March 10, 2018

Conte: Hazard May Continue At 'False 9'  (Sky Sports)

Eden HazardChelsea manager Antonio Conte says he has no reservations playing Eden Hazard as a 'false nine' if he feels it benefits the team.

Hazard, 27, lined up as a false nine in the 1-0 loss to Manchester City at the Etihad last Sunday, but cut an isolated figure as Chelsea recorded no shots on target and just 29 per cent possession.

After the game, Hazard criticised Conte's tactics, saying: "We could have played on for three hours and I wouldn't touch a ball."

Despite having lost four out of their last five Premier League fixtures, Conte defended his use of Hazard and suggested he would not refrain from deploying him in the same position again.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's game against Crystal Palace, he said: "If I think it's right for the team to play this way, it's OK.

"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 No.9. Olivier, he played against West Brom from the start, and played against Hull, 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."

Conte stressed he will continue to make tactical decisions as he sees fit and will deal with any issues his players may have in private, rather that through the press.

"I like to talk with the players face to face, or in meetings with all the players," he added.

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