“Perfect” Pedro Showing His Chelsea Worth On Both Sides Of The Ball
When your manager describes you as the ‘perfect’ player for his system, you must be doing something right, and Pedro is certainly doing that as he thrives in Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3 system. It is a remarkable transformation for the Spaniard to not only contribute but to be so pivotal to the new manager’s plans that the club’s Player of the Season, Willian, is unable to force his way into the line-up.
“Pedro? He has qualities of absolute excellence,” Conte told Gazzetta dello Sport earlier this week. “He’s perfect for the 3-4-3.”
The former Barcelona star’s dynamism in short bursts between the lines are making him a lethal weapon in the final third with Eden Hazard’s trickery and close control often leaving Pedro with only one man to beat. It is his good work in the final third that was always apparent to Pedro’s form with the Blaugrana, but with the Blues often looking to hurt teams in transitions, he is operating as impressively with his back to goal.
The deft flicks and touches when opponents dare to push up the pitch make Chelsea deadly even when positioned deep inside their own half. Two goals and five assists has been useful productivity to the Premier League leaders, but that total could be considerably more.
Luck has not been kind to Pedro in the final third, as last weekend’s 1-0 win over Middlesbrough demonstrated: a world class save from Victor Valdes and the cross bar cruelly denied him a double. Not that it deterred Conte from his encouragement and applause, in fact it merely served to emphasise it.
Pedro’s role is now crucial to the manner in which Chelsea seem to irresistibly sweep through sides when clicking in the final third, but this weekend’s London derby could be his crowning moment in a Blue shirt. Tottenham, of course, are without the suspended Danny Rose, whose pace, strength and athleticism could would be a good match for the Spaniard, but Pedro should be encouraged at the prospect of Jan Vertonghen or Ben Davies deputising in place of the England international.
Chelsea have the perfect winger to balance the opposite flank of the pitch to Hazard now; Willian – who can still be key to the Conte era – enjoys plenty of touches on the ball in a similar manner to the Belgian. While Pedro is doing damage with minimal time on the ball, not to mention the connection he has struck up with the rampaging Victor Moses. The unpredictability of Pedro, in the sense that he will happily dart inside or out, means Moses can either compliment him on the outside with a double team, or charge into the space vacated by Pedro dragging the full-back inside.
Pedro’s work rate at Barcelona under Pep Guardiola was often highlighted as a reason for his probable success in England, though it would usually occur in shorter bursts, rather than tracking an opponent over the entire length of the pitch. Now Conte is lining up in the 3-4-3, Pedro’s area of the pitch to hassle and unsettle opponents is a smaller, but more congested area, which is leading to greater productivity without the ball. That, crucially, is why Conte was happy to label him ‘perfect’ for his system, a term not used for any of the other players – Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and Victor Moses for example – who he also passed comment on.
Chelsea have other players who will play a more pivotal role this season, but Conte is utterly convinced by Pedro’s suitability, which makes him so useful.