Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola praised his compatriot for his strength of character, however, he did implore Conte to stop playing Eden Hazard as a ‘false nine’
There are only a few people in the world who can relate to Antonio Conte given the amount of pressure he is under. However, his friend and former Chelsea player Gianfranco Zola was quick to reassure everyone of Conte’s welfare. Zola has, of course, known Conte since the early ’90s when they both played against each other in the Italian league. Speaking to Standard Sport Zola said, “People who ask if he is affected by all of this, they don’t know Antonio very well.”
“I have known Antonio for years and in his career, he has had tough moments, injuries, breakdowns and he has always come back fighting. Antonio doesn’t worry me.”
The former Chelsea striker tried his hand at management but wasn’t very successful. The former Watford and West Ham manager went on to add, “It is difficult for every manager, we live for results. When things don’t go well we suffer. But Antonio is a manager who has been through periods like this and comes out of it very well. I’m sure he can cope.”
Zole did warn off Conte from playing Hazard as a false nine though. The Italian has resorted to using Hazard in that role ever since Morata got injured. Zole feels that Hazard is more suited to a deeper role. He added, “When Hazard plays deeper it allows him to come off the pressure and run at players. It’s perfect for him.”
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“He is very similar to what I was as a player. If I had to be the main striker and play around the box, it would limit my possibilities, my strength. While if I had more space to go around and look for the ball, my game was much better.”
“I’m sure having a striker will help Hazard’s game. We saw in the last two games that Chelsea were not as good in the last 20 metres.”
Chelsea has a tough task of facing the La Liga leaders Barcelona in the midweek. They will need all the players at their best to keep the Catalans at bay, especially their talisman Eden Hazard.
Gianfranco Zola knows both the on-field and off-field nuances of the game. He was the star in Chelsea’s team of the early Premier League era. His mazy dribbles left everyone mesmerized. While he did not have the same distinction attached to his managerial career, his views still do matter a lot.
Conte is a strong character, who will not be affected by the pressure that surrounds him. However, he should do all he can to relieve it as soon as possible. He should consider Zola’s advice regarding Hazard’s role in the playing eleven.