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Is Pedro Actually Chelsea’s Most Important Forward?

As Chelsea wrapped up a comprehensive 3-0 win over Bournemouth on Boxing Day, it was a 12th successive Premier League victory for the Blues, who are now widely considered title favorites.

What’s all the more impressive, however, is the manner with which they have duly dispatched of teams. Following Antonio Conte’s switch to a 3-4-3 formation, they overcame defending champions Leicester 3-0, romped to a 4-0 win over Manchester United and blew Everton away 5-0. In the run, they have won five of the 12 games by a single goal, proving they can not only comfortably despatch of opponents, but can grind out all three points as well.

Monday’s victory over Bournemouth came without the services of key players Diego Costa and N’Golo Kante. The former has scored more league goals (13) than any other player this season, while the latter has significantly bolstered the Blues’ midfield. Yet, despite their absences, Chelsea brushed away Bournemouth with ruthless efficiency. Eden Hazard earned the plaudits with another man of the match display, and deservedly so, but it was another notable showing for Pedro at Stamford Bridge. Like a number of his teammates, Pedro is one who has benefitted tremendously from Conte’s decision to switch a three-man defence.

Operating either side of the striker, the former Barcelona star has the freedom to help attack opposition defenses. By often cutting infield, Pedro opens up space for Victor Moses and Chelsea’s attack is able to blitz opponents with consummate ease.

It’s here where Pedro is such an unpredictable force, maximizing his dribbling and creative talents to punch a hole in the opposition defense and create for others. With the former trait, he can then go for goal himself, which is clear to see at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea have the upper hand and has helped Pedro be directly involved in more home goals (9) than any other player in the Premier League this season.

What’s more is that Pedro only has four goals and five assists to his name this term, heavily relying on home comforts to help in the final third. His WhoScored rating is a respectable 7.06, but this shoots up to 7.52 at home. That, though, is more down to Chelsea’s dominance in West London, with opponents sitting deeper to put more men behind the ball in a bid to frustrate Conte’s side. It’s a tact that clearly has little effect given the Blues’ fine form, but this presents Pedro with more chances to utilize his dribbling and creative quality.

Away from home, he may be struggling to hit the back of the net or provide that final pass leading to a goal, but it doesn’t take any shine away from his importance to the side. In such a system, it’s vital the attackers help defend from the front to create goalscoring chances and limit pressure upon Thibaut Courtois’ goal.

Hazard does so commendably having won possession in the attacking third more times (18) than any other Premier League player this season, while Pedro impresses in that regard, particularly away from home. An average of 2.4 tackles per 90 away from home is a excellent return for the Spaniard, particularly when compared to regular attacking teammates Hazard (0.8 tackles per 90) and Costa (0.4 tackles per 90).

Evidently, the latter pair prioritize attacking opponents when playing away from home, whereas Pedro instead carries out the necessary defensive responsibilities. Of course, Costa, as the lead striker, is not expected to routinely divert from his goalscoring duties, with his figure expected to be low, but Hazard benefits from the more defensive minded Marcos Alonso behind him. Here, Hazard is allowed greater freedom to put opposition defenses to the sword, safe in the knowledge Alonso is able to provide cover at the back.

Conversely, Pedro has Moses – a winger by trade – operating behind him, meaning the Spain international is required to help cover for the Nigerian. Moses’ greatest asset is his unpredictability in the final third and breaking down the line to exploit the space that Pedro has left. However, as effective as this may be, it may not a viable style in the long term, meaning Pedro has to help apply pressure to opposition defenders or Chelsea run the risk of being caught short at the back. Yet, even if a winger’s greatest quality comes in his ability to stretch opponents, Pedro is happy to sacrifice his goalscoring output, particularly on the road, for the good of the team.

Much of focus may be on Hazard and Costa, with the pair starring in Chelsea’s quest to secure domestic glory, but Pedro is the unsung hero in the final third, both in terms of attacking input and ensuring there is as little pressure applied to the Blues goal as possible. While this limits Pedro’s influence in the final third away from home, he’s still crucial in the current set up for Conte’s side.