Maurizio Sarri wants Eden Hazard to be “free” for Chelsea.
The 27-year-old Belgium playmaker has been deployed as the Blues’ ‘false nine’ for the last two Premier League games – wins over holders Manchester City and at Brighton – and is set to feature in the position against Leicester on Saturday.
Sarri said: “There isn’t the best position for Hazard. Hazard is a wonderful player with a very high level of imagination.
“He needs to be let free on the pitch.”
Since the World Cup, when he helped Belgium finish third, Hazard has spoken of his daily quandary over whether to extend his Chelsea contract, which expires at the end of next season, or seek a “dream” move to Real Madrid.
He is clearly enjoying life at Stamford Bridge under Sarri, who succeeded Antonio Conte as head coach in July.
Hazard scored his 10th goal of the season after coming off the substitutes’ bench in Wednesday’s Carabao Cup quarter-final win over Bournemouth and Chelsea appear increasingly reliant on their star man.
Hazard played as a ‘false nine’ under Conte and later expressed his frustrations, but it is different under Sarri.
“He told me that he likes very much to play there,” Sarri added.
Sarri is seeking to get the best out of the team as a whole and was not totally satisfied with the performance at Brighton. He is demanding his side “kill” similar matches.
The 59-year-old said: “My players thought the match was under control, the match was without problems, so we lowered the level of application and attention.
“We need to avoid this. On the pitch we need to think only to kill the match.”
Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata have not been prolific this season and the Blues have been linked with recruiting a striker in January.
Sarri’s assistant boss, Gianfranco Zola, on Tuesday admitted the Blues were admirers of striker Callum Wilson, but Sarri says he is keen not to upset Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe.
“I don’t know about Wilson because, as you know, Eddie is a friend and I want to see him very happy,” Sarri added.
Prior to the Brighton match, Sarri revealed he had set a target of 80 points to achieve a top-four place. Three points against Leicester will take them halfway there.
Sarri added on Friday: “It’s not easy. Eighty points is very, very difficult average points a match.
“We have to do 2.2 points a match. It’s not easy in Premier League to gain this average.”
The immediate focus, though, is Leicester, with Sarri wary of their speedy counter-attacks.
Defender Andreas Christensen is out with a minor hamstring injury which could see him absent until January, Sarri said.
Danny Drinkwater joined Chelsea from Leicester after the Foxes’ 2015-16 Premier League title win.
The midfielder has featured for just 30 minutes under Sarri, in August’s Community Shield loss to Manchester City, and his future appears bleak.
Sarri added: “He’s suitable for a midfield with two midfielders. With three he is not really a central midfielder, he’s not suitable to play centre right or centre left. For him the problem is only my football.”
Asked if Drinkwater has a future at Chelsea, Sarri said: “I don’t know. It depends on the club. It’s up to him, I think.”