Connect in the back of the net

Charles’ latest “The Mind of Conte” column.

Any Chelsea fan watching the home game vs Burnley would have gone away from it buzzing with excitement.

This was the most comprehensive performance we’ve seen in over a season.

While all players deserved to be praised for the overall performance, two of them stood out to me: Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante.


Hazard the playmaker

Eden Hazard was spectacular. starting from the left wing position, he seemed to be the one player given a free license to roam around and show up in any position.

He would most often start out from a wide position but in most cases end up more centrally.

He was unplayable, capable of taking on one, two or three defenders and cutting onto his stronger foot in a central area.

Eden also seemed to drop deeper into the left midfielder position to collect the ball, with Diego Costa filling in the left wing position.

He played several cross field passes from there to Willian on the opposite flank.

We hadn’t seen much of this in the two previous games, and It was clear that he had been instructed not only to take on his opposing fullback, but also to contribute further to the build-up play by leveraging his vision and passing ability, which are under-rated.

Hazard showed against Burnley the kind of player he can be if given the freedom he craves to operate in attacking positions.

His opener was a signature move. He collected the ball a little past the half-way line, turned and ran directly at defenders, cutting onto his right foot, to eventually side foot the ball into the Burnley keeper’s nets.

His goal was made possible by Diego Costa’s clever movement who created space for the Belgian by moving towards the left flank as Eden drove centrally.

Hazard was simply unplayable on the night and showed he has much more to his game than just his one v one ability.


Kante the play-breaker

N’Golo Kante is my personal shout for signing of the season.

Looking at the work rate and balance he brings to Chelsea, as well as his price tag, I can’t think of a better signing thus far.

After all, we are talking about last season’s best central midfielder in the Premier League, and had he been British, his transfer fee would’ve been nearly doubled.

While Kante was more of a box to box player last season, alongside Drinkwater in Leicester City’s midfield, Conte has been playing him as a sentinel in front of the Chelsea back four.

He has surprisingly performed so far as though he had been playing this role his whole career.

Against Burnley, he seemed to always be at the right place at the right time to break up the opposition’s play.

Where I expected his most telling contributions to be in the tackling area, Kante has actually been much more active in ball recoveries and interceptions.

This shows a proactive attitude, ability to read the game, anticipate and good positioning on the pitch.

According to Stats Zone, he registered nine ball recoveries and two interceptions, only second to Matic’s ten and two.

Two of the Blues’ goals came from a Kante ball recovery on the 8th and 88th minute, for Chelsea’s first and third goal.

This pretty much sums up the player and his contribution to the team.


Impactful substitutions

For the third game in a row, Antonio Conte’s substitutions have had a direct impact on the game.

Having come into the game in the latter stages, all three substitutes would combine for the home team’s third and final goal.

With less than fifteen minutes to go, Batshuayi turned away from defenders to lay the ball into Pedro’s path.

The latter would go on a run down the left flank to send in the perfect cross for Victor Moses to slide onto, over on the second post.

Pedro’s cross was perfect in the sense that it was always curving away from defenders and bending back towards the second post, where Moses was positioned.

With Chelsea overwhelmingly dominating possession and creating an abundance of chances, Conte felt a new front three could provide the energy, and lucidity upfront to get the job done; and so they did.


Closing notes

The Burnley game was by far the best Chelsea performance I can remember of since the 2014-15 season.

Chelsea passed the ball with purpose, created an abundance of chances, and managed to score three goals without ever being worried at the back.

Chelsea fans will be pleased with nine points collected after three games but will be even happier with the utmost domination on display against Burnley.

Eden Hazard was back to his brilliant best, N’Golo Kante was tirelessly chasing down, breaking up play and providing the defensive solidity for his attacking players to build on.

Should these two retain their form throughout the majority of the season, Chelsea will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.


Written by Charles Codo

Follow Charles on Twitter @soccerCrave

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