The importance of starting games strongly in the Premier League cannot be overstated, and coming out of the blocks quickly at Molineux tonight could be the key to success against a Wolverhampton Wanderers side who have enjoyed some good results against the big sides.
That’s the view of Eden Hazard, likely to be part of the Chelsea team aiming to win in the league for the second time in the space of four days against Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, although the fact Wolves have already drawn against Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal this season indicates we will face a stern test.
Having suffered a first defeat of the campaign a week earlier, quickly returning to winning ways against Fulham on Sunday was imperative for the Blues. Strikes from Pedro and Ruben Loftus-Cheek ensured we came out on top but Hazard, who laid on the second goal, explained how we can improve in terms of our overall performance.
‘With more possession, more movement when we have the ball, like we showed with the second goal against Fulham,’ said the Belgian.
‘That’s what we need to do all the time, for 90 minutes. We know the game is going to be hard because Wolves are at home and when you’re away it’s always hard to play against these kind of teams, but we have good players so we can do that.
‘We can do better when we have the ball in relation to the strikers and midfield creating more spaces between the lines and we need to be clinical in the box.
‘Yes we won [against Fulham] and that’s what we needed, especially after the game against Tottenham. But of course we can play better and score more goals and we will try to do that in the next game.’
There was a stark contrast in terms of the manner in which we started our last two league fixtures, falling behind against Tottenham early on, before going 2-0 down soon after, and then taking the lead against Fulham after just three minutes.
The way in which you begin matches, says Hazard, can often set the tone for what follows.
‘We need to be ready from the beginning of the game, and show in the first 10 minutes that we want to win,’ he said. ‘I think when the opponents see you in good form after 10 minutes they can struggle a bit so we need to show the desire to win.
‘We can always improve but if we keep believing in the same style of football, and follow the manager, we can do something great. We have the players, we have players who are used to winning things and in the end I think that’s important.’
After scoring freely during the early part of the campaign, including a hat-trick against Cardiff and a stunning solo effort in our Carabao Cup win at Liverpool, Hazard hasn’t found the net since our away win at Southampton in October.
However, the Belgian continues to have a positive impact on matches for the Blues, as shown by his role in Loftus-Cheek’s goal on Sunday, and he is more concerned about collective growth than individual glory.
‘I was lucky to score some goals at the beginning, at the moment I try to shoot and I’m not scoring,’ he said. ‘To be fair I’m not just focused on this aspect. If I don’t score it’s not a problem. The way we are playing is more important than that and in the end of course I want to win games. Against Fulham I didn’t score but we still won so I’m happy.
‘The manager has given me a lot of freedom when we’ve got the ball and we have a lot of possession so we touch the ball more, we can score more goals and we create a lot of chances, but the biggest change is that he’s given me a lot of freedom.’
Our opening goal against Fulham owed much to the intelligence and anticipation of N’Golo Kante, who robbed Jean Michael Seri before teeing up Pedro to score, and Hazard spoke about the midfielder’s role in the team under Maurizio Sarri.
‘He’s very important, believe me,’ Hazard stated. ‘The way the manager wants him to play is a bit different to last year and two years ago, but I think he can adapt. He’s clever on the pitch and in midfield he’s one of the best in the world, we all know that. He’s won almost everything so we need him and he will show the best of N’Golo soon.’
Hazard also highlighted the importance of Cesar Azpilicueta, who has followed Kante and Marcos Alonso in committing his long-term future to the club by signing a new contract.
‘At the moment he’s the captain when Gary is not playing so we all know Azpi is important, not just on the pitch but off the pitch he talks a lot and gives us a lot of happiness,’ he said.
‘He’s a hard worker and he’s there to help the team. He will give everything until the end and he’s an example for the young players so we need to have him in the team.’
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