Wednesday 16 August 2017

Gary Neville: How I would try to stifle Chelsea talisman Eden Hazard

Dan Zeqiri

From the grace of Robert Pires to the guile of Alessandro Del Piero, Gary Neville faced an array of bedeviling opponents during a distinguished career at right-back.

His former club Manchester United host Chelsea on Sunday and much of their preparation will surely focus on stopping Eden Hazard: the impudent attacker liberated by Antonio Conte this season.

The Belgian combines pace, dexterity and impeccable technique, but Neville is advocating a collective approach to thwart Chelsea's danger man.

The Sky Sports pundit said: "I'm doing three things: I'm pulling my centre back very close to me, I'm pulling my right central midfield player very close to me and I'm pulling my right-sided wide player very close to me.

"And then I'm asking one of them to have a tackle, then I'm coming in with a tackle and then the centre half's coming in with a tackle (laughs).

"It's no different: Eden Hazard vs Gary Neville or Eden Hazard vs Valencia or Eden Hazard vs Rafael or Hazard vs Bellerin - you're always going to be in trouble if you're one on one with him four, five or six times in a match.

"However, don't be embarrassed to think that you need basically, collective grouping up on players when you're playing against talented players. That's how you will always deal with a world class player - is by having other players in close proximity to you to crowd him out, to snuff out danger, make him go deeper.

"Run him away the other way and make him go back - sometimes he doesn't.

"So when Darren Fletcher played against Arsenal: when I'd go forward, he'd come across and sit in that channel to make sure, it wasn't Overmars, it was Pires at the time would be there and picked up.

"You always had a tactic that would deal with it, it's not always a one vs one. It should never be a one vs one in fact.

"If I was playing against a winger that was more talented than me, which was very often, and quicker than me, which was very often, I often had to deal with him my doing something that was not directly myself. It was positioning someone else in the team.

"Or, if you're playing against Manchester City - stop David Silva. Stop David Silva getting on the ball because if he is feeding in passes, if De Bruyne's feeding in passes...

"So there's always a way of stopping an opponent. It's not necessarily always direct and I think that ultimately against Hazard I would be looking at how I can get my teammates around me, grouping up in that area making sure that we're compact."

Hazard was given some rough treatment when the sides met at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup last month, with Ander Herrera sent off for two bookable offences on the Chelsea man.

Chelsea were resounding 4-0 winners in the corresponding league fixture in October, with Jose Mourinho accusing Conte of goading him with his touchline antics.

The league leaders travel to Old Trafford just four points clear of Tottenham after Mauricio Pochettino's side cruised to a 4-0 home win over Bournemouth.

United are still chasing a Champions League place, though by Mourinho's own admission winning the Europa League now looks their most viable route to Europe's top table.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport