Thinking outside the box

Premier League defenders have been warned – don’t give Pedro an inch of space outside the penalty box.

The Spanish ace was on target for the fifth time this season in our thumping win over Stoke City on Saturday, brilliantly turning his marker before crisply firing home from the edge of the area.

That the finishing touch was applied outside the 18-yard box by the Blues No11 should come as no surprise to fans or opponents alike, for over the past year he has made a habit of punishing teams who afford him too much room.

Of his last eight goals, six of them have come as a result of strikes from outside the penalty area, which is an incredible ratio.

The run began at the end of February last year, when Chelsea were being held at home by a stubborn Swansea City side. However, Pedro was able to fashion half a yard for himself before unleashing a fierce low strike with his left foot to beat Lukasz Fabianski.

He was at it again before the end of the season, this time putting his so-called weaker foot to good use to score the go-ahead goal in a vital victory at Goodison Park. This effort, which saw him pull of a Cruyff turn before hammering a shot home, also won him the Premier League’s Goal of the Month award for the second time in the 2016/17 campaign.

While his next goal, which came on the day we lifted the Premier League trophy, was a rather more straightforward header from only a few yards out in a 5-1 rout of Sunderland, he was back to his old tricks in the new campaign.

Our return to Champions League action against Qarabag in September was marked in some style by the former Barcelona man, who took just five minutes to open our account when he powerfully sidefooted home after being found at the end of a short-corner routine.

Stoke City were on the receiving end soon after, this time at the Bet365 Stadium, as Pedro latched onto a weak Darren Fletcher backpass to curl a fine effort past Jack Butland from the edge of the box.

And his fine run continued with arguably the pick of the bunch as he opened the scoring against Watford in a six-goal thriller in October. The Hornets clearly hadn’t done their homework as it was a similar corner routine to his goal against Qarabag, only this time Pedro whipped the ball into the far corner of the goal via the post. 

His strike against Huddersfield midway through December was just inside the box, but he returned to his old habits against the Potters last week with another beauty.

The statistics don’t lie and Pedro proves the saying: ‘If you don’t buy a ticket, you won’t win the lottery.’ He has hit the target with 33 per cent of his 155 shots – and that kind of accuracy is as a result of one thing.

As he told Chelsea magazine in an interview last year: ‘Always in training, it is about hard work. The most important thing is that everybody is putting in the hard work.’

Pedro’s lethal long-range shooting is proof of that, and long may it continue…