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Gonzalo Higuain and Eden Hazard's partnership already shows promise
Both players scored twice in Chelsea's 5-0 win over Huddersfield
Last Updated: 02/02/19 11:02pm
Gonzalo Higuain's partnership with Eden Hazard showed promise in Chelsea's 5-0 win over Huddersfield. Adam Bate looks at the stats...
After a fraught week for Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri, his team delivered the required response by thrashing bottom club Huddersfield 5-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Nobody will be too surprised by that result, but it was the promising link-up play between new signing Gonzalo Higuain and man-of-the-match Eden Hazard that will encourage Sarri.
"I think that they are really very suitable to play together, close to one another," Sarri said after seeing the pair help themselves to two goals each against the Terriers. "Gonzalo played very close to Eden and I think they can do this. For us that is very useful. It will be useful for Higuain - I think he will be able to score goals for us - and also useful for Eden."
As faith in Alvaro Morata disappeared and Olivier Giroud proved unable to shoulder the burden alone, Sarri forced Hazard to play centrally but Chelsea's star man never did take to the role. Back on the left flank where he likes to be, the brilliant Belgian enjoyed himself again. After the miserable defeat to Bournemouth, this was much more like it.
There were not many positives to take from their midweek beating but look again at the stats from that 4-0 loss and one thing does stand out. Hazard passed the ball to Higuain seven times during the 65 minutes that the Argentine was on the pitch. That's more passes than he has made to Giroud or Morata in any Premier League game this season.
Sarri impressed by partnership
Maurizio Sarri thinks the partnership between Gonzalo Higuain and Eden Hazard showed encouraging signs against Huddersfield.
Against Huddersfield, he topped that number before half-time, twice setting up the striker in the early exchanges. By the time that he was substituted late on, Hazard had found Higuain no fewer than 12 times - twice as many passes as Giroud has ever received from him and four times as many passes as Morata got in his final 90 minutes for Chelsea.
Higuain's robust frame might not look the most mobile but he has the subtle movements of an expert in his field. Whether it was a case of him showing for the ball better than his predecessors or merely that Hazard was especially keen to forge a bond with the new man, something seemed different. "We try to work with each other," said Hazard afterwards.
Crucially, the relationship was reciprocal. Higuain followed up his seven passes to Hazard at Bournemouth with nine against Huddersfield. Again, that equals the most number of passes that any Chelsea striker has made to Hazard in a Premier League game this season. Morata passed to him just once in that 90 minutes against Southampton last month.
First and foremost, Higuain is a goalscorer and that is what Chelsea will expect from him in these coming months. But if the loan signing from Juventus can also help to unlock Hazard's best Chelsea form then that could really make the difference for Sarri. It was only Huddersfield at home, but it is already evident that this is a partnership with potential.