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Thursday 06 March 2014

Talking Tactics: In-form duo enjoying starring role

Adrian Clarke looks at how Eden Hazard and Emmanuel Adebayor have impressed this season

  • Pic 1: Emmanuel Adebayor has been a far more significant attacking threat this season

  • Pic 2: Eden Hazard's role is more prominent in the opponents' penalty area this season

  • Pic 3: If Spurs' full-backs push up and the ball is lost, Hazard can hurt them on the counter

The elusive search for consistency is something most attacking players battle to contend with during their careers.

It is not easy to find, and many struggle to reach that golden plateau where influential performances are effortlessly strung together week in, week out. In this regard, Eden Hazard and Emmanuel Adebayor have both made tremendous strides in 2013/14, excelling on a far more regular basis this season.

Ahead of Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur in the Barclays Premier League this weekend, Adrian Clarke takes a closer look at the duo's form…

Revelling in responsibility

Let's be honest, it was the Gareth Bale show at Spurs last term. Boasting the most key passes, crosses, shots and goals - all by quite some distance - everything Spurs tried to produce in an attacking sense, was channeled through the Welshman.

Flitting in and out of form, striker Emmanuel Adebayor was often a peripheral figure last season. Seeing less of the ball inside the final third when Bale was around (See Image 1 for an example), playing second fiddle did not appear to suit, or sit well with the Togolese striker.

This season it is an entirely different scenario. Since being brought back into the fold by Tim Sherwood, the new head coach, Adebayor is the main man.

Whether it is spearheading a one or two-man attack, Spurs’ chief creators, Christian Eriksen (63 passes), Mousa Dembele (63) and Nabil Bentaleb (51) are always looking to find him. In fact, they are the three team-mates who have supplied him the most passes in 2013/14.

Now the team’s primary target man, Adebayor is receiving and creating opportunities in much better areas. Buoyed by that, and an increase in confidence, the 30-year-old’s minutes-per-goal ratio has rocketed to such an extent that it is better than Bale’s from last season.

how adebayor has become SPURS' main man
Mins per goal Mins per shot Mins per chance created
Adebayor 319
53 57
22 37
Mins per goal Mins per shot Mins per chance created
54 47
38 55

Eden Hazard, now he is preferred by Jose Mourinho to Rafael Benitez's talisman, Juan Mata, is enjoying greater responsibility which has had a positive effect on his game.

Even though he is largely occupying the same starting berth on the left flank, the Belgian has taken the departed Spaniard’s place as the side’s go-to guy - as shown in the table below.

Eden Hazard's Chelsea stats
(All rankings at Chelsea)
2013/14 (so far)
Goals 12 (1st)
9 (4th)
41 (1st)
43 (6th)
7 (1st) 11 (2nd)
Key passes 77 (1st) 65 (2nd)

Growing in self-belief, Hazard's willingness to be more decisive inside the final third has been at the heart of his outstanding season so far.

Raising standards

Hazard's decision-making has also come on leaps and bounds. At times in his Barclays Premier League debut season the youngster was accused of being a touch one-dimensional. Running down blind alleys or taking the wrong options in and around the box, the end product did not always match the excitement he promised.

 Now, more comfortable in his surroundings, with greater experience as a player, and with seemingly more physical fitness and strength, he has improved a great deal. Striking up a wonderful understanding with Oscar in particular (they have shared 191 passes this season), the Belgium winger is choosing to use the ball much more wisely. Here, the stats tell their own story.

  2013/14 2012/13
Duels won 53% 47%
Goals-to-shots ratio 29% 21%
Dribbles completion 57% 44%

As for Adebayor, he remains an enigmatic player. Despite improving his consistency levels, you do not always know what you are going to get from him.

His work inside the opposition danger zone has become significantly more clinical this term. Hitting the target has always been a strong point, but under Tim Sherwood those efforts have consistently produced goals, four out of 10 shots to be precise.

  2013/14 2012/14
Shooting accuracy 70% 63%
Goals-to-shots ratio 40% 17%
Dribble completition 45% 31%

Chelsea v Tottenham

These two are among the likeliest match-winners in this pivotal Barclays Premier League clash on Saturday.

In the corresponding fixture last May, Adebayor was a thorn in the Blues' side, scoring one magnificent goal on the break and creating the other with a delicious cushioned flick pass to Gylfi Sigurdsson inside the Chelsea area.

Using his physical prowess to push and pull the Chelsea centre-halves Gary Cahill and David Luiz out of their comfort zones, Adebayor produced a man-of-the-match display. In a game where he is likely to lead the line alone, Adebayor will be hoping for a repeat performance.

Knowing where Chelsea’s strengths lie as an attacking force, Sherwood could flood the deep midfield zone with three disciplined players. This should close the space for Oscar, Willian and Hazard to operate centrally, but when Spurs they lose the ball, the Blues will look to hurt them quickly, in the corners instead.

Although Mourinho has made him a more diligent worker this season, Hazard does occasionally stay upfield. Therefore, when possession is regained, and Spurs’ right-back is in an advanced position, expect Mourinho’s men to look for Hazard to spring their counter-attacks.

Spurs are a positive side under Sherwood, but with open spaces in behind, Hazard is capable of giving them nightmares on the break.

Final thought

Both Hazard and Adebayor have repaid the faith shown in them by their respective managers, rising to the challenge of providing something extra in the absence of former heroes.

On his day, Adebayor can be a handful for any defence in the world, and Cahill does not have fond memories of their last encounter at Stamford Bridge.

However, in this fixture the waspish brilliance of Hazard poses the greater threat, especially when possession is turned over quickly. If Spurs push too many men forward, especially out wide, the in-form Belgian will look to pounce.

For previous "Talking Tactics" articles by Adrian Clarke, click here

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Key Points

  • Adrian Clarke takes a look at the form of Eden Hazard and Emmanuel Adebayor
  • The pair will meet when Spurs travel to Stamford Bridge on Saturday
  • Both players have shone in the Barclays Premier League this season