Eden Hazard’s frustration at being asked to fill a false nine role at Chelsea is understandable, says former Blues boss Ruud Gullit.
Antonio Conte has had mixed results with a tactical experiment this season, with his decision to do without a central striker – despite having proven options available to him - being questioned by many.
Hazard himself has admitted that he feels more comfortable operating in a wider post than he does down the middle, with his creative instincts and ability to roam being restricted when deployed as a central forward.
Gullit admits to being surprised at how often Conte has turned to that system, with it clear that Chelsea are limiting the contribution of a key playmaking talent.
The Dutchman, who represented the Blues as a player before taking the managerial reins, told Goal on Hazard: “He wants to attack. He doesn’t want to run around and not touch the ball and to have players around him who can play as well. So for every player that’s frustrating.”
Chelsea have, however, been forced into tweaking their approach after struggling for consistency.
Alvaro Morata is among those to have endured a dip of form of late, going 12 games without a goal to force a shuffling of Conte’s pack.
Gullit said of a misfiring £70 million frontman: “He has been unlucky because he’s had the chances. He didn’t convert them and that of course for a striker is terrible. He’s a very nice kid, good player and hopefully he will find his groove.”
The Blues need Morata and Co to start delivering, with Gullit conceding that he expected more from the Premier League title holders as a collective.
“You’re the current champion. People are expecting a little bit more, especially attacking,” he said.
“The expectation of a champion is always different than somebody just ending fourth. And that’s the reason you get criticised.”
Gullit added on the Blues’ 2017-18 campaign: “A little bit of a rollercoaster. It’s also to do with the rumours all the time about Conte - is he leaving, is he not leaving? I don’t think that helps the team as well.”
The speculation surrounding Conte’s future may have unsettled some at Stamford Bridge, even if the man himself has maintained throughout that he intends to honour a contract due to run until 2019.
“It’s Conte’s second year at Chelsea and that is always difficult for anyone. Even if you win,” said Gullit.
“I hope they can change that. There are a lot of upset people, especially when you here Conte is going to leave. The players who are not playing all the time, they see a chance for a new coach and you get a little bit of a strange environment in the locker room. And you don’t want that.”
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Conte will need everybody to be pulling in the same direction when Chelsea next take to the field, with the second leg of a Champions League last-16 encounter set to be taken in on Wednesday.
That contest is currently locked at 1-1 and the Blues will head to Camp Nou aware that they need to score at least once to stand any chance of reaching the quarter-finals.