this level. I am play­ing now like when I was a kid, and I am en­joy­ing my foot­ball.

“I don’t know why last sea­son was so bad, but I don’t try to find ex­cuses.

“I was not at the top level for the first time since I started my ca­reer. I won a lot of tro­phies, in­di­vid­ual as well. Last sea­son I was maybe a lit­tle bit tired, men­tally, phys­i­cally. I don’t know, I can­not say it was be­cause of this, or that.

“But you learn. You know in your ca­reer you can­not stay at the top all the time, you know you have ups and downs and this is part of the job.

“You don’t want to be the same as last sea­son. You want to be bet­ter. You try to work in train­ing, you try to bring the con­fi­dence back and en­joy the game on the pitch.”

Haz­ard owes much of his resur­gence to Conte. Hav­ing been bogged down with his de­fen­sive re­spon­si­bil­i­ties un­der Mour­inho, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the lat­ter stages of his sec­ond spell in charge, Haz­ard now has a role he feels al­lows him to cause max­i­mum havoc.

Conte’s switch to a 3-4-3 sys­tem has in­jected new life into the for­mer Lille man. “He has not changed a lot, it is just that I have a lit­tle bit more free­dom when we have the ball and with­out the ball,” ex­plained Haz­ard.

“Be­cause I don’t need to de­fend against the right back, be­cause (Marcos) Alonso is there, I just fo­cus on stay­ing in my po­si­tion. And when I have the ball I have more free­dom and I can go where I want to go, and be de­ci­sive.”

Ever­ton man­ager Ron­ald Koe­man claimed Chelsea’s per­for­mance was the best he had seen from a team de­ploy­ing three at the back.

He added: “They are hun­gry and will fight for the ti­tle, for sure. But I ex­pected more from my team.”

Conte made the switch af­ter the hu­mil­i­at­ing 3-0 loss against Arse­nal, which the Ital­ian ad­mits had him wor­ried. The tac­ti­cal change has kick-started Chelsea’s cam­paign, Conte’s side win­ning five con­sec­u­tive Pre­mier League games and scor­ing 16 goals, with five clean sheets.

And Conte, who will head to Italy for a rest dur­ing the in­ter­na­tional break, ex­plained: “I was wor­ried (af­ter the Arse­nal game) be­cause we con­ceded a lot of goals in ev­ery game and con­ceded many chances and for this rea­son we changed.

“Usu­ally when you lose, it’s im­por­tant to have a good idea and to change, im­prove and ex­plain why you had this de­feat. Why didn’t I start the sea­son with 3-4-3? Be­cause in my mind I wanted to play with a 4-2-4.

“I wanted to start this way be­cause when you have strong wingers, I like to play with two strik­ers very close. But then I changed to find more bal­ance.”

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